Carshalton Olympic boxing champ wins fight to read and write
A former Olympic boxing champion is set to receive a different kind of award this week, for learning to read and write in his early 40s.
Given little encouragement at school, Bob Wells, 48, who lives in Carshalton, followed in his father's footsteps and concentrated on a boxing career.
By the time he was 22, Mr Wells had won the super heavyweight bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and taken on Lennox Lewis.
He later made a living by running his own window cleaning business, getting others to help him with the accounts and invoicing.
By 45, Mr Wells was hoping to retire to teach amateur boxing full time, but a tragic chain of events was to change his life forever.
Struck on the back of the head by the mirror of a bus, Mr Wells suffered severe head and spinal injuries, which led to a long bout of depression.
He said: “For four months I never got out of bed. I didn't know what day it was.”
When he did eventually get back to work he was diagnosed first with septicaemia and later with MRSA. He became registered disabled and suffered from both depression and alcoholism.
Unable to go back to his window cleaning business, Mr Wells released that if he couldn't read or write he wouldn't be able to find new work and begin putting his life back together. So he signed up for numeracy and literacy courses at the Sutton College of Learning for Adults.
He said: “Having the balls to go to SCOLA and say 'I can't read or write and I can't add up or take away', was the hardest thing I have done.”
Just a few years later, Mr Wells now gives public readings of his own short stories and has recently completed a course to become a volunteer at the 2012 Olympics.
Next week he will be presented with an Outstanding Individual Learner in London Award by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.
He said: “The help SCOLA have given me has been second to none.”
“It has changed my life.”