A WORLD champion boxer delivered a knockout punch after inspiring students to knuckle down at school.

IBF World Bantamweight champion Stuart Hall, of Darlington, told students at Darlington School of Mathematics and Science of the commitment needed to succeed in life.

“If you follow your dream you can do anything you want,” said Mr Hall, who is the oldest British fighter to have won a world title at the first attempt.

“I didn’t do as well as I should at school. But boxing got me back on track and I believed in myself.

“I work really hard and it pays off. I train three times a day six days a week. The day I walked back into the gym and took up boxing again turned my life around.”

The 34-year-old beat Vusi Malinga in December and went on to retain his title as IBF World Bantamweight champion after his fight in March with fellow North-Eastener, Martin Ward, ended in a draw after the pair clashed heads at the end of the opening round.

He said it was important to listen to advice, whether that was from parents, teachers or a coach.

“I’ve lost two fights and this helped me. It brought me down to earth and if I hadn’t lost I would not have learnt from it. I would have carried on doing the same thing when I really needed to change, adapt,” he said.

“I just defended my title against another North-East fighter and my aim is to eventually retire at the top and still world champion.”

Student Ellis Austin, 14, who is hoping to be selected for the England youth boxing squad, said: “It has been great listening to Stuart, really inspirational, and it has certainly spurred me on to work harder in the sport.”

Headteacher Calvin Kipling added: “Who knows what the students could now go on to achieve in life as a result of hearing from Stuart what is possible if you put your mind to it.”

He agreed to talk to students after being asked by one of the school’s form tutors, Diane Gordon, who is a family friend.

“We are all really proud of Stuart’s achievement and having him in school to talk to the students has had a massive impact,” she said.

Mr Hall will attempt to defend his title again the unbeaten Paul Butler on Saturday, June 7 at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena.