I want to revolutionise the world of boxing! Throughout history there are many stories of people wanting to follow their passions and take part in sport only to find out they are not welcome and have to fight for the right to be included. These brave individuals make it their mission to participate educating society about the unfairness and injustice and campaigning for the right to participate. Their courage paves the way for themselves and others to have the same opportunities which can be as simple as playing soccer at the weekend with their local club. This has not been my experience with boxing.
In January 2018 I approached my local Martial Arts Centre for a few self-defence lessons where I immediately discovered my new passion in life. Boxing! In less than one hour I learnt I had a natural aptitude for punching pads and bags with jabs, crosses, upper cuts, body rips and a left hook (as an Orthodox boxer there is no such thing as a right hook). When I started training, I was disappointed there were fewer than 1,000 Instagram posts to the gay boxing hashtag whereas #boxing had almost 20 million posts. This made me more determined to share my boxing journey communicating how I have found the sport to be welcoming and inclusive while demonstrating that equality for LGBTQI people is more than equal rights but the right to enter the ring and compete. I have received tremendous support from my boxing crew and always look forward to sparring at the weekend.
My vision is for boxing to be recognised as the most inclusive sport in the world! To achieve this, I am creating an organisation and event that does not yet exist and I hope at the end of the decade will not need to exist – The World Gay Boxing Championships (WGBC).
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics participation boxing increased by 131% between 2005 and 2012. Many gyms offer boxing classes and Boxing Australia has launched the “Train Like a Boxer” Fitness Program aimed at growing the number of people involved in the sport. Boxing is full body form of exercise increasing muscle tone, cardiovascular fitness levels while helping to strengthen bones and ligaments. In August 2019, an article published in Livestrong reported how boxing is now the “workout of choice for many regular exercisers looking to spice up their routines” and provided the following reasons why people should try a boxing class:
it builds more than arm strength and can improve your coordination
it may ease stress while burning calories
you will learn some self-defence skills in the process
The Boxing Planet recently highlighted the psychological benefits of the sport explaining “When you hit the focus pads or punch a heavy bag, the human brain increases the production of endorphins, also known as the feel-good neurotransmitters”. It improves the sleep quality and may help you fall asleep. Furthermore “boxing can help you build confidence or a ‘fighting spirit” to enable you to better cope with challenging situations life throws at you.”.
A 2016 report highlighted 80% of all sporting participants in Australia have witnessed homophobia in sport. Of those who have been personally targeted 15% of gay men and 9% of lesbians reported have been physically assaulted. A 2014 study highlighted how young LGBTQI people were 46%-76% less likely to compete in team sports than their heterosexual peers. Research shows that sports clubs or groups that are nominally for the LGBTQI community increases inclusion and engagement. Dr Dan Callwood, research associate on the ‘Out on the Pitch’ project at the University of Strathclyde says, “We’ve found that in the overwhelming majority of cases, people involved in LGBT sports groups report a really positive experience… for them, the groups provide community and friendship. “LGBT clubs provide safe spaces where the positive effects of sport can be rediscovered – how it provides purpose and cohesion to the group. It gives LGBT people who may lack self-esteem a sense of personal achievement…. When combined with a supportive community, this can have a powerful positive effect on mental health.”
I believe the WGBC will provide opportunities for LGBTQI people to compete in the sport of boxing in a safe and friendly environment with no individual excluded from participating on the basis of sexual orientation or identification. I want to collaborate with boxing governing bodies, boxing clubs and other partner organisations to increase the acceptance of LGBTQI people at all levels in sport the of boxing. I also want to promote boxing to the wider community. The WGBC is LGBTQI friendly and everyone is welcome to compete. I have received significant support and interest from allies and some of my heterosexual friends have started training for the event. It will not surprise me if some of the World Gay Boxing Champions are straight!
In the early 1960s, Jose Julio Sarria created history by becoming the first openly gay candidate to run for public office anywhere in the world. His leadership energised and inspired others to follow suit including Harvey Milk with Sarria supporting Harvey’s first campaign in 1973. The Gay Games was founded in 1982 by Tom Waddell and Rikki Streicher with the goals of promoting the spirit of inclusion and participation while promoting the pursuit of personal growth in a sporting event. Sport plays a vital role in society providing an opportunity for individuals and people to achieve creating a sense of camaraderie and community spirit. More broadly it allows people to invest in their health and wellness with a substantial flow-on effect of advancing social equity and fairness. The WGBC presents an opportunity for the LGBTQI, boxing and wider community to come together and making sporting history.