So, why boxing?
Boxing is one of the oldest and most widespread sports in the world, yet its priceless value to the modern world is only just becoming fully recognised.
As stories from the Rio Olympics testify, taking up boxing has completely changed people’s lives. From taking kids off the streets from a life of violence, drugs and crime, to overcoming depression and negativity, as 2012 Olympic Flyweight gold medallist Nicola Adams observes, ‘boxing has the ability to influence society in a way that reaches far beyond sport.’
As 20-year-old US Olympic boxer Carlos Balderas reflects, ‘I feel like boxing really saved my life because if it wasn’t for boxing I’d probably still be out on the streets getting into trouble.’
Equally, off the streets, 40-year-old mother-of-three, Gwen Quinn, has had a similar transformative experience: ‘Boxing has been the avenue that I needed to help me overcome fears and [learn] that I could change my life by thinking positively and choosing positively. I enjoy the extra energy and the positive self esteem I have that shows up in every area of my life.’
So HOW does boxing change lives?
Most obviously, boxing is an amazing outlet for energy and frustration: 71% of people said they felt calmer after a session of boxing.
Boxing teaches self-discipline and self-respect. As 17-year-old Celal Ozturk puts it, ‘When I came to Pedro Boxing Club first I argued with the coach. This is when I realised boxing and fighting aren’t the same. Boxing is controlled and takes discipline.’
Boxing has actually been scientifically shown to improve the brain: attention, focus and concentration are all required when boxing, which develop lobe regions related to attention and inhibition. Co-ordinating and being aware of your body in boxing helps with cognition and emotion regulation, and timing and co-ordination of movement in boxing trains the cerebellum which helps with the temporal ordering of thoughts.
Boxing clubs unite people from all walks of life with a common goal, in a safe, sociable and inclusive venue, in a non-judgemental environment which is encouraging yet has strict rules. Boxers often talk of clubs as being like the family they never had. It has, remarks Nicola Adams, ‘an almost unmatched capability to engage some of the most disaffected young people and help to combat a massive range of social problems.’
Boxing provides clear evidence of the results of hard work. Week by week, boxers will see changes in their body as they grow fitter; changes in speed, power and accuracy as they master techniques and improve. They will see how effort and hard work can directly improve their capabilities, themselves, their lives. Supermodel Adriana Lima tells, ‘I tried boxing and I loved it; it became my passion. I love that it’s an intense workout, and it’s the best form of cardio. You get toned but not bulky. You’re always building up to a new level, and that helps with your confidence as well.’ Indeed, 94% of people have also said they feel more confident and ambitious after a session of boxing.
Boxing is in fact a metaphor for success in life: as in life, to succeed in boxing, you have to motivate yourself, exert control over your body and emotions, have discipline and put in hard work in order to gain reward. Boxing takes you out of your comfort zone, enabling you to explore your full potential, allowing you to fail in a supportive environment without punishment or derision, encouraging you to confront fear in a contained way and thereby overcome it. Boxing, indeed, makes it possible for you to be the best person you can be.
- The Right Hook: A Report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Boxing
- Images from various internet sources