This feature summarises how boxing contributes to the achievement of development goals.
Why is boxing well-suited to developing people and communities?
Successful boxers, male and female, have always been inspirational role models for social change. Boxing training is based around conditioning, explosive strength training and technical exercises.
More advanced boxers will also learn tactical and strategic skills to help them win competitive bouts. Boxing programmes can be just as effective as a no-contact (i.e. no sparring) programmes and competitive programmes based on competing in the ring.
Boxing is the quintessential individual sport, but requires a partner to compete and a team to prepare. Training methods in boxing attract people who are not drawn to team sports but also support the development of social skills associated with team sports such as reliability, conflict resolution, confidence and positive self image.
Boxers require courage and the correct use of aggression is rewarded. This makes it an excellent sport for girls and women who are often denied the chance to show their courage or aggression in sport. It also prepares women to defend themselves and fellow community members from violence on their city streets.
Boxing tournaments or bouts are an excellent way to gather the community together. There is a sense of theatre and occasion with the building of a ring. The format of a raised closed stage (boxing rings are between 4 and 6 meters square) provides the opportunity for other community members (singers, breakdance, acrobats, other martial artists) to perform at boxing events.
To which groups is boxing best suited?
Boxing, like other martial arts, attracts people who want a sport where they are directly responsible for the outcome, a sport that is respected as physically and mentally demanding and “cool” by their friends and that can help them feel physically and mentally stronger. Boxing is a good sport for people who are very energetic or looking to fight off the effects of stress. Many women boxers have reported that they love boxing because of its stress fighting qualities.
Because of its use for self defense, boxing also is accepted by parents who otherwise do not support their daughters doing sport. Boxing can also be practiced in modest dress – many trainers and boxers will be covered from wrists to ankles and wear head coverings (knit cap or bandanna) while boxing to keep their core temperature high. Girls and women who cover themselves for cultural reasons do not need to feel exposed during training as most women will be ‘covered’.
Which actors use boxing in their projects and how?
The NGOs Boxgirls International and Fight for Peace are the two largest organisations using boxing as a catalyst for social change.
Women Win supports Boxgirls Nairobi Eastlands and another project in Sierra Leone using boxing with girls and young women from disadvantaged urban environments.
The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation supports Fight for Peace.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is lobbying the IOC to include Women’s Boxing in the Olympics. In order to reach this goal they are also investing in development activities in many countries.
One of the most active associations is the Amateur Boxing Association of England who appointed a National Development Director for Women in the Summer of 2008 to create more opportunities for girls to box in English cities.
Many other countries host women’s elite amateur boxing teams but information on their development programmes is not widely available.