Starting boxing classes in the summer of 2020, my mind was racing. A 5ft girl, padded with boxing gloves, stood in front of a punching bag. It wasn’t in my nature to hit but after every punch, the stress melted away. This leads to why I feel boxing is one of the greatest forms of exercise and why female boxing is up and coming.
It’s obvious that boxing is a great form of physical exercise – keeping you on your toes and guard, always moving; paired with fitness such as cycling and ab workouts truly tests you. But the mental strength boxing requires, is often overlooked. Boxing helps those who are lonely to have someone there – partnering with strangers or coaches, there are people for you to talk to and rely on for advice. Group sessions and attending fitness classes expand your social circles to people you might not have met before. Keeping your fists up and knowing how much power to put behind your stance and punches, helps keep your mind focused – it’s an escape from the stress of daily life just like any other form of exercise. There are many great examples of famous boxers who used the sport as an escape from their mental health. For example, MBE Frank Bruno, ex-heavyweight champion, spoke about how he experienced ‘the toughest fight’ he had ever had to face with his mental health, after being sectioned due to bipolar after boxing. He bravely quoted how fitness and prescribed medication helped him recover. Boxing is also a controlled anger release where we’re taught how to fuel our anger positively under the close eye of trained professionals, a form of anger management that won’t ever repeat outside the ring. The feeling of confidence and self-belief when our bodies get a full workout, dripping with sweat. It’s the rush of endorphins when we started a sport that we might not have thought we’d be good at. It’s progression.
When you hear the word boxing, what do you first think of? It’s the usual famous names like Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Mike Tyson, and Muhammed Ali that people mention. But as ever, more female boxers are becoming known and hitting similar milestones, with even their daughters doting a pair of boxing gloves such as Laila Ali. I never had an interest in boxing until I started to see female boxers hitting milestones and receiving medals. Hearing that Nicola Adams was the first woman to win a gold medal in the 2012 Olympic Games was incredible, and years later today, in Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games, we proudly saw our athletes take home 6 medals. Lauren Price amazingly won gold in the middleweight games against China’s Li Qian. Additionally, Lauren’s girlfriend, Karriss Artingstall, took bronze up against Italy’s competitor, Irma Testa in the featherweight category. I think the assumption that girls and women who do boxing are largely tomboys and the sexist comments that are received put many off from starting the sport. The outlook needs to change.
Seeing female boxers win at the Olympics was unforgettable, and honestly inspiring – I hope that other young girls will be inspired to pursue a career or hobby in what is considered largely a male sport. Historically, it’s been difficult for female athletes to start boxing. Even though Elizabeth Wilkinson first fought in London in the 18th Century, it wasn’t even until the 1970s that women first started to appear more frequently in boxing rings. Women’s first-ever bout was between two sixteen-year-olds in 1997 from Aberdeenshire, called Susan MacGregor and Joanne Cawthorne. But shockingly, female boxing only first became officially at the Olympics in London’s 2012 Games and still has different rules about protection compared to the men. Women have to wear head guards and are advised to wear breast and crotch guards. More research in female boxing injuries might change these safety rules in the future which will make the sport more alike for both female and male competitors. Female boxing has changed over the years but our attitudes are the same, boxing is for everyone ready for a challenge.
Article by Young Reporter Beth Downes
First published in Grimsby Telegraph 26th October 2021