For these girls, boxing is empowerment


Girl Power: Eastwood High School has taken the initiative to popularise boxing among girl students as well. DH photo by Srikanta Sharma R

A rather not-so-often witnessed sight can be seen at a stone’s throw away distance from the Sai Baba temple on Cambridge Road, Bangalore during the months of June and July. Going through the paces just like their male counterparts, young girls at the Eastwood High School, led by their new coach Anitha Kumari, totally engross themselves into a sport that they believe not just gives them self confidence but a feeling of empowerment.

Attired in boxing gears and safety measures taken care of, these girls hit the ring twice a week in a bid to grasp the nuances of the game from the little training that they receive. 

“I am really happy to have taken up boxing. Initially, I was really skeptical but since being made mandatory I have no choice left but to go through the grind. After having dabbled with it for the last four years, I can feel the connect I don’t want to be detached,” said Kavana Reddy R, who went on to clinch the C-7 category gold in the just-concluded Charles and Florence Eastwood all-India inter-school championship.

Boxing was included as a compulsory extra-curricular activity for the boys at the Eastwood school in 1971, with girls staying away owing to its physical grind. But after watching the famous Laila Ali and Jackie Frazier-Lyde bout in June, 2001 principal M Eastwood decided time was ripe for the girls to jump in.

“Yes, boxing was made compulsory for all the girls since 2001. Only under exceptional circumstances like illness are you allowed to skip it. But, the case here is very different and not many of us want to give it a miss.

“Although it is physically quite demanding, today most of us enjoy ourselves and see it as an opportunity to develop our self-defence technique,” shared Syed Afreen, an eighth-standard student who lost in the finals C-5.

Injury worries

With boxing being a contact sport, injury can never be ruled out and the tournament had its share although not very severe. While Gokul had a cut on his nose, an Army Sports Institute lad was left nursing a black eye with a quite a few girls suffering a cut to their lips. While it might sound disturbing, the young girls are not perturbed a bit and opine in unison that it was more difficult to face their parents with injuries than suffering them.

“We are very well aware of the pain. It just lasts for a minute and then it’s gone. Every sport has its positives and negatives. While we take the positives, the parents feel agitated on seeing us with bruises. It took some explaining early on, but now they are OK with it,” said a first-time boxer R Priyadarshini.

No Idols

Unlike most young cricketers who would proclaim Sachin Tendulkar to be their hero, these young girls surprisingly have no idols but the love for sport is no less indeed. When asked if they were aware of India’s most successful women boxer Mary C Kom, all drew a blank response.  After educating them on the pint-sized pugilist’s return to ring following motherhood to capture her fourth successive gold medal at the AIBA World Championships last November, the young girls were left spell-bound but expressed doubts about pursuing the game at a higher level.

“Boxing has definitely boosted our self-confidence and overall morale. It has not just strengthened us physically but also mentally. Although I would like continue boxing until I can, taking it up as a career option is still a question mark. For now academics play the primary role and boxing will remain as a passionate hobby,” Kavana added.

While many would not disgree with Kavana’s decision considering the dearth of opportunities in Karnataka -- the last State championship being held in 2001-02 -- Afreen expresses strong desire to turn professional only if the sport is included in the Olympics.

“I have no problems in becoming a full-time boxer provided there are enough opportunities and I can make a living out of it. If it becomes an Olympic sport then I may consider it full-time,” Afreen added.

While there is still a long way for these girls to take up boxing as a career option, a start definitely has been made.

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