What you need to know:
- Kudos to organisations like Boxgirls Kenya that are using the sport of boxing to positively engage women and girls in slum areas and bringing hope to those who previously had none.
Last week, 10 female boxers made a hushed return to the country after competing in the Women’s World Boxing Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
None of them made it to the medal bracket, but that weak performance came as no surprise as it has been ages since a Kenyan pugilist put up a strong fight at the global stage.
Few people bothered with the news, and many of those who did were quick to castigate the women for the dismal performance, opining that Kenyan boxers of today simply lack the natural talent required to excel at the international stage.
Those with a different view blamed the girls for taking the sport as a hobby instead of a viable career. “They don’t put enough effort, they only do it for fun,” they said.
What these fault-finders forgot is that just last month, the same women had all bagged medals in their respective categories after fending off the best fighters in the continent at the Africa Zone Three Championship held in Kinshasa.
Now, a fair argument can be made that continental competitions are significantly different from global tournaments, but if one casts an objective eye, they will see that in Kinshasa, the girls made a statement on just how seriously they would like to be taken.
These are boxers who train in poor conditions, sometimes without the help of qualified coaches, and are given few incentives to keep them in the sport.
Yet, they have to come face to face with their counterparts from Turkey, Ukraine, Romania and other European countries that are renowned the world over for their might in the blood sport.
I need not point out that most Kenyan boxers, male or female, come from humble backgrounds and often have no way of sustaining themselves in the sport unless a sponsor comes to their rescue.
Since Fatuma Zarika’s sponsorship deal with SportPesa lapsed three years ago, corporate support in boxing has been hard to come by.
One hopes that the ministry of sports and other stakeholders will look at the 10 boxers not as failures, but as determined sports women with great potential.
Give the team a little more support and watch as a world boxing champion emerges to change your mind about whether or not Kenyan female boxers possess that “natural talent”.
What they need is proper training facilities, not the dilapidated, poorly lit rooms in Nairobi’s Eastlands estates where most of them hold their training sessions using improvised equipment.
That said, we need to acknowledge that not all female boxers want to fight competitively. Many are repulsed by the distasteful stereotypes surrounding female boxing, and would rather do it for fun rather than fight to win medals only to find the gender fight awaiting them.
For others, especially those who have grown up in tough environments where violence can come at you at any time and from any source, knowing how to fight serves a purpose. If we want to keep this group from taking space in the national team, let us groom a larger pool of boxers who are willing to fight for pay.
Kudos to organisations like Boxgirls Kenya that are using the sport of boxing to positively engage women and girls in slum areas and bringing hope to those who previously had none.