WE ARE BOXERS
by Missy Fitzwater
Wander into our gym and you will find heavy and double-end bags hanging from the ceiling. There is a large assortment of boxing gloves and headgear in various stages of wear. There are mirrors and fight posters. And at the center of it all is a squared circle, the boxing ring.
The most striking thing that you will find is an eclectic assortment of young people, hard at work, sweating, pushing the limits of our abilities so that when we return to the gym tomorrow we are a slightly better version of ourselves. We are focused. We are determined. We are boxers.
We are all here for the same purpose, but our motivations are varied.
In our gym, you will meet a boxer who came from the streets and all that that implies. He was in the process of succumbing to the pressures and perils of a desperate life. A life of struggle that led to fighting in the streets for his survival and a future that most certainly included a criminal past. He stood at the grave sites of too many friends and family.
A concerned mentor suggested that he take up boxing, having participated in numerous street fights, he decided to give it a try. He came into our gym guarded and surly.
He was warmly welcomed. He was also firmly made aware of what would and would not be tolerated in the gym. This gym is where he learned respect; respect for an authority figure (our coach), for his teammates, and most importantly, for himself. With his newfound respect, also came self-discipline; the ability to exhibit control, and rise above certain situations.
Boxing gave him a life to be proud of.
On a heavy bag you will also meet a boxer who never liked herself much. Her self-esteem and self-image were at an all-time low. She felt incapable of achieving much of anything in her life. She felt as though she had nothing to fight for. Our gym welcomed her warmly.
She was given encouragement for her hard work. Our coach believed in her, and she began to believe in herself for the first time in her life. Her teammates supported and cheered for her both in the ring and out. She became confident. Now, she gives back to the sport that gave her everything, by coaching and mentoring young kids.
Boxing gave her a life full of meaning.
Another boxer in our gym that you will meet was once bullied. He had been beaten both literally and figuratively. His home life was not much kinder to him. He was filled with anger and helplessness; a dangerous combination. When he came through the doors of our gym, he wanted to learn to fight. He was looking for the physical ability to lash out at everyone who had belittled him.
He was welcomed warmly. He learned the mechanics of boxing. He learned something else that was of much more value, as well. He learned that he was accepted by this team. He found that they stood by him. He no longer felt the urge to lash out. He found that he didn’t need to change who he was to belong. He was, at long-last, finally accepted for who he is.
Boxing gave him a life of inclusion, a place to fit in and be himself.
Boxing took in our bruised and battered souls and gave each of our lives meaning and purpose. Boxing has then returned us to our communities where we are making a positive impact, and paying forward all of the good that boxing gave us.
We are disciplined and respectful. We are confident and giving. We are happy and productive. We are proud.
We are boxers.