While many young people have experienced stress during the pandemic, some have turned to boxing to give them the mental strength to get through difficult times.
For thousands of years, boxing has taught discipline and inner strength, a tradition that continues today. Young people in London say that it gives them the self-control they need on the streets.
Sixteen-year-old Murtaza Muhammed said he benefits from boxing training as it teaches him to “stay strong, be strong-willed, and it will get better.” This mentality also helped him to get through lockdowns over the past year.
Former boxer Leroy Nicholas, founder and director of Sweet Science Boxing, has been teaching young students non-contact boxing fitness and the skill and discipline that go with it, supported by ambassador Anthony Joshua, British world heavyweight champion.
The 51-year-old said that self-discipline, punctuality, organisation, and resilience are just some of the benefits of these boxing sessions. He also devotes time to talk to his students on various mental and social issues.
“Boxing teaches you to be able to remain composed under extreme pressure,” Leroy said, stressing that boxing is as much about training the mind as the body.
He explained that boxing allows young people to stay focused and controlled, no matter what. “If you don’t box and you get hit in the face, you go nuts. You want to go mad. ... In boxing, you can’t do that, you‘ll lose focus, you’ll lose your control, and you’ll lose the fight.”
If you can stay composed under the extreme pressure of “having a guy in front of you trying to take your head off,” he said, “if you can do it in the hardest of arenas, you can do it anywhere.”
“If you can get in a ring and box in front of 2,000-3,000 people, you can do public speaking,” he added.
Leroy wants to teach young people life lessons through the sport, and according to Jacob Zdebski, 17, he is doing just this.
“You can step away from a fight. Whereas if I didn’t ever pursue boxing, I might have gotten into those situations,” Zbedski said.
Speaking of the life lessons from boxing, Filip Stasielowicz, 16, said, “It does give you the confidence, it humbles you, it humbles your ego.”
Harmonii Brown, 20, said that the coach teaches them to “respect others and respect yourself enough so you kind of carry yourself with that kind of air around you.”
Tyra Pascall-Louis, 22, said that the boxing sessions help her understand that even if a young person is exposed to violence and crime, there are other ways of thinking.
Leroy said that he is dedicated to a life helping young people to fight the good fight and that each detail covered in boxing is preparing them for this.
“You see the way that boxers shake hands after they finish? It’s a beautiful thing. It’s, to me, the best sport in the world. It can teach people so much,” he said.