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Science: Boxing is the Best Sport to Reduce Gang Culture

A new study, conducted by researchers from London Metropolitan University, has revealed why boxing is so successful at steering young people from deprived areas away...

A new study, conducted by researchers from London Metropolitan University, has revealed why boxing is so successful at steering young people from deprived areas away from gang culture.

The report, titled ‘The role of Boxing in Development: A social marketing perspective’, interviewed participants who are members of Anfield ABC’s Champions of Life in Liverpool and The Boxing Academy in London.

They used the interviews to establish five common themes that help to give some insight into why boxing is more successful than other sports when it comes to helping young people address issues relating to crime. Here they are:

A Credible Alternative to Gangs

“We have former gang members in the gym and when their mates from the gang say ‘are you coming out tonight’ they say ‘no, I am going boxing’ and they do not lose any face or credibility.”- Anfield ABC Administrator

We all know that boxing is an insanely physically demanding sport; it involves fighting – hitting someone without getting hit yourself. That’s why it possesses a degree of credibility amongst young people in tough circumstances. It’s a credible alternative to anti-social activities such as being in a gang or involved in crime.

A Means to Manage Aggression

“When you are using a lot of energy and anger you have to calm down and use your energy, anger and aggression in a constructive way so that you don’t spin out of control and stay disciplined. You can then apply that outside of the ring.”- Focus Group Participant

Being a boxer means you must think clearly in the face of conflict, so it teaches you to stay cool and manage aggressive situations effectively.

Role Models with Empathy

“Any problems I have I can talk to the coaches about. They have been through what we’re going through. They’ve been in my shoes so they can give me guidance.” – Focus Group Participant

Like most sports, coaches in boxing provides positive role models. Unlike many sports, though, a lot of boxing coaches have been through difficulties relating to anti-social behaviour, crime and gangs. This adds to their credibility and appeal to young people.

Values and Skills

“What you have to go through as a boxer with all the hard work and discipline creates respect for yourself. Once you have this you can then have respect for others.” – Anfield ABC Administrator

It’s no secret that to be in with any chance of being successful at boxing you need an avalanche of discipline and self-control. Do you know what else you need? The ability to take personal responsibility. These attributes are often lacking in those involves in gangs and crime, yet boxing allows people to acquire these values.


“Instead of getting respect from other gang members you get respect from everyone in the gym.” – Focus Group Participant

Many of the participants in the study had difficult family lives and a lack of belonging. The boxing gym created a sense of family or community which replaced the one that they had felt from being part of a gang.

Boxing is about much more than two people skipping and weaving around a ring whilst swiftly ducking to avoid jabs and throwing counter-punches. It’s also about teaching young people the valuable skills they need to navigate through life effectively. Or, in the words of Dr Stephen Hills of London Metropolitan University, it has “the capability to tackle gritty social problems and access hard to reach target groups”.

Featured image credit- Wikimedia Commons

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