England Boxing research into the role of boxing in development

Research released this week by England Boxing has revealed the role boxing can play in helping young people with anti-social behavioural problems from disadvantaged communities. 

The study, which was conducted by the Walker Research Group on behalf of England Boxing, looked at the value of boxing as a vehicle that can be used to influence behavioural change. The researchers undertook a qualitative study of participants from the Boxing Academy and Anfield ABC’s Champions of Life programme.

It identified five common themes which help explain why boxing is a credible method of reaching disadvantaged youngsters and addressing anti-social behaviour problems. The five themes are:

1.       The research showed that because boxing is such a physically demanding and ‘gritty’ sport that requires fighting skills it is seen as a credible sport to participate in amongst young people from deprived communities

2.       Boxing is a demanding sport that teaches values and skills such as discipline, mental strength, control and the ability to take personal responsibility.  These are all skills that can be used to overcome social problems.

3.       Boxing teaches the participant to re-channel their aggression and can stay cool and manage their aggression.

4.       The research found that many of the participants had difficult family lives. The sense of community that being part of a boxing gym created helped meet the young people’s need to be part of a family

5.       The people who coach at boxing gyms had often been through the same problems as many of the young people referred to the two gyms, but had used boxing to turn their lives around. This meant that they had a particular appeal to the young people and therefore became role models to how they could turn their lives around.

Giorgio Brugnoli, England Boxing Director, said:

“It is widely acknowledged that getting involved in boxing has the capacity to help people turn their lives around, overcome difficult circumstances and become positive contributors to society. 

This unique study helps to increase our understanding of how and why this happens and identifies some of the precise reasons why boxing is more successful than many other sports in engaging with the most hard-to-reach individuals and having a positive impact on their personalities and behaviour.”

Dr Stephen Hills, Senior Lecturer in Sports Business Management at London Metropolitan University, who was part of the research team, added: “At a time when national governing bodies (NGBs) are being challenged about their role in development as part of the Government’s new sports strategy, this study has isolated the unique role that boxing can play, which will hopefully lead to targeted funding and programme design that effectively leverages the capability of boxing to tackle gritty social problems and access hard to reach target groups.”

The role sport and recreation can play in fulfilling a social value is an area the Alliance remains extremely interested in. Last year we published a report, Uncovering the Social Value of Sport, that featured essays from individuals who run programmes in this area that highlighted the many social, physical, mental and community benefits of taking part in sport and recreation.