Boxing gets back in the ring

The sport is experiencing renewed popularity following high-profile support from professionals

Isabella Kaminski

Schools are starting to offer boxing lessons to girls as the controversial sport makes a comeback among pupils.

Boxing is rising in popularity again after a prominent campaign in the 1960s to ban it from schools.

Monmouth Comprehensive School in Wales set up an after-school boxing club two years ago to help tackle the poor behaviour of some of its pupils.

Around 50 boys and seven girls take part in intensive boxing sessions, and although they cannot participate in full-contact sparring at school, several have started fighting competitively at a local club.

Andy Williams, the school's deputy head, plans to install a boxing ring, but is concerned about how parents might react.

"It (boxing) really has turned lots of young people's behaviour around," he said. "It is an incredible change from, for example, taking drugs or nearly being excluded."

Mr Williams has won the support of Louise Walsh, a boxer and the author of Fighting Pretty, who said that Boxercise - a sport using punch bags and aerobic exercises - should be offered on the national curriculum to counter rising aggressive tendencies among girls and the growing girl gang culture.

And David Thomas, a maths teacher at Willows High School in Cardiff and a keen boxer who has set up a daily after-school boxing club for pupils, agreed.

He recently gained a coaching qualification and is passionate about the benefits of the sport for pupils.

"It doesn't encourage them to go out bashing people," he said. "They take out a lot of their aggression on the bags and pads.

"They've started to pay more attention to what they eat and their health."

Joe Calzaghe, Wales's unbeaten WBC world super middleweight champion, also spoke out recently, saying that boxing should be reintroduced in schools.

In an interview with Boxing News, he said controversially that it could help curb boys' aggression, as well as keeping them fit.

But Peter McCabe, chief executive of Headway, the brain injury charity, expressed concern, saying that the health risks were high.

"While it may be argued that children would be involved in non-contact exercises, the likelihood is that many of them will go on to take part in full-contact boxing outside the school environment in boxing clubs or, worse still, with their friends without any supervision," he said.

The British Medical Association recently called for a ban on boxing for under-16s.

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Isabella Kaminski

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