Jamaica Boxing Board of Control has relaunched its programme to protect young people from violence through boxing, called “Gloves Over Guns”.
The initiative is a Sport for Development programme that reaches young people in communities affected by violence, using boxing as a platform for personal development, social support and community cohesion. The programme was launched at the beginning of 2018 and while it quickly gained traction in the communities in which they were involved, it came to an abrupt halt in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now that the government has once again given the all-clear to have public gatherings, the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control has relaunched the initiative in May and it’s quickly picking back up right where it left off. The International Boxing Association (IBA) took part and supported the initiative through its Financial Support Programme, giving a grant to the initiative.
Under the initiative, every day except Sunday, the sport of boxing is integrated with psycho-social support with the simple aim of transforming the lives of young people who are mostly in search of better options and proper guidance.
Raising champions in life
Stephen Jones, president of Jamaica Boxing Board of Control, remarked, “it’s clear that not everybody that participates in the programme can be a World Champion or even National Champion in the ring but we guarantee that full participation from any boy or girl will definitely raise champions in life.”
The Gloves Over Guns initiative is registered in Jamaica with the organisers being happy to see that programmes of this type resonate so well worldwide, saying they are certain there will be many success stories because of this endeavour.
According to Jones, the most immediate impact is “giving youths a safe space to which they can go to daily, be themselves, be mentored and potentially have a career path in boxing. The impact that the boxing association is most moved by is noticing the tangible growth in the self-esteem of both the boys and the girls.”
“The confidence factor of the kids go through the roof in just a matter of weeks and seeing proud, confident youths full of self-esteem will forever brighten up any community.”
Long-term goals for ‘Gloves Over Guns’
The Jamaican Boxing Board of Control has long-term goals for the programme.
The first of which is to provide regular access to boxing, personal development and leadership training to youth from under-served communities islandwide. The second is to raise the profile of boxing as an entertainment event among residents of the communities and thirdly, to promote peace and non-violence through the enjoyment of sport and involve as many kids as possible.
Before the pandemic, over 200 children from sixteen volatile communities in Kingston and Montego Bay were involved in the programme. The programme is now reaching between 70 and 80 on a regular basis with the initiative not quite fully operational in Montego Bay but it is hoped that by the end of this year, this number will be surpassed.
“From our experience, all indications lead to the fact that the life of a criminal is not the first choice for today’s youth. Those boys and girls that were former members of gangs, all have low self-esteem when we first meet them but still maintain some semblance of pride. It’s their pride that makes them yearn to be a part of something bigger but also makes them easy targets to be recruited by gangs. We’ve seen, however, if, given the option to become a respected member of a sporting community, they would choose the life of sport over one of crime, every time,” he explained.
“We are highly grateful to IBA and everyone, who is onboard,” Jones said.
“The relaunch of our community shows, as well as enough gear to equip eight community gyms, was made possible this year by the IBA development fund, and it’s this said equipment why we’re confident that we will surpass previous numbers in no time.”
“It is definitely a long-term project,” mused Jones, adding, “One which will not only be embedded in the psyche of the Jamaican populace but will also be self-sustainable three years from now. This will be made possible by selling gate receipts and media rights to our community invitational boxing show to be held every six weeks.”
“We would like to acknowledge the Fight For Peace International organization as it was upon their invitation to the Complex De Mare favela in Brazil in 2017 where we got to see firsthand the effects that such a program can have on youth and communities,’ the president of Jamaica Boxing Board of Control concluded.