Fighting Your Corner: Boxing for mental health

Boxing club in Butetown helps children understand risks related to depression and anxiety to help them overcome emotional trauma.

A kid using his power to punch the boxing bag and trying different techniques.

“One-two, common!!” Ritwan ordered in a firm voice and the boy with gloves smashed on the boxing punch sticks which Ritwan was holding in his hands, “Good job” he assured the kid and the training continued. Ritwan was very calm and focused on what he is doing but it wasn’t the case before.

Four years ago Ritwan Ibrahim lost his father; after that, his emotions were all over the place. He used to lock himself in his room, throwing-smashing things and crying almost became the routine. One day he decided to find a way to take control of his emotions and he started his training in Tiger Bay boxing club, Butetown. 

Ritwan Ibrahim was warming up before start teaching other kids

Ritwan said, “Boxing is not just fighting with your opponent to challenge each other. You have to work in layers, from building your stamina till mastering the techniques in the boxing ring. Every step of the training had a positive and lifelong effect on my mental health. It helped me open up about my emotions and thoughts.

“I was bullied in school for almost five years, friendship was nowhere near me, while I was struggling to deal with this, I lost my father. Boxing was the perfect option to get my anger out. Boxing is one of the best ways to channelize your anger, with the help of this skill you can achieve something in your life.”

Saleem Said, Head coach of Tiger bay boxing club was helping kid practice the ring

Butetown has a 46%  rate of child poverty which is highest in Cardiff. Poverty affects the mental health of children and can lead to an increase in crime as kids don’t know how to control their emotions. According to the UK police records of 2019, the rate of anti-social behaviour in Butetown was almost 20%. Tiger Bay boxing club is trying to work on the mental wellbeing through boxing to control the crime in this area.

‘Fighting Your Corner’ is the new project which is Delivered by Cardiff Council’s Butetown Pavilion Youth Service in partnership with Tiger Bay Amateur Boxing Club and Ajuda Training Service. This project provides accredited training to the participants that helps them to become Wellbeing Champions. The project helps the champion to spread awareness about mental health in their communities.

The project gives championship in mental-health to young people and focuses on engaging young people in mental health awareness through physical activity. Currently, this project is helping children from Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown area of Cardiff. 

It has been three years now since Ritwan Ibrahim started his boxing training in Tiger Bay boxing club and now he is one of the first mental-health champions of ‘Fighting Your Corner’ project and have started teaching boxing tricks to the kids. Along with Ritwan six other boys also won the championship.

Wasem Said, President of Tiger Bay instructing the boy to improve his punch technique

Wasem Said, President of Tiger bay boxing club said, “It is still a taboo to talk about mental health in some communities. We want the boys to understand the problem and risk this can cause. We are not just focusing on making them best boxers in the ring but outside as well.

“Boxing ring is like a game of chess; it is important to understand when to attack when not to attack, at what moment you should make a specific move. It is important to know how to make a move when you are stuck in the corner of the ring, this is how we are fighting our corner every day in our life.”

Ritwan who once was struggling to deal with his own emotions is now proudly helping the newcomers to fight their corner by being their boxing trainer inside the ring and emotional support outside.