By Rory Desch

After meeting some of the friendly members of Knockout LGBT Boxing Club at the Out for Sport Sports Fair last April, I finally plucked up the courage to attend training in Autumn. And, to be honest, I am glad I did. On my first night I was welcomed by coaches Pierre, Don and Paul, all of whom, have been very encouraging from the very start of my first session and onwards.

Within my first few weeks, our club chair Pierre sent out a ‘feeler’ message concerning the upcoming Pride Boxing Courage Boxing event on the 19 March 2020 at the Clapham Grand. Courage is an LGBT white-collar boxing event held to help raise funds for AKT (The Albert Kennedy Trust), AKT is the national LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity, which provides support to young people who are homeless or living in a hostile environment.

Though new to boxing, I quickly messaged back Pierre, expressing my interest in participating in the event. Admittedly, my initial motivation in participating was because I saw this event as an excellent opportunity to speed up my own boxing progress, whilst also building something positive for the LGBTQ+ community. I was also spurred on by the positive stories I’d heard from other members of the club who had previously participated in Pride Boxing, with the common message suggesting that it was a great event to get involved in.

Training for the Pride Boxing Courage event started back in January, it is facilitated by Gem and the supportive coaches Jon and Dave from Cobra Boxing Gym located at the Queen Mother Sports Centre in Victoria. With over 40 fighters taking part (10 of whom are from KnockOut LGBT Boxing Club), many new to boxing, you can only imagine the encouraging and supportive atmosphere within the group, particularly as we see each other’s progress, all the while knowing that on fight night we’ll be competing against one another.

The benefits of taking part in an event like this is not just about learning a new skill, or raising funds and awareness for charity, it’s also about my own personal wellbeing. Having previously being involved in LGBT football (East End Phoenix) and very briefly Swimming (Out to Swim) and now boxing (Knockout LGBT Boxing Club), I am only too aware of the positive impact that taking part in LGBTQ+ inclusive sports clubs can have on my own mental wellbeing, and also the impact on my social network. Even, in the short time since training for the Courage fight night began, I have borne witness to many new friendships forming,

Don’t get me wrong though, training is not all plain sailing. There are days when I wonder what I’ve learned today, that perhaps my possible opponent(s) are creeping ahead. But then there are days when I can clearly see the progress that I have made, particularly, when practising our sparring techniques against one another. Rarely is making progress easy, but it is generally worth all the effort I put into it.

Are you interested in supporting me by attending fight night? If so, click here to buy tickets, during the purchasing process you can associate a fighters’ name; in my case, it’s Rory, or perhaps you know one of the other fighters involved. Not interested in attending, but you would still like to support the cause, click here to donate to my fundraising page. Thanks for all the encouragement to date and I hope to see you all very soon.

Follow Rory Desch on Twitter

All photos by Stefan Hanegraaf