Sydney is set to host the first World Gay Boxing Championships, as a local boxer continues building support for inclusivity in the sport.
Martin Stark plans to hold the inaugural championships to coincide with the huge dual events of Mardi Gras and World Pride in early 2023.
Stark took up boxing just two years ago, and while discovering his love for the sport, he found that it had little visibility among the gay community.
While the #boxing hashtag on Instagram has millions of posts, he saw only hundreds of #gayboxing photos.
“This made me more determined to share my boxing journey, communicating how I have found the sport to be welcoming and inclusive, while demonstrating that equality for LGBTIQ people is more than equal rights, but the right to enter the ring and compete,” said Stark.
With studies suggesting LGBTIQ people are up to 76% less likely to participate in sports than their straight cis counterparts, the boxing championships aim to get more members of the community active.
The event will be gender inclusive, with trans, non-binary, and intersex boxers of all levels welcome to compete.
Painstaking planning will ensure the event is safe, with competitors evenly matched.
“This is where we need to be trailblazing and groundbreaking and say everybody matters, and we have to be inclusive,” said Stark.
He said that the treatment of trans people in some other sports has been unfair and invasive, and invited gender diverse athletes to provide their input on the best approaches to inclusion.
Stark said he wants to help shape a future where all LGBTIQ people can be out and participate in sports without harassment, which many still experience.
“Studies show the health benefits of exercise: mental, physical, wellness,” he said.
He said his ultimate wish was to see no future need for LGBTIQ-specific events, with members of the community simply accepted in all sports.
Most interest so far has been from people already involved in boxing – chiefly straight men.
However, Stark said boxers of all sizes, backgrounds, and levels of experience were encouraged to join.
Even straight people can enter the gay championship as allies.
“You can start training, get fit, and come along and compete,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter who you are.”
The lead-up to the World Gay Boxing Championships will begin with LGBTIQ fight nights in Sydney next year, allowing members of the community to train with peers.
An exhibition championship will be held in early 2022, celebrating the sport and building momentum for the main event.