By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him)
The second edition of the World Gay Boxing Championships is taking place this summer in Chicago, Illinois, hosted by the Strong Hands Gym. Following a successful first World Gay Boxing Championships in 2023 held in Sydney, Australia, founder and CEO, Martin Stark seeks to help build the LGBTQ+ boxing community by creating an international championships that will be accessible and inclusive for all.
“I set up WGBC to show that LGBTQIA+ people and our allies belong in the ring and can be Olympic Champions and World Boxing Champions,” Starks says. “We disrupt homophobia, transphobia, and hatred through increasing LGBTQIA+ inclusion and participation. Boxing is for everyone!”
Last year, our own David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him) interviewed Martin coming fresh off the 2023 championships to learn more about the event, how it went, and what’s next. With the World Gay Boxing Championships being a truly grassroots level inclusive sport that is going to be making a big impact within our community, we highlight Stark’s passion and commitment toward backing the World Gay Boxing Championships a reality.
“We know participatory sport is a key intervention strategy that boosts mental health, physical health, and overall wellbeing. Studies show that LGBTQ people participate in sport at half the rate of the wider population. Now, imagine removing that barrier so you now have 50% more people from a community participating in sport. Nelson Mandela said, “sport has the ability to unify.” We have great people within the LGBTQ+ community, we have awesome allies, enabling inclusion so I think that the least we can do is get involved in in sport or another activity and take a stand so that your sexual orientation or gender identity doesn’t stop you from achieving your dreams.”
With the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice and discrimination, participatory sport is an important aspect of our community for all to get involved with in regard to promoting mental, physical, and social health. Sport participation has been shown to boost confidence, wellbeing, and community support. Sports and martial arts like boxing as well can help develop self-defense skills and capabilities for LGBTQ+ to stand up against and discourage anti-LGBTQ+ violence.
Strong Hands Gym CEO, Diego Cevallos-Garzon is also excited to be hosting the World Gay Boxing Championships and bringing the event to Chicago and the USA. Cevallos-Garzon’s own passion is also built around buiding a safe and inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community to do sport and experience the social, physical, and mental benefits of exercise and sport.
The friendship between Stark and Cevallos-Garzon blossomed last year leading up to the 2023 WGBC and worked together in bringing the event to Chicago in 2024, with the event open for everybody with an emphasis on safety and accessibility for novice competitors.
Learn more about the World Gay Boxing Championships and get involved at https://www.wgbc.org.au/
Photo Credit: Martin Stark- World Gay Boxing Championships