Young boxers in Libya dream big

Young boxers in Libya dream big
Screenshot from Reuters video.
1 week ago

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TRIPOLI – From a sports hall at a small club in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, young athletes are hoping to punch and hook their way to international stardom.

Boxing as a competitive sport has been making a comeback in Libya, after it had been banned for being too violent under former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi outlawed the sport shortly after Giubran Zugdani's, one of Libya's most promising boxers at the time, appeared in the 1976 Olympics.

Zugdani, along with a generation of talented boxers, disappeared from the limelight and the sport wouldn't be played competitively for almost three decades.

But after Libya's February 17th revolution in 2011, and with permission from the interim government at the time, athletes wasted no time reopening their old clubs and, by 2016, Libya joined the International Boxing Association.

"This sport was marginalized for three decades. After that, by God's grace and the February 17 revolution, the sport was revived with the help of former boxers and former coaches. Old athletes and judges then held several meetings, and a technical committee was formed," said boxing coach Abdelhakim Ammar.

In the years that followed, official sports clubs began reintroducing the sport in major Libyan cities and young players have since been competing in national and regional competitions.

With the help of former players, coaches, and judges, a new generation of boxers is emerging.

Ammar trains a young team in Libya's Military Sports Federation and the club has since won two bronze medals at a Beirut Military Championship in 2013.

"Today, boxing as a sport has received international recognition and Libya has returned to the international front. We are determined to continue training despite all the current circumstances which include a lack of funding and facilities, yet we are determined to continue training so as to raise these athletes calibre to what it had once been, or even higher," he said.

Fists in gloves, the young players train every day, despite the lack of proper equipment, like head guards.

"Ever since I was young, I've wanted to play this sport, and when it was reintroduced after it had been stopped, I found it a good opportunity to join this club. I hope that boxing in Libya can be wonderful, and I hope that I myself can become a star in the future," said fifteen-year-old boxer Talal Fathy.

Fathy isn't the only one aiming high.

Like his peers, Akram Abdelhakim's passion for boxing is what gives him the discipline to train every day.

"Everyone prefers football, but for me boxing is my sport. I train every day, and I think it's a wonderful sport. I just want everyone who would like to train and participate in this sport to know, I want to make it clear to them that it is a wonderful, professional sport," said Abdelhakim.

The young boxers are now hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of Libya's former boxing heavyweights and gain international recognition for their sport.