Gloves Over Guns: Jamaica Boxing Board’s program against violence

September 27th, 2022 / Interviews

Jamaica has relaunched its program to protect young people from violence through boxing, called “Gloves Over Guns”. International Boxing Association (IBA) took part and supported the initiative through its Financial Support Programme (FSP) giving a grant to NF of Jamaica. 

The President of Jamaica Boxing Board Stephen O. Jones told about an initiative to help youths on the island: “Gloves Over Guns” is a Sport for Development initiative that reaches young people in communities affected by violence, using boxing as a platform for personal development, social support and community cohesion. Every day except Sunday, the sport of boxing is integrated with psycho-social support with the simple aim of transforming the lives of young people who are mostly in search of better options and proper guidance.’

The program was launched at the beginning of 2018 and while it quickly gained traction in the communities, in which they were involved, came to an abrupt halt in 2020 at the start of the Covid pandemic. Now that the government has once again given the all-clear to have public gatherings, they relaunched the initiative in May, and it’s quickly picking back up right where they left off.

‘It’s clear that not everybody that participates in the program can be a World Champion or even National Champion in the ring, but we guarantee that full participation from any boy or girl will definitely raise champions in life,’ Jones added.

‘From our experience, all indications lead to the fact that the life of a criminal is not the first choice for today’s youth. Those boys and girls that were former members of gangs, all have low self-esteem when we first meet them but still maintain some semblance of pride. It’s their pride that makes them yearn to be a part of something bigger but also makes them easy targets to be recruited by gangs. We’ve seen, however, if, given the option to become a respected member of a sporting community, they would choose the life of sport over one of crime, every time,’ he explained. 

The program is registered in Jamaica, but the organizers are ‘happy to see that initiatives of this type resonate so well worldwide and are certain there will be many success stories because of this.’

According to Jones, the most immediate impact is ‘giving youths a safe space to which they can go to daily, be themselves, be mentored and potentially have a career path in boxing.’

‘The impact that the boxing association is most moved by is noticing the tangible growth in the self-esteem of both the boys and the girls. The confidence factor of the kids go through the roof in just a matter of weeks and seeing proud, confident youths full of self-esteem will forever brighten up any community.’

The Jamaican Boxing Board has long-term goals for the program. First, to provide regular access to boxing, personal development and leadership training to youth from under-served communities islandwide. Second, to raise the profile of boxing as an entertainment event among residents of the communities. Third, to promote peace and non-violence through the enjoyment of sport and involve as many kids as possible.  

Before the pandemic, there were over 200 kids from sixteen volatile communities in Kingston and Montego Bay involved in the program. 

‘We are now reaching between 70 and 80 on a regular basis, as we are not quite back fully in Montego Bay. By the end of this year, we not only expect to be where we were but will surpass the figures we had reached before Covid,’  the President of Jamaica Boxing Board explains. 

There are several organizations that supported “Gloves Over Guns”, including IBA. 

‘We are highly grateful to IBA and everyone, who is onboard,’ Jones said. ‘The relaunch of our community shows as well as enough gear to equip eight community gyms was made possible this year by the IBA development fund, and it’s this said equipment why we’re confident that we will surpass previous numbers in no time.’

‘It is definitely a long-term project,’ he says. ‘One which will not only be embedded in the psyche of the Jamaican populace but will also be self-sustainable three years from now. This will be made possible by selling gate receipts and media rights to our community invitational boxing show to be held every six weeks.’

‘We would like to acknowledge the Fight For Peace International organization as it was upon their invitation to the Complex De Mare favela in Brazil in 2017 where we got to see firsthand the effects that such a program can have on youth and communities,’ the President of Jamaica Boxing Board concluded.