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Thursday, December 1, 2022

'More South Asian women need to try boxing. There's so much hidden talent being wasted'

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Boxing is not a sport normally associated with girls from South Asian communities – but one coach is attempting to change that.

Sannah Adam hosts female-only boxing sessions to encourage young women from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian backgrounds to take up the sport.

“The majority of my class is full of Asian girls, and I know that had I not started, they would’ve never pursued a sport”, said the Bolton-based instructor.

She added: “They go to study and that’s it. Sports is just something that’s not really regarded highly in the Asian community, which is quite sad I think.

Sannah Adam hosts female-only boxing sessions at her local gym.
Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

“I think because of our culture and how some people are still very deeply rooted in their culture, they have that expectation that their daughters are eventually gonna get married. So for that reason, I think boys are pushed a little bit more to do sports.

“In South Asian communities, there is this expectation that you have to be a dentist or a doctor or a lawyer, and they don’t look beyond that.

“But it’s almost like wasted talent because the girls have got so much to offer. It’s really important to push your child towards what they enjoy doing because that’s what they’re going to prosper in.”

A recent Active Lives data survey revealed that Asian women tend to take less exercise than other social groups.

Some 47% of Asian women over 16 were classed as “physically active” – described as completing 150 minutes or more of physical activity every week, such as walking, cycling or running.

A recent survey revealed that Asian women tend to take less exercise than other social groups.
Getty Images/Westend61)

By contrast, 52% of Black women were deemed as physically active, 55% for Chinese women and over 60% for White British women.

Ms Adam first got involved in boxing after needing to complete a sports section for her Duke of Edinburgh award.

But after taking up the sport she decided to become a qualified coach and now runs a class every week.

“I knew that there was that gap and thought ‘why do South Asian girls not like sports?’ So I decided to be the change in my own community.

“I knew a lot of people wouldn’t come to a normal class because a lot of the girls wear a headscarf and might not feel comfortable. So I said to Tommy, one of the coaches at the gym, ‘we need to have a females-only session’ and he was absolutely fine with that.

“On the first day, I had more than 20 girls and I just thought, wow. This is just what happened with me putting out one message. If I’m consistent with this, so much can change. It will open so many barriers for girls like me who wouldn’t even imagine going to a boxing class”, she said.

Ms Adam said she believe there a a gap for all female classes.
Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Ms Adam boasted about the benefits of boxing, with not just improvements to fitness, but mental health as well.

“There’s the mental health aspect of boxing. Once you get into it you can’t get out. The discipline that’s instilled in it and being around so many people who are driven, it becomes so hard to let go of it”, she said.

“In college for a good six months, I stopped going to my boxing session only because I needed to focus. But I’ll never do that again because it keeps me so sane. Even during university I made sure to come down and do boxing”, she said.

College student Madiha Ahmed,17, has been going to Ms Adams’ classes since the very start and expressed her joy in being taught by someone like her.

She said: “There are no words to describe being trained by Sannah because finally we are getting represented and it’s quite surreal. You don’t normally see South Asian women doing boxing coaching. In our culture, girls are usually told ‘don’t do this or don’t do that.”

Student Madiha Ahmed has been going to Ms Adam sessions since the very beginning.
Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

She added: “But she’s so good and her personality is so bright and bubbly. She’ll always do something at your own pace and make sure you’re comfortable. And I think especially her being South Asian and understanding, she’s honestly great.”

Ms Adam says she is excited to see her boxing project grow, with the possibility of hosting classes in a mosque.

She said: “I spoke to Najma Khalid, an MBE winner and she said she wants to work with me. She has contacts with Cheadle mosque and said what I’m doing is so amazing and the women and the girls at the mosque would love a boxing class.”

She added: “It’s so nice I’m getting out there and venturing out because I feel like a lot of Bolton knows me and my work but it’s time to now step out.”

“That’s the next big step for me.”


I have never been into sports. The breathless, exhaustion and extreme sweat? That’s never been my style. But recently, I went to my first boxing session with coach Sannah Adam to see what I was made off. I mean, how hard can it be? It’s just a simple arm workout after all.

But halfway through my session I was certain of two things; one this is not just an arm workout, and two, I’m breathless, exhausted and sweating, all the things I hate. As I concentrate on my punches, I’m also having to focus on my legwork and form. Then focus back on my power and punching techniques. “Give me a jab. Give me an uppercut. Don’t forget to twist your leg!”, says Sannah.

I don’t even have time to think about the sweat I’m gathering because I’m focusing so much on my technique and punches. Boxing is an all-around sport that uses every part of your body, especially your mind. I’ll certainly never describe it as just an arm workout ever again.

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