Gloves over Guns programme has real potential

Friday, January 26, 2018

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Predictably, news that the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry is supporting a programme that uses boxing to get youngsters off the streets and provide them with skills has attracted some amount of criticism.

The thinking among some critics is that boxing is a violent sport, therefore the programme will not encourage participants to eschew violence.

On the face of it, that is a fair criticism and one that should not be dismissed by the chamber or the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control which is responsible for the initiative called the Gloves over Guns programme.

At the same time, there are many stories of men who were either on the brink of criminality or had already had encounters with the law but managed to turn their lives around after getting involved in boxing.

Easily one of the more recent examples of that is Briton Mr Anthony Joshua, the world heavyweight champion. Mr Joshua, now 28 years old, was headed down a dark path in his teenage years. He had frequent brushes with the police and was once placed in remand. However, Mr Joshua eventually went into boxing, developed a love for the sport, and placed all his efforts there to become a professional.

Today, he is regarded as one of Britain's most successful sportsmen and has been reported as saying: “But for boxing, I would be behind bars.”

We are not here saying that every Jamaican youth who participates in the Gloves over Guns programme will achieve the same level of success like Mr Joshua. However, there is no doubt that boxing instilled in him a level of discipline that is often not seen in teenagers.

Ms T'Shura Gibbs, the president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has told us that the Gloves over Guns initiative is mostly a mentorship programme, which seeks to provide at-risk youth in St James with lifelong skills, as part of a long-term solution to the crime problem plaguing the parish.

The chamber, she explained, wants to be aligned to programmes like Gloves over Guns, which impart much-needed discipline and structure that help to channel energy, in this case violent energy, in a positive way.

Sports, like karate, jujutsu, kickboxing, and the like, have an obvious violent component, but we hardly ever hear of any complaints about its exponents. It is always intriguing to see how boxers at the end of a fight hug each other after just exchanging often punishing blows.

Mr Stephen Jones, president of the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control, explained that while the Gloves over Guns initiative would provide an opportunity for youngsters to develop pugilistic skills, boxing is just a means to attract them to programmes that help in shaping young lives.

That, therefore, is an initiative that needs support from all law-abiding Jamaicans, as there is no doubt that we need to provide as many avenues as possible to prevent young people from being recruited by criminals.

Indeed, the state of public emergency has, we believe, created the space in St James for programmes designed to rescue at-risk youth to have some effect. It is our hope that those programmes will be lasting and thus disable the crime production mill.




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