School boxing for girls proves a hit

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The Independent Online

Girls as young as seven are being tutored in boxing in what is believed to be the first all-female fight club of its kind in a British primary school.

The experiment, underway in Manningham, Bradford, has proved a knockout with budding pugilists who are being trained by seasoned fighters. They are part of a renaissance in the popularity of the sport at junior level which has seen the number of schools offering boxing soar in the past five years.

Drawn mainly from the inner-city area's large Asian Muslim community, girls have been signed up in a bid to boost their fitness and combat childhood obesity. The initiative has the backing of West Yorkshire Police which has welcomed the decision to introduce the lessons in non-contact boxing at Springwood Community Primary.

Every Monday afternoon children queue up to practice drills and fitness training with rising female boxing star Saira Tabasum, runner-up in the British Universities Championships, and pro boxers such as Tasif Khan.

PE teacher Luke Swift said: "Some schools have health and safety concerns and steer clear of boxing. It is good exercise for them and very empowering."

Lee Murgatroyd, of the British Amateur Boxing Association, said that in 2005 20 schools taught boxing, all of them in Merseyside. The most recent figures reveal that 1,931 across the country now provide coaching – the highest since the 1950s heyday of schoolboy boxing.