Wheelchair boxing is the next big thing in adaptive sports. Athletes around the world have become disabled for numerous reasons. Since most were athletic before they became a wheelchair user, they each decided to find a sport that suited their interests and physical abilities. Athletes who are wheelchair users have been flocking to the sport that tests their strength and coordination, as well as fulfills their fighting spirit.
Hong Kong wheelchair boxing pioneer Lai Chi-Wai was a champion rock climber who earned medals in competitions worldwide. Five years ago he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He had his first boxing match just four months after he began training for the sport. Chi-Wai hopes more will get involved in the sport and has helped establish a Hong Kong wheelchair boxing association. He believes others will benefit from boxing through improved mental focus, increased confidence and overall improvement of physical fitness.
Phil Bousfield and Paul Robinson made boxing history when they both competed against each other in an underground nightclub in London. They were the first British athletes to participate in a boxing match while in a wheelchair. Robinson stated, “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.” Robinson, who practiced karate prior to using a wheelchair, won the fight after three rounds. The points from the boxing match were established under the Olympic-style amateur boxing rules, which are used in the sport today.
Colin Wood founded the UK non-profit organization “Mixed Martial Arts Wheeled Warriors,” also known as MMMAWW. The organization has been around for several years but was struggling to promote wheelchair boxing matches. Now, as the sport becomes increasingly popular he hopes to expand MMMAWW and promote boxing events that will draw the attention of more athletes from around the world.
Wheelchair boxing isn’t just for former athletes. Ian Cannon from Glastonbury Connecticut, who has cerebral palsy spastic quadriplegia, created a boxing program in his hometown and named it “Roll with the Punches.” His original goal was to provide strength training and flexibility to anyone who was interested. He soon realized how popular the boxing element of the program was becoming among members. He has been running the program for more than three years and is now a student at the University of Hartford.
Interest and participation in the sport mounts as petitioners fight for wheelchair boxing to be part of the Paralympics in the future. It will allow athletes the opportunity to represent their country in the sport and challenge their strength among other athletes. The International Paralympic committee is in the process of developing criteria for the sport. The IPC is requesting a clear plan regarding the sport and the proof that it is practiced in at least 32 countries on four continents. Once the IPC’s request has been fulfilled, wheelchair boxing will be considered for the Paralympic program.
While the petition moves forward and regulations are formed, athletes continue to be captivated by the sport. While athletes wait for the good news regarding the Paralympics program, specially-made wheelchairs are being designed that include new technology specifically useful for wheelchair boxing. Prototypes are being created and tested for the future and will most likely benefit future Paralympic athletes.