The start of any New Year often begins with reflection. Commonly, one starts by recognizing notable milestones – new job, vacation, birthdays, etc. – or perhaps dwelling on particular mistakes or missed opportunities. It’s also the time when one makes “resolutions” that serve both as requiem or recognition that, at some point last year, you could have either been the best or worst version of yourself. As I reflect on 2018, I have actively chosen to focus on the profound moments that reshaped my life, the opportunities I was given to impact others, and the various contributions that has redefined my understanding of a better version of myself.
In 2018, I was able to achieve a dream previously thought to be unattainable. I was able to assemble a team of people that I cared for implicitly, and mobilize them to participate in a remarkable journey that is now defined as - Boxing Is Love. Along the way, I had the privilege of meeting brilliant new people from countless cultural backgrounds, and from countless areas of the world that shared two common interests – the desire to help children, and the love of Boxing. As previously discussed in prior blogs, social media posts, and the website, Boxing Is Love launched in June of 2018 with 10 trainers and one mission – share the gift of boxing to the children of Liberia, West Africa. In our short time there, we reached nine communities, and roughly 1500 children.
The real start of this transformation actually began in March. Through an obscure peculiar circumstance, I somehow found myself on a train heading northwest out of London to the quiet town of Coventry, England. Just a few months prior, I was contacted by the CEO of a little known boxing apparel company called BOXRAW, with interest in combining efforts to form a foundation. As I stared out the window, I recited my “pitch” making sure that my “value proposition” was concisely explained to show how this type of program could benefit a brand, and how an emerging brand like BOXRAW could benefit from this type of exposure. The entire presentation went out the window, when Ben Amanna, CEO/Founder of BOXRAW, met me at a local pub with an immediate, “yes, lets do this.” – an example of one of those brilliant new relationships in my life.
The impact of our trip persisted for months after as Coach Lee Manuel Ossie remained in Liberia until early November. As a reminder, Lee Manuel was born in Monrovia, Liberia, and left in the early 90s to successfully pursue a career as a professional boxer (34-6 20 Kos). During his time away, he learned that much of his family were killed during the Liberian Civil War, and vowed never to return. That changed almost 30 years later, as a member of the Boxing Is Love team, and serves as just one of the many reasons why Boxing truly is Love – another example of one of those brilliant new relationships in my life.
As Boxing Is Love sets their sites on 2019, the organizational mission remains the same, but the vision of impact has grown exponentially. The exposure of our June program yielded over two million hits on social media, prompting upwards to 14 countries to contact us with interest in have their own Boxing Is Love Program. We have gotten the attention of some of the biggest names in professional boxing. People like Danny Yousseliev, Tevin Farmer, Joshua Buatsi, and Olex Usyk all publically wearing Boxing Is Love Tee-Shirts. And, most importantly the pound for pound best fighter in the world, Vasyl Lomachenko, agreed to a more intimate role by accepting a seat on the Board of Directors. Mind blowing!!!
What started as a discrete goodwill mission to resurrect a dormant boxing culture in a small African country has captured the attention of millions of “like-minded” boxing enthusiasts from across the world. The response received in just six months has facilitated a Global Boxing Movement never before seen in the sport. Boxing Is Love has over 500 registered volunteers, representing 27 countries, and 24 states waiting to share their knowledge and experience with these children. As we anticipate an exciting year of growth, and the acquisition of critical strategic partnerships, I would remised not to acknowledge that our vision has evolved.
The 2019 New Year’s resolution for Boxing Is Love is to position the organization to become the boxing equivalent of UNICEF. Initially, we start the year by keeping the focus on developing a boxing economy within Liberia. There is an abundance of talent in this area just waiting for encouragement, and opportunity. With the help of the Liberian Boxing Association, AIBA, Save More Kids, and the national federations of the surrounding countries - Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Ghana - we will legitimize an strong amateur infrastructure throughout West Africa, and host regional competitions (amateur and professional). Boxing Is Love will break ground on a state of the art Boxing Facility to serve as Hostel/Hotel to hundreds of traveling volunteers from around the world. Local construction crews will build the gym, and will be staffed by local full-time coaches. In order to maintain upkeep, the organization will train craftsman and technicians to fix electrical/solar/plumbing issues. The food will be purchased from the local markets, and prepared by local cooks. This model will then be replicated to surrounding areas, whether in Liberia or neighbouring countries. All the while, we help create opportunities for the talented boxers to refine their skillset with proper, healthy, productive guidance. Then… We will set our eyes on the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
“It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”