Boxing their Way to Better Opportunities

On the banks of the Cooum, nestled amidst the tarpaulin, trash and dense settlements is a small compound wall enclosing the three hundred square foot government rec center. The sound of low grunts, shuffles and a distant counting emerge from behind the wall. A faded blue gate swings open to reveal young boys and girls (as young as seven years old) practicing boxing moves amongst themselves in a rectangular space that demarcate the boxing ring. On the right are makeshift boxing bags made of stacked tires, painted red and blue, suspended from a metal pole. In the background is the building structure whose stained walls are embellished with painted portraits of the Olympian Muhammad Ali and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar—surrounded by motivational quotes in Tamil and English. Amidst the artwork, are the words ‘GS Boxing Academy’, painted in bold white against a deep blue metal door. Behind the door is the silhouette of the amicable coach U. Govindaraj, shouting stern words of motivation to a handful of children from the neighbourhood—throwing punches into black bags of sand. Coach Govindaraj’s boxing academy in the slum was the inspiration behind the inception of KS Kharthickeyen and JL Abinaya’s Whakapapa Foundation

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