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Gloved up and fighting back

Alice Perry. Photo: Nikki South.

“To suddenly feel capable, when you’ve never felt capable at any time in your life, is a great feeling.”

Alice Hostler, 27, is a mother of three and a boxer. She has embraced the sport like a religious convertee. Boxing is her faith.

“It is consistently the most positive thing that’s happened to me after being alive, breathing and having kids,” says Alice.

And she is deeply saddened that the New Zealand Medical Association - the organisation representing all medical disciplines, specialists, GPs, doctors in training and medical students - want an immediate ban on the sport.

The call comes just days after the funeral of Christchurch man Kain Parsons, who was knocked out in a charity boxing event and later died in hospital. The NZMA said boxing was “qualitatively different” from other sports because of the injuries it causes. Consequently, they insist it should be banned.

“It’s just so easy to blame boxing per se,” says Alice, “but there could have been all sorts of factors at play. I just don’t know.”

“A sensationalist response to a tragedy,” is the response from Chris Walker, owner of Tga Box gym and boxing centre in Judea, where Alice has been busy thrashing the bags.

“I have trained 450 corporate boxers for the 16 shows I have promoted,” says Chris, “with 14 bouts at each show. I am qualified and experienced in what I do and I have had absolutely no problems.”

Nothing more than a bloody nose that is. And he suggests having a look at the ACC statistics. “Boxing injuries are pretty low compared to other sports.”

Yes, there are cowboy promoters. But Chris walker is no scoundrel, and no rogue operator. “I do boot camps and train everyone together. I then team them up to spar to see how fair the competition is – I get a gauge on how the bout would go before it even starts. It makes a big difference and it means very few problems.”

Alice Hostler has a mean grip. If she tapped you on the chin with those 12-ounce gloves the same way she shakes a hand, there would be immediate respect. And when she tells her personal story, there is also respect, because boxing brought her back from a very dark place.

“I live with complex post-traumatic stress disorder through domestic situations,” she explains. “Earlier this year I was really mentally unwell.” Then there was the chronic asthma. “People have been telling me all my life I can’t do this and I couldn’t do that.”

It was June 30 she had her epiphany. “A friend did a fight night and I thought I would never be able to do that – it was scary!” But do it she did, because she thought it might just help her.

“It was setting a personal goal, something to work towards. It was all about my fitness and wellbeing - it was never about my weight, trying to look good or winning. I just turned up and focused on my health.”

She did lose 13 kilograms on the journey to her first corporate fight, which she won on a unanimous points decision.

“When I first started, I thought the whole point of boxing was to knock the other person out,” says Alice. “Yes, you can win if you do that, but my trainer laughed and reminded me that’s not the mentality.

“He said ‘it’s a sport, Alice, it’s about smarts and technique and points’.” That changed a young woman’s attitude to boxing, and it changed a life. 

“I still have a lot of healing to do, and I still hold a lot of anger and resentment. I don’t like that, but boxing helps.”

It is ironic that the doctors who are calling for boxing to be banned are of the same profession as those who’ve witnessed the transformation of Alice Hostler. She’s not angry, just thoughtful and disbelieving.

“I have been able to come off my medication, I am considerably lighter, I have more energy , I eat properly, I am a healthy role model for my children, my family have re-engaged with me and I am just very, very happy,” she says.

“Personally, a ban on boxing would really hurt. I would be really upset, especially because it’s helped me in every aspect of my well-being. I have been inspired by boxing and, in turn, I have brought people struggling with issues to boxing and they just love it.”

Chris Walker reminds the critics that boxing has enormous worldwide appeal. The world stops spinning for a world heavyweight clash.

“It was one of the first Olympic sports, and you don’t have to know boxing to know the name of a heavyweight champion – Muhammad Ali, Anthony Joshua, Floyd Mayweather and our own Joseph Parker. Canelo Alvarez could be the world’s richest sportsman after signing a $365 million deal. Boxing is not going anywhere soon.”

Alice Hostler doesn’t call herself a boxer, not yet. “But if you did call me a boxer, that would be very cool.”

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