RIYADH: This era is the most promising for Saudi women to become the face of boxing.
The sport is becoming more popular in the state, and more women are taking a leap of faith in pursuing their fighting passion. Saudi amateur boxer Salma Fahad, just 19 years old, is ready to show the world the potential of Saudi women in boxing.
The amateur boxer is part of the TKO Fighters team, and spends most of his day at TKO Gym in Al-Wadi, Riyadh, preparing for his face-off with professional fighters later this month.
“The next match is the exhibition to be held on July 28 and 29,” Fahad said. “I’m really excited about it; we’re working hard and it’s going to be a great event. It’s in Riyadh, at the Radisson Blu Hotel.”
Fahad has been boxing for eight months. She joined TKO Fighters at the age of 18, and aspired to be a boxer since childhood.
“I used to watch boxing on TV, especially female boxing, and I felt very inspired,” she said.
After my first fight, even though I got beaten up, but I had been boxing for a week, I still fought. It was an eye opener and brought this enthusiasm in me.
The Saudi fighter has competed in two official competitions – his first was in Riyadh last year, and his second was in Kuwait last March. She also did exhibition shows throughout the year and sparred regularly.
“Understanding what goes into amateur fights and really getting that type of experience made me realize how much I love the sport and how much I want to commit to it,” she said. “After my first fight, even though I got beaten up, I fought despite having boxed for a week. It was eye-opening and brought this enthusiasm in me.”
Fahadh’s passion drives him to train six days a week while trying to stay healthy to keep the weight off.
“You always have to wrap your hands to protect them, that’s the most important thing, so you don’t hurt yourself,” Fahd said.
“Usually we start with jump ropes and warm-ups to help with leg movement and use speed bags to help with hand-eye coordination. We do some exercises with each other, heavy bag moves, heavy bag training, jab, cross, working on hooks – we put them all together. We also work with each other on head movement.”
Fahadh’s favorite boxing move is the jab. “It puts the other person away and opens all the other counters and walks away,” she said.
Despite stereotypes about the sport’s “masculinity,” Fahd continues to encourage aspiring fighters.
“Being out there and showing that you’re never going to stop will break the stereotype,” she said. “With society, you cannot please everyone, especially being a woman and boxing. But you know, I realized that people who want to be inspired will look at it in a positive way.
“Take advantage of it; you have nothing to lose – boxing has helped me find myself in many ways, and there’s no harm in starting. You can reach wherever you want to reach,” she said.
Fahad found his team and coach through an Instagram post. She said she is surrounded by a supportive system from her family, friends, teammates and coaches.
“My family is thankfully very supportive and has been with me every step of the way,” she said. “My coach and my team really helped me grow as a person. More than just boxing, in and out of boxing, he helped me feel more confident and more comfortable in myself and in the sport. They are like my second family.”
Saudi-based American boxing trainer Lee Starks created the TKO Fighters team. This is the Kingdom’s first women’s boxing team in 2021. She started with four aspiring young female boxers and led them to the historic debut championship in Riyadh.
“These young ladies and gentlemen came up to me, and they were big fans of boxing, and they worked really hard, so after a while, we were like, you know what? Let’s make a traveling team,” Starks said. Told. “There were only two or three tournaments a year, so we created a travel team that would travel and participate outside Saudi Arabia.”
Boxing for Saudi women is developing as a sport, and there is a positive outlook for it in the future. Starks believes the sport is “going to be really big for women in Saudi in the next two or three years.”