Martin Stark only took up boxing a few years ago, but he's already declared himself a gay boxing champion and is organizing the World Gay Boxing Championships (WGBC), according to separate interviews with OutSports and Your Living Brand Live Show. His goal is to have an inclusive boxing tournament in time for World Pride 2023 in Sydney.
"Why shouldn't LGBTQIA people box?" Stark asked in an interview with OutSports. "Why should we, as a community, not feel part of a sport? Homophobia exists in sport, but sometimes we have to disrupt that by being part of the sport."
Stark told Ben Barker on the Your Living Brand Live Show podcast that his journey into the ring began three years ago "by mistake, by accident." He'd been battling Addison's Disease which left him weak and he wanted to build up strength, so he decided to take a few self-defense courses at the local martial arts center. His second class was boxing, and he was instantly hooked.
"Boxing discovered me," he explained to Barker.
He soon realized that he was actually pretty good at the sport, which is all the more surprising because Stark told OutSports he was always "the last one to be picked" when selecting teams for sports. The problem was there just weren't many safe spaces for queer boxers, so Stark decided to make a change. Of course, he went big.
"My vision is to create an inclusive LGBTQI-friendly event for people from all countries and backgrounds," he told OutSports.
His goal now is to have an inaugural boxing tournament take place in 2023 in Sydney, Australia, to coincide with the World Pride and Mardi Gras festivities being held in the city. Stark is also planning a smaller exhibition WGBC event in 2022 in Sydney as well.
Trying to introduce LGBTQ+ inclusion in the world of boxing is difficult at best. Stark revealed he's received messages of hate from halfway around the world.
"I had one guy from Texas saying I was injecting the gay gender in sport by being more articulate," he told Barker of Your Living Brand Live Show. "I've been sent Bible verses from somebody saying I'm approaching 666 and seriously, it doesn't bother me."
Stark is unimpressed with the haters and critics, though, and made it clear to Your Living Brand Live Show he's not the type to back down from the challenge.
"There's one word and I had it tattooed on my back, courage," Stark explained. "It's in my DNA. It's made the biggest difference in my life. Embrace who you are."
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