The Criminology of Boxing, Violence and Desistance

The Criminology of Boxing, Violence and Desistance

Deborah Jump

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781529203240

Publisher: Policy Press


There is an assumption in criminal justice that boxing will immediately work to reduce offending among young men. Many practitioners cite discipline and respect as the desisting elements inherent in a boxing gym. Undoubtedly, these discourses do exist, yet, what if the discipline and the respect garnered in the gym are used for other purposes that are not always conducive to the desistance process? This book will unpick how effective boxing actually is in reducing violent attitudes, and how to ensure that the messages in the gym environment do not support negative attitudes often found outside the ring. Using classic desistance literature (Giordano 2002; Maruna 2001), I make suggestions that are grounded in evidence and theory. Using case studies, and life history interviewing drawn from a psychosocial perspective (Jefferson and Hollway 2000; Gadd 2007; Maruna 2001), this book builds on techniques that uncover the more clandestine reasons for choosing boxing. Working within this psychosocial framework, the desire and the appealing nature of boxing, more often than not, comes from a place of anxiety rather than strength. I will present arguments that suggest boxing’s appeal lies in its capacity to develop ‘physical capital’ (Wacquant 2004), and prevent repeat victimisation. Using case studies, I will reveal stories of men’s victimhood, either via gang violence, domestic violence, or structural disadvantage. I will tell the story of how boxing reshaped their identities and self-concepts, and how the gym came to represent a fraternity and a ‘island of stability and order’ (Wacquant 2004). Additionally, I will present arguments that suggest that boxing is not a panacea for all social ills, and while it has its benefits, it also has a darker side that is coterminous with hyper- masculine discourses of violence, respect, and avoidance of shame.