World Boxing Championship | Alcinda Panguana, Rady Gramane and boxing, changing one life at a time in Mozambique
New Delhi is hosting the IBA Women's World Boxing Championship 2023 from March 16 to March 26, in which over 300 athletes from across the world are participating. That gives SportsCafe a chance to track down the journeys of some of the top players, and also some of the upcoming ones.
Consider this. Two Mozambican friends, in their teens around 10 years back didn't even know women could box in their country. A former Olympian, Lucas Sinoia, who represented Mozambique at the 1988 and 1996 Games, just by chance, spotted the duo on the streets of Maputo and found something truly special about them. He instantly had a vision; to make them champion boxers, which nobody could have thought, would become a reality one day. After a lot of coaxing, the girls and their parents finally agreed to send them for training at Sinoia's gym..and the rest is history.
Today, the two friends, Alcinda Panguana and Rady Gramane, are the world's no.1 boxers in their weight categories and also the medalist from the 2022 World Championship, the only ones from Mozambique. They are medalists from the 2022 Commonwealth Games as well, apart from being African champions too in the same year. The 2024 Olympic glory for Mozambique looks like a reality now, all thanks to Sinoia, these two talented women, and all others putting in the hard yards from behind the scenes.
From 2018, when in their debut championship, these boxers could only manage a win each, to the present day where they have achieved substantial success, a lot has changed in Mozambique for the better; the outlook towards women's boxing, towards women in general, private players funding these boxers, and the federation. Boxing has slowly become the most popular sport overtaking football, and by quite a mile, but the work has only started for Sinoia, and Gabriel Junior, the president of the Mozambique Boxing Federation.
"Our women's boxers are an inspiration back home," Sinoia told SportsCafe in his limited knowledge of English. He has a sense of pride when he says, "There has been a huge improvement in our standards since 2018 when we first participated, and we are the best in Africa now."
Looking at his president for intervention, Sinoia hints, Gabriel has had a big part to play too. After all, this was possible due to the funds provided by the federation, and the players did not have to worry about funds. "We are spending a lot on women's boxing development. Over the last few years our boxers have achieved decent success, but this is not really the time to be satisfied. These boxers have increased our popularity of boxing and now even the Olympic Committee has a lot of faith in us, which is why the money is being pumped in. We are all working together to develop the sport in the country even further," Gabriel said.
For the other top nations in women's boxing, it might just be a sport, but for Mozambique, it is proving to be a game-changer and creating a positive impact in the lives of the people. A lot of girls back home, who have picked up boxing now, have been saved from the drug menace or even prostitution, and Gabriel could not be more chuffed about it. In fact, he went on to speak about a boxer, who is participating in the championship in New Delhi and was saved from getting into these activities. So, being on top of their game remains the only option for them.
"Boxing keeps a lot of problems away from our people. So being good at this sport is a means to save one's life. Just imagine what USD 100k could do to these girls and their families; the prize money they win from the competitions. So that is a big motivation for us to keep doing well. One of the girls in our team was involved in drugs and now boxing saved her life. Her life has changed, and we found a new star in her. Coach Sinoia has played a major role in it. Boxing is saving lives in the country and that is the motivation for us."