Fighting for Change: Narrative accounts on the appeal and desistance potential of boxing

  • Deborah Jump

Student thesis: Phd


This doctoral research addresses the relationship between the sport of boxing and men's desistance from violent crime. It examines how men make sense of violence as a result of participating in the sport, and how they subsequently rehearse and practice violence in their everyday lives both in and outside of the gym walls. Thirteen men were interviewed using Biographical Narrative Interviewing techniques as part of a six month ethnography in an inner-city boxing gym in the north of England. Furthermore, I spoke with three policy makers in the field of sport and desistance from crime, to ascertain whether or not they determined sport to be beneficial in promoting pro-social behaviour among adolescents. Throughout this thesis I pay particular attention to the participant's understanding of violence and also how the logic of the gym reinforces attitudes favourable to violence and the maintenance of respect. Thus, this research discusses and elaborates on previous assumptions in sporting and desistance literature, and argues that while relevant, diversionary activities and sport-based rehabilitative programmes are only one element in the theory of change. In conclusion, arguments are put forward that state that boxing actually traps men in an attendant culture of respect that requires them to respond in aggressive ways to maintain an image of both masculinity and respect. This attendant culture - that is transposable between gym and street - can override the pro- social desisting elements that the gym can offer, and reinforces the logic and discourses that evokes and traps men in habits of responding to violence, therefore in terms of future policy and practice new directions need to be sought.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJonathan Shute (Supervisor) & David Gadd (Supervisor)


  • Ethnography
  • Masculinity
  • Desistance
  • Boxing

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