Slumdog Boxing

by Tobin Jones


Pamwani, one of Kenya’s best boxing gyms, is home to professionals and amateurs alike. With limited equipment, though, everyone must wait their turn while training.

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Pamwani, one of Kenya’s best boxing gyms, is home to professionals and amateurs alike. With limited equipment, though, everyone must wait their turn while training.

Kenya may best be known for its long distance runners, but the country’s sporting talent happens to extend beyond this one sport. Boxing, too, has a long tradition in the country. First introduced by companies such as the Kenyan Railway Service to its workers back in colonial times, many of these same gyms are still operating over sixty years later, albeit much worse for wear.

To many of the youth in Kenya, boxing provides an essential outlet from the everyday struggles of life. Boxing gyms are not only a place to escape the daily trials and hardships of life, but also provide a safe outlet for stress (which may explain why so many of Kenya’s best boxers come from some of Nairobi’s largest and poorest slums).

To look at the boxing facilities at many of Kenya’s best gyms one would be forgiven for not realizing that these are the training grounds for world-class athletes. Kenya is currently home to at least several world champions in the sport, as well as multiple Olympians. With poor facilities, though, and so little money that even correct nutrition for the athletes is not guaranteed, every day remains a constant struggle.

Editor’s Note – Antonio Marques

A boxing ring – the great equalizer of men. A place in which status and titles are of little help and get left behind for the clash with a peer. And still, the reality of the documented gyms seems so very much detached from the multi-million dollar gyms that raise the western champions.

For the people training in these gyms, the fight doesn’t start and end within the ring – the ring is just a bordered space in which the constant daily fight is supposed to be that bit more fair.

Tobin Jones expertly documented the emotions and struggles of people for whom boxing is very far from their “sport of choice”, but represents a step above from just an illusion for a way out and a better life. Every single image made me want more about that moment and yet, from one to the next, the story takes shape.

Three words come to my mind every time I look at these images: Willpower, Pride and Hope.

About Tobin Jones
Tobin Jones is a photographer of English and American descent. Much of his life, however, has been spent living on the African continent, which he now largely considers home. Born in Botswana in 1986, Tobin spent most of his childhood growing up in Malawi and Kenya.

Tobin first got into photography during a gap year that he spent in Fiji before going to university. He continued to pursue photography as a hobby while at university in Canada. In 2009 Tobin graduated from McGill University, with a major in International Development, as well as minors in Economics and Political Science. Soon after graduating he decided, however, to return to Kenya in order to pursue a career in photography.

With his experience on the African continent and in International Development, Tobin hopes to use his photography to capture stories on the continent that might otherwise be overlooked. Namely, this will entail subjects that have to do with African society’s entrance into the modern world and the inevitable clash that it so often creates.


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