Safiyyah Syeed: The Hijabi Boxer
Overcoming a debilitating illness? Tick. Becoming the first boxer in the world to fight wearing a hijab? Tick. All while studying law? Tick, tick and tick! We sit down with Safiyyah Syeed to discuss the power of sport and perseverance
What do you get when you combine a passion for sport and a love for law? Safiyyah Syeed! This 22 year-old Manchester-based boxer has fought her way to the top of her game, becoming the first boxer in the world to fight wearing a hijab. But her journey to greatness wasn’t easy. After battling an illness that left her bedridden, she discovered boxing and fell in love with the sport. Here, Safiyyah shares her story, her inspirations, and her dreams.
Glorious: What led you to boxing- were you sporty growing up?
Safiyyah Syeed: I’ve always been sporty and very active as I used to always be around my brother, who’s the only boy in the family. I got diagnosed with an illness which led me to be bedridden for a number of years. As I started to recover, I wanted to get out of the house and get active again, so I started boxing just as an escape. I fell in love with the sport and here I am.
Glorious: You credit boxing with your recovery, how does boxing make you feel?
Safiyyah Syeed: Boxing saved me in so many ways. It’s a hard sport. But it makes me feel alive, gives me discipline and completes me.
Glorious: How do people react when they learn you are a boxer?
Safiyyah Syeed: Many are surprised because ‘I don’t look like one’ but most people are supportive and interested to hear more about me and my journey.
Glorious: You are the first boxer globally to wear a hijab while fighting. What does this mean to you and what reaction did you receive?
Safiyyah Syeed: It’s a statement. It shows you don’t have to compromise who you are for anything. You can do anything you want no matter what you wear, believe in or what you look like.
Glorious: Do you think it’s becoming more widely accepted to see women playing sports wearing a hijab?
Safiyyah Syeed: Definitely. I’ve got friends who wear the hijab in all kinds of sports, which is absolutely amazing to see because when I started there was no one that looked like me.
Glorious: Obviously female boxers are becoming more recognised by the ‘mainstream’ sports crowd. Did you have any female boxing idols/ sportswomen that inspired you?
Safiyyah Syeed: I didn’t. That’s why it’s important to me that I become the person my younger self wanted to look up to inside and outside of the ring.
Glorious: How do you think we can get more women into boxing?
Safiyyah Syeed: This applies to everyone but people need to get out of their comfort zone, find their local gym and give it a go. You’ll get a great workout of it, and who knows you might fall in love with it.
Glorious: What does it mean (for you) to be a fighter?
Safiyyah Syeed: It’s a lifestyle and I absolutely love it. I’m so proud of myself to look back at where and how I started to where I am today. I got myself out of some dark days, I’m doing what I love and I know I haven’t come this far to only come this far. I feel very blessed.
Glorious: How do you manage your life, juggling boxing with studies?
Safiyyah Syeed: Time management is key. I need to make sure I’m giving my all to both otherwise one can easily flop. I’m a big believer in giving everything my all, as you can’t do things half heartedly and expect results. This is my journey to greatness and I have to get through these chapters!
Glorious: Boxing has taken you all around the world, where is your favourite place and why?
Safiyyah Syeed: I’ve just come back from the states and Mexico but I’d say the Cayman Islands is at the top of my list because the training facilities and the beautiful island are amazing.
Glorious: If you could have one dream fight with anyone, who would it be and why?
Safiyyah Syeed: I’ve got two answers:
1) Muhammed Ali. I’d be blessed to share the ring with him.
2) Katie Taylor. She’s one of the best female fighters out there, so it would be an honour to share the ring with her.
Glorious: If you could invite four inspirational women to have dinner with, who would you invite?
Safiyyah Syeed: There’s so many incredible and inspirational women it’s hard to narrow it down to four, but I would invite Princess Diana because she was amazing, Katie Taylor, first female professional boxer, as well as Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams, as they are such powerful women and are the definition of, it’s not how your journey starts, it’s about jumping over the hurdles and making it to the end.
Glorious: What are your boxing goals?
Safiyyah Syeed: I would love to fight in Saudi Arabia, America and Dubai.
Glorious: Where can we find you?
Safiyyah Syeed: All on @thehijabiboxer