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Swiss-Jamaican Boxer working towards Toronto 2015

Swiss-Jamaican Boxer working towards Toronto 2015

Posted by Shanelle Weir on February 26, 2015

The year 2012 was the first time that female boxers were allowed to compete at the Olympics. And the first female to represent Jamaica in the Olympic qualifiers was 33-year-old Sarah-Joy Rae, a Swiss-Jamaican public prosecutor.

Rae packs quite a punch not only in the courtroom but also in the boxing ring. She says she always had a liking for law enforcement.

“If I had not studied law, I would have studied forensic psychology, and if I had not had a chance at those, I would have probably joined the police force,” she says.

The boxing trait didn’t come from her family, in fact the family is a cricketing family — grandfather, Allan Fitzroy Rae was a famous West Indian cricketer as well as the president of the West Indies Cricket Board for many years. “My grandfather was celebrated on the $4 Jamaican stamp alongside the Barbados Cricket Buckle in 1988. My dad played cricket too, but not on the same level,” she said.

Her father, Philip Rae, is Jamaican, while her mother Iris is Swiss.

“My parents met in Montego Bay when they were both young. My mother spent her holidays in Jamaica. When she met my father he was working at the hotel where she was staying. My mother would often tell me that they fell in love at first sight. Despite the distance, they both knew that it was way more than just a holiday fling and they started making plans for the future.”

Rae’s mother would eventually make the decision to move to Jamaica to live for a while but the couple decided to later move to Switzerland where they raised their daughter together.

Interestingly enough, Rae was never exposed to boxing growing up.

“No, no there were never any boxers in my family. However, my dad loved to watch boxing and I remember him getting up at 3:00 am to watch fights on TV.”

Having danced for several years as well as playing tennis and football, Rae wanted a new challenge, and decided to give martial arts a try.

“I started with a Thai-boxing class, but just couldn’t relate to it. Incidentally, I met an old friend from high school and she told me that she had just started boxing. I was talked into boxing by her and became hooked on the sport from my very first lesson.”

Having started boxing in 2007, she would go on to join the Jamaica national boxing team in 2012.

It was Stephen Jones, the current President of the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control, as well as other members, who introduced Rae to the Jamaican boxing team after seeing her train at the Stanley Couch Gym in 2012.

“Sarah-Joy is a champion fighter. I was really impressed with her from the first time I saw her,” said Jones.

“I knew she had to be on our team. Since joining she hasn’t disappointed us not once.”

Since joining the team, Rae has no regrets; for her it is one more way she can further strengthen the ties between herself and her beloved Jamaica.

“Being able to box for Jamaica and being a member of the national team makes me proud and further strengthens my ties to Jamaica. Also, I want to promote boxing among females in Jamaica. Women's boxing is still in the starting blocks in Jamaica. I'd love to see more girls and women box!”

Undoubtedly boxing is a tough sport; many would argue a man’s sport, however Rae doesn’t subscribe to that philosophy. 

“I do not think there is any such thing such as a woman’s sport or a man’s sport. From my experience a lot of women box; however, when you talk about women who box for fun versus those who box for sport, then only a small proportion of women who box want to compete.”

She added: “For me, boxing is not a game — it’s a fight. Boxing requires more of you. It definitely takes more than diving for the ball on the field, hitting the ball on the tennis court, dancing a choreography on stage or skiing down a slope.”

She said the only problem she is always confronted with is the small number of competitors on the national level. 

“As there are more male boxers, it is easier for them to find competitors. I, however, have to travel all over to find opponents.”

Though she was never schooled in Jamaica, Rae has worked closely with several Jamaican educational institutions including the University of the West Indies, Mona.

“My doctoral thesis was written on juvenile homicide in Jamaica (2004-2009). I also completed an internship at the United Nations Development Programme in Kingston,” she said.

Her Jamaican family ties are strong too. 

“I have a big family back in Jamaica. We are really close. My mom still lives in Basel (Switzerland) and comes to Jamaica with me every now and then too.

“I would definitely consider myself a Swiss-Jamaican. Switzerland keeps me grounded. It has a great schooling and social system and is a good country to grow up and work in. Jamaica on the other hand has a particular and unique charm. It is full of good vibes. People are hearty and still know how to live and enjoy themselves. Unlike Switzerland, the weather in Jamaica is fantastic too. I can honestly say that my heart is in Jamaica.”

Rae is working on qualifying for the Pan American Games in Toronto this summer. The next step is to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2016. 

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