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What “Fight Like a Girl” Means to Saudi Boxing Coach Halah Alhamrani

For Saudi boxing coach Halah Alhamrani, “fight like a girl” is transformational.

Vogue Arabia, June 2022. Photo: Lina Mo. Makeup: Nouran

“Some people might say I’m hardheaded,” Halah Alhamrani says with a chuckle. “But I see myself as a go-getter.” For the Saudi boxing coach, the catchphrase “fight like a girl” means preserving what you believe in – from running a gym from her parents’ house in the early 2000s, to scouting for a space when female gyms were not given licenses to operate, to founding Flagboxing, Saudi Arabia’s first female boxing studio and training young women. The 45-year-old has not let anything stop her. “I feel the most powerful and beautiful when training,” she comments. “I’ve always felt comfortable being strong. I grew up in a country that, back then, didn’t have much to offer women, and I’m proud of the fact that I never let that stop me.”

Vogue Arabia, June 2022. Photo: Lina Mo. Makeup: Nouran

The boxer’s routine is quite varied, ranging from high intensity interval workouts to strength training three times a week. She also works on honing her skills in boxing and handstand work. The sportswoman had been training in martial arts since the age of 12 and by the time she went to university in San Diego, California, Alhamrani was already practicing karate, taekwondo, Muay Thai, and Japanese jujitsu. However, it was only under the tutelage of a Russian coach that she fell in love with boxing. She returned to the Kingdom with a degree in environmental studies, and although the idea of a female-only gym was born out of limited job prospects, Alhamrani found that it was the right thing to do. “Some people may have perceived a female gym to be against religion or culture. But I knew that I was doing something right… that will hopefully empower women and provide a service that will make them feel good about themselves.” To Alhamrani, self-care extends to the outer glow. “My beauty routine has become more extensive as I age,” she shares. Vitamin C and sunscreen before going outside are musts, while in the evenings, she uses serums and moisturizers. Twice weekly she applies retinol and on her self-appointed “FriYays,” she treats herself to a home facial.

Vogue Arabia, June 2022. Photo: Lina Mo. Makeup: Nouran

The coach says her biggest achievement is when she can transform a woman who doesn’t feel happy or confident in herself. “I find that if I’m able to change their life – one day at a time – I’ve done something pretty amazing.” Zahra Al-Qurashi, a 21-year-old Flagboxing protégé, won a gold medal at the Open International Tournament for Clubs in Jordan. “To see all the work that we put into training her – it was a very cool achievement,” Alhamrani says. When it comes to competitive sports, Alhamrani believes Saudi is at an early stage. “I do see an increased interest in fitness, but the level of competition has still not reached the levels that I’d like,” she states. The coach trains women in their 20s and 30s who have usually never been exposed to sports. “Our culture has never had a chance to understand the importance of health and wellness,” she explains. As Saudi Arabia progresses towards improving the quality of life for its people, she hopes to see sports becoming mandatory in schools. “I believe time is going to be the catalyst that will bring this change. We are getting there.”

Vogue Arabia, June 2022. Photo: Lina Mo. Makeup: Nouran

Originally published in the June 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia

Hair: Mnuira Alamin
Style: Nouf Musallam
Location: Flagboxing gym

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