BAHRAIN’S first and only woman professional boxer is looking to punch above her weight and raise the kingdom’s flag high.
And her immediate plans not only include performing in the ring but also off it by raising the profile of combat sport among women on the island.
Priyanka Jeet Toshi won her first gold medal for Bahrain in the 54kg category in the Sovereign Boxing Championship in Dubai in November last year and that has boosted her confidence and morale.
That golden performance has also increased women’s interest in boxing in Bahrain while boxing itself came under the spotlight with the men’s national team doing well in recent times with at least three pugilists presently aiming to win a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The 28-year-old Toshi from New Delhi is a born fighter having had to break quite a few shackles to reach the position that she is in presently … a role model for women aspiring to take up combat sports.
Toshi, the last of three children, had to first convince her parents who were vehemently against their only daughter taking up combat sport which they deemed too violent and ‘unwomanly’.
“In a typical household, it’s the boys that take up boxing as a profession and girls are not very likely to become a boxer or a combat fighter,” said Toshi, a professional trainer who is presently working as full time manager and coach at GRO gym in Bahrain.
“So it took some time to convince my parents and once that was done I put in my all to become a professional.
“I started with kickboxing and won several championships, including seven titles representing New Delhi at the national level. Later on I got into MMA and fought professionally in ONE Championship super fight league and few more big name events in the industry,” recalls Toshi.
Around 2012, she met Mohammed Shahid, who is now the president of Brave Combat Federation founded by Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, first deputy chairman of Supreme Council for Youth and Sports and president of Bahrain Olympic Committee.
“I moved to Bahrain in 2013 and Bahrain MMA gave me an opportunity to train with their team which included Hamza Kooheji. Since then I’m living in Bahrain and working full time as manager/fitness personal trainer,” added Toshi.
It was in the middle of 2019 when Bahrain national boxing team head coach Tony Davis saw her fight during an elite boxing event and he was immensely impressed with what he saw.
“I awaited so long for this opportunity and when I got it, I was doubly determined to prove myself. I defeated Noor in the 52kg event and Mr Tony Davis liked it and asked me to be a part of the female national team,” said Toshi.
Then came the Dubai event which saw Toshi soar into the limelight by becoming the first woman boxer to win a gold medal for Bahrain.
Toshi is presently wrestling to balance her work and her passion for combat sport.
“It is difficult to fit in everything and yet rest and recover which is why I feel 24 hours is not enough in a day,” said Toshi who plans to set up her own facility so that women in Bahrain get an equal opportunity to practise combat sport at their convenience.
“I want to see more women take up combat sport and I’m willing to do anything to see that happen. But it is not easy. Men have more facilities and get more opportunities. I want women too to have the same facilities and opportunities.
“I thank the Bahrain boxing national team and federation for giving me this opportunity. I also thank my gym GRO MMA/Fitness Gym for their support,” added Toshi before signing off.