In the heart of one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent favelas, British ex-boxer Luke Dowdney runs the boxing school ‘Fight for Peace’. In a community controlled by gangs and plagued by constant violence, Dowdney is striving to provide an alternative. With shootouts a regular occurrence on the streets, can he help Sugar and Douglas, his two youngest recruits, to escape the perpetual cycle of drugs and bloodshed and fight for a better future?
“He really is fighting for his life… this is not a hobby”, says Luke of one of his recruits, Sugar. Although only a child himself, Sugar is his family’s sole provider, and boxing provides him with his only income to support his mother and siblings. So too for Douglas, another of Downdey’s youngest pupils: both his brother and sister are living on the streets addicted to drugs, and his boxing promise can be a way out of poverty for him and his family. “If I make some money I’ll take my family out of the favela… maybe to where there’s not so much shooting”, says Sugar.
The upcoming Youth Championships are crucial for both Sugar and Douglas. Both fighters must win medals in order to secure funding from the government – vital income for the survival of their families. The two must struggle to succeed in a world beset by constant hardship: not even a fatal shooting on their street or the return of Douglas’ missing sister can disrupt their preparation.
“Peace doesn’t come from the barrel of a gun, peace only comes from dialogue and investment”, explains Dowdney. In a community governed by gangs and corruption, and in which too often innocent children are victims of the violence, Dowdney’s club offers a ray of hope. For children like Sugar and Douglas, boxing is one of the only alternatives to a life of crime, and boxing is their best chance for a better life. This remarkable documentary provides a moving insight into their struggle.