Martin Stark feels comfortable in the ring. After having experienced two induced comas and several major surgeries, the idea of avoiding the hooks of the law does not seem so painful.
For Stark, spending time in the square circle is a reminder of his resilience and an inclusive community that supports him on a daily basis.
“I describe it as ‘boxing discovered me’,” Stark said. “I find that very liberating.
In this week’s edition of Outsports’ “The Sports Kiki”, I spoke with Stark about his inspiring journey and his vision for his groundbreaking event, the Gay Boxing World Championships. Stark, who lives in Australia, wants to create a space where LGBTQ boxers and their allies can thrive.
Sport has certainly helped him.
The first of Stark’s many trips to intensive care took place in 2006, when gallstones blocked his kidneys. He had surgery to remove them, but developed a myriad of other life-threatening conditions: pancreatitis, lung collapse, septic shock. Living with undiagnosed Addison’s disease, a rare disorder that occurs when your body doesn’t make enough cortisol, Stark was ultimately put into a induced coma.
Then came the tracheostomy. It was living hell.
“This has always been my worst fear, so you can imagine going through your worst fear,” Stark said. “Am I going to die from a tracheostomy?” “
Stark survived, only to be placed in another induced coma and undergo several more surgeries. At one point in his rehab, Stark was straining to walk again – so he could be in better shape for another major operation.
Training to go under the knife is not as fun as preparing for speedo season. That’s for sure.
But Stark continued to fight. He says his support system helped him get through.
“I’ve always had this desire to come back and enjoy life,” Stark said. “I was in the hospital for two months. In 2006, I spent four months in the hospital. I wanted to get back into shape and health.
Boxing found Stark in 2017, following another frightening health episode. At this point, Stark was struggling with recurring nightmares. He couldn’t stop thinking about dying.
In an attempt to distract his mind, Stark took a full-scale martial arts class. The second lesson was about boxing, and he fell in love.
“It’s a great physical sport. It works for your ligaments, your bone structures, your muscles, ”Stark said. “There is a lot of great physical activity. For me, it’s also a great sport for my mental health, which channels my energy and gives me confidence.
Addison’s disease doesn’t always make things easier. Since Stark doesn’t make enough cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, he needs an IV dose to train. Sometimes you also have to tell Stark to stop. This is where his family of boxers comes in.
“I’m pushed when I need to be, but I’m also pushed by coaches who care about me,” he said.
Whenever Stark is in the ring, he feels a mutual respect for his opponent. That is why he is not afraid of injuries.
“At the start, we touch gloves. We could open the ropes of the ring to allow our competitor to enter, ”he said. “I feel comfortable, because I trust the coaches, I trust the boxers, I trust the referees and the judges.”
This is the kind of experience Stark wants to give some 200 athletes at the Gay Boxing World Championships. For him, boxing has always been an inclusive and rewarding activity. He hopes the five-day tournament can help break down the prejudices that still exist in the boxing community.
” I like this sport. I love this community, ”Stark said. Why not start an organization called Gay Boxing World Championships and have a tournament for the LGBTQIA + community and our allies, and really disrupt homophobia, transphobia and bring the boxing community together for the love of the sport.
You can follow Martin Stark on Instagram here.