The boxing championships aimed at 'disrupting homophobia, transphobia, hatred in sport'

    Martin Stark, founder of the World Gay Boxing Championships, poses for a photo.

    (CNN)In 2017, Martin Stark almost died.

    He lives with Addison's disease, an auto-immune condition which effects the adrenal gland and can inhibit the production of cortisol or aldosterone.
    Because of the disease, Stark has been in two induced comas and has undergone a tracheostomy. He remembers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with the "dreams of the comas actually causing trauma" after his second.
      And that is how he came to find boxing, the sport he describes as providing him the gift of "being myself, feeling comfortable, feeling vulnerable."
        Through his journey in boxing, Stark has come to organize the World Gay Boxing Championships (WGBC), the world's first LGBTQI+ boxing tournament, which will be held in Sydney in 2023.
        The slate of events, which have been backed by Boxing Australia as well as most of the sport's leading organizers and administrators, will feature amateur fighters of different weights, ages and abilities.
        As well as introducing the sport to a whole new audience, Stark hopes that the WGBC can "disrupt homophobia, transphobia, hatred in sport."
          "I think the main thing is around visibility and representation," he told CNN Sport. "There have been trailblazers in the world of boxing. You think women were not able to compete in boxing at the Olympics until 2012. Think what Nicola Adams has achieved. Women have been competing in boxing in the US since the 1990s, so women have been blazing a trail of boxers.
          "And I think that's where my whole spirit of inclusivity comes from -- because of what other people have achieved and for me, my organization, we're very much around the grassroots and amateur level, but we want to disrupt homophobia, transphobia, hatred in sport."
          Stark training with a punching bag.

          'Boxing is for everybody'

          Stark was a swimmer at school. He remembers being picked last in school sport, apart from in the pool.
          His introduction to boxing came when he visited his local martial arts center for some self-defense classes.
          Previously, he had considered the sport to be "barbaric." But it has become a safe space.
          Because of the masculine nature of the sport, many might consider boxing very "heteronormative," according to Stark. But as a member of the LGBTQI+ community, he has come to find the sport extremely inclusive.
          "Boxing is for everybody," he says.
          "I've found the sport, from my personal experience, to be very inclusive. I've been welcomed in various gyms," Stark continues.
          Stark with the word "courage" on his back before marching in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in March 2019. He now has the word tattooed on his back.
          "I've been training for my first fights and all of my gym coaches, the trainers, everybody involved in our first fight have just been very welcoming to the extent that coaches and participants have even been recording 'Happy Pride Month' videos."
          Stark fell in love with the sport, fully immersing himself with the club and the classes there. He remembers calling himself "the future world gay boxing champion" as a joke.
          He did have dreams of boxing at the 2022 Gay Games, but the sport was eliminated from the upcoming games -- postponed until 2023 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
          Which is where his idea for the WGBC came from. "I just came up with the idea: 'Why don't I organize the world's first LGBTQI+ boxing championships, which includes our allies?'" he remembers.
          The inaugural WGBC will be held in Sydney in 2023 to coordinate with WorldPride and Mardi Gras in the city.
          Stark has received stamps of support from the world's leading boxing organizations: the World Boxing Association, the International Boxing Organization, the World Boxing Co