Inside New Zealand's first-ever LGBTQ boxing class

A desire to make boxing more inclusive has inspired one Auckland man to set up New Zealand's first-ever LGBTQ boxing classes.

Ardon England says he wants to push boundaries, and break down discrimination in what's still seen as a hyper-masculine space.

"Finding boxing ignited a passion for me, and a lot of the work I do is about building strength, confidence, and empowerment, in whatever space that is," he told Newshub.

When England started getting into boxing a few years ago, that effect of empowerment was immediate.

"It gave me that sense of masculinity that for so many years I was told I didn't have, because of being gay and 'you're feminine and you're this and you're that'" he says.

Eventually, he stepped into the ring and flipped convention on its head - walking out to Beyoncé and wearing eight-inch heels.

"Just to really kind of push boundaries in those toxic masculine places that for so many years our community have found quite uncomfortable to step into," he explains.

He was equally cheered and booed, and it inspired him to set up Pride Box, New Zealand's first-ever LGBTQ boxing classes, to give others the feeling they can smash the stigma he came up against.

"It's really strange that it's taken til 2019 to be a thing," he admits.

England's been running classes for nearly two months at Auckland's Boxing Central, and as part of community wellness festival Atawhai, he's been taking workshops outside of the gym - and is about to start a six-week programme.

"There's actually a lot of people out there that have maybe had the idea of boxing but haven't actually had a safe space to try it themselves," he says.

England says he didn't think many people would be interested - and has happily been proven wrong.

"I haven't been to a gym for about 10 years because I find them to be a real male, masculine environment and it's not necessarily an environment that I thrive in," says Kerry Trent Ranginui.

"I think it makes you perform better when you're not feeling judged," says Kaylee Morrison.

For Kane Weatherup and Caden Caruso, who both have martial arts backgrounds, it's been an ideal space to give boxing a go.

"It's just nice to exercise with people that are like you and people that support you," says Weatherup.

"It's sort of like a fitness family as well. Some journey we can go on with like-minded people," adds Caruso.

For England, transitioning from teaching dance to teaching boxing came naturally.

"I suppose there's a lot of similarity with dance, and with teaching, I'm used to teaching classes, I'm used to teaching movement and that kind of thing."

And if just one other gym takes his idea and starts their own classes, England says his job is done.