Rabia Topuz’s campaign at the 2023 IBA Women’s boxing world championships came to a early conclusion as she dropped a lopsided unanimous decision against Mongolia’s Balsan Mungunsaran in what was just the second bout of the tournament in New Delhi’s KD Jadhav indoor stadium.
But for the Turkish boxer, the biggest bout was perhaps simply making the journey to India. Competing at the world championships was the last thing on Topuz’s mind a month and a half ago when she was suddenly woken up early on the morning of 6 th February in her home in Malatya, a city in the South East of Turkey.
Topuz felt the earth shake below her as an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck that part of the country.
“I was at my home in Malatya during the earthquake and I was very scared but I saved myself in seconds. I was in a state of shock as I didn’t know what to do and ran straight out as the earthquake continued,” she says. Topuz and her family rushed out to save their lives but found themselves in the bitter cold. “When I rushed out, the weather was freezing as it was wintertime. It was very snowy weather and we were all cold, we didn’t even have our shoes on our feet and it was a really difficult time,” she says.
While Topuz and her family barely escaped with their lives, they lost everything else as their home crumbled in the quake that has claimed over 45,000 lives so far and left several hundred thousand homeless across the region.
“After our homes got destroyed due to the earthquake, we slept in our cars for 10 days. After that we were able to move to a tent. I am still living in a tent with my family and hoping that we get a house really soon,” she says.
Despite the tragedy, Topuz headed to Izmir, on the western coast of the country where the Turkey national boxing camp was being held. Topuz had already qualified for the World Championships and was determined to take part.
“It was a very difficult time before the tournament as I only came to the camp 20 days ago and only had a few days to train. But didn’t lose my spirit and gave my best to prepare for the tournament,” she says.
There were more than boxing skills that she had to learn at the camp.
“Rabia was affected by the earthquake and her house was destroyed but thank God they came out quickly, no loss of life. But the earthquake has affected us all. Our families are close and of course, we live together in sadness. Furthermore an earthquake is an event that creates great trauma. A person who has experienced an earthquake is afraid of even entering closed environments, but we are trying to overcome it together. We have psychologist friends in the camp, we get their support, we try to overcome this by making ourselves talk a lot,” says Tuncay Varol, Chief coach of Turkey.
Despite the trauma of the quake and her loss in New Delhi, Tupuz says she hasn’t lost any motivation.
“It’s hard to box in such situations but you have to do it for the country. The Turkish flag keeps me motivated to give my best in the ring. I will start my training again after returning to Turkey with my team,” she says.