Stepping out in front of 1000 spectators to participate in a boxing match isn’t for everyone but at the start of 2018, I decided it was something that I wanted to do.
After months of preparation- it was time to get in the ring and avoid getting knocked out in front of my cheering friends and family.
When looking at boxing from the outside, in, it looks to be legalised violence, pugilism, and two competitors simply trying to take each other’s ‘heads off’. Ultimately the aforementioned all stands true but something I have learned over time is that martial arts and boxing have a true beauty that cannot be met elsewhere in the sporting sphere.
There is something quite Gladiator-esque about fighting and I guess that’s the appeal.
In this blog, I tell you why I decided to box and also how the night went too.
Why I Did It?
At the start of last year- I decided that I would not rest on my laurels in regards to my fitness goals, or any for that matter. I wanted to take part in a few events that would certainly take me out my comfort zone. When I initially started talking about boxing and the potential of competing, I wasn’t too interested. That is what made me sign-up, it suddenly dawned on me- it would be a very difficult task yet something that I am capable of enjoying once I have committed to it.
My goals for 2018 were:
- Box for Charity
- Sign-Up to CrossFit Competition
- Carry Out a Parasite Cleanse
- Leave the UK for Thailand
I did have other aims too but the above were some of the biggest ones from my goal setting that year. Boxing was first on the list and I am thankful that I made myself carry out the task of fighting.
I Love Boxing
I have been in and out of fighting gyms for as long as I can remember. Most of the time watching my Dad and Grandad. Fighting is part of my family’s tradition and once I told them I didn’t want to be part of it, I think it shocked them. I still reminisce about weekends I would spend at my Grandad’s, we’d be up around 5 am doing hill sprints, opening his gym to do Karate by 9 am after breakfast and after we’d play football before all cousins would be separated to do homework and learn some of life’s lessons. All this at the ages of around 7-9 years old. This helped me learn the importance of discipline and how fighting/sports can provide transferable skills.
After some time of the weekend bootcamp and encouragement to continue, I soon left martial arts and the little experience I had, for other sports. Without any pressure, I somehow carried out a full-circle, going from the kid who wasn’t interested in competing in boxing or other martial arts to a twenty-eight year old man who wanted to compete in the sport . I grew up loving boxing and I would go as far as saying I am an educated fan that knows a bit about what I am watching.
I used to be a boxing journalist or at least I started out in that industry. This time I decided to swap my pen for boxing gloves and climb the other side of the ropes.
Love for the sport is not enough to be good at it; it takes a lot more than simply being able to call a fight- something that I found out. That is why it was so complex during the learning phase.
Seeing things from Point Of View soon changes your perception on punches thrown and punches to avoid, it is like a third person shooter on Quake switching to a first person setting, the only difference is- you might get knocked out!
My friend and I were looking to raise money for some charities that we were passionate about. We were doing this through our Instagram handle- @Vegan_Athletes. We decided to carry out various tasks between us and the first one was boxing.
My friend- Ant was in my corner that night and used his boxing experience and coaching skills to prepare me in the build up. The charity was for Chaka Bars and some of the work he was doing to build schools in Africa.
The Fight Preview
The Fight Prep
I have been into some good boxing gyms in the past, I already had some boxing experience and like I said- I am a huge boxing fan. That meant that I had a good idea of what to expect. It soon become apparent that I was learning faster than ever and I think this was down to the good level of fitness I brought to the table from the moment we began preparation. With that said, the gym only match you with opponents of similar ability. That was certainly evident, when I found out who I was fighting it was obvious that it was going to be a hard night.
During preparation this is what I did:
- Sparred three times a week
- Fast run once a week
- Heavy compound weight training twice a week
- Boxing sessions on bag/footwork drills/pads twice a week
- Rest one day a week
It is crazy to think that all of the training above would fit into six days and this was all for something that I was doing for fun. When playing football it is possible to maintain a good level without even going to training. That right there is what I love about the sport of boxing, it is one that takes no prisoners and throughout the build up you are mentally battling yourself, you don’t want to stop and you want to ensure that no stone is left unturned.
The build up at Henrietta Street Gym was really fun, it provided a fun camaraderie with the team and I was hearing stories about my opponent in the build-up. I was glad to hear that some of my good sparring stories and regiments were also getting back to him- it all adds to the nerves and excitement that I was looking to embrace on the night.
Unless you have boxed or fought in front of a big crowd- then it is hard to explain how fight-day feelings, but I will try my best. During the week of the fight you taper off, this means no training. You can’t gain fitness or endurance the week of the fight and you won’t learn anything new. All you do is stay loose, injury-free and carry out some movements such as shadow boxing that will help you cement your game plan for the night.
When the day arrived I felt great, in-fact it was such a great feeling knowing I was in fighting shape. I felt fit, light and faster than I had ever been before. The day involves a lot of waiting around and you usually spot your opponent in the back. I actually spoke to mine. Apart from the three rounds he tried to separate me from my conciousness- he was a really nice guy.
Prior to any of the bouts, we wait around and find out the fight order. Around this time the text messages of good luck start coming in and it dawns on you that people are arriving at the venue to watch you and it’s really happening. I popped out from the dark dressing room of what’s usually a night-club setting to see my family and friends waiting in the crowd, I remember that adding to my nerves a little- so I decided to cut it short and head to the back where I could start slowly warming up. It takes me so long to warm up as I like to work at my own pace for quite a while.
Before you know it, it’s the fight before your own- you get on the pads and it’s time to walk down and wait for your entrance music. It is such an odd feeling at this stage as you don’t feel like you are ever going to fight and you can’t work out if you are warm enough. Then you start walking and everything you have been working on is there, programmed into your movement and into your mind- you go into a zone. It’s a great feeling even entering the ring and I didn’t trip up once, that was alone was a win for me.
We had worked so many tactics especially for my opponent simply because he was different to anyone else in the gym. He was short, very slippery and had power in both hands. I managed to spar one of the trainers at the gym as he used to box at a good level and he could mimic the style- this prepared me well.
I waited for my opponent to come charging in and caught him with my back-hand before stepping off. I was surprised how often this was working and I don’t mean to sound big-headed but I feel that the speed we were throwing punches at, was not getting scored quick enough. The scoring was the old olympic scoring that shows up on a big score-board for the crowd to see.
Being under the bright-lights is completely surreal and it feels nothing like sparring hence why the boxing combinations and tactics need to be engrained into you, then you just hope that you will naturally react with what you have been taught. I did this for the most-part but my opponent’s relentless pressure had him winning by a point after the first round. I have to be honest I felt this was my round.
The second round was a little less eventful as we both seemed to take a breather. As I say I am aware of boxing technique even if I am not capable of carrying out everything that I see and know about. One thing I was thoroughly impressed with is that my opponent judged my timing and started using head movement to gain distance. Being the taller fighter that wasn’t good for me.
I unloaded some fast combinations at the start of this round and again- felt like some of them didn’t hit the scoreboard but I could also say the same for my opponent too.
I landed some single right hands and got hit with a flurry in-close on some occasions although most hit my gloves there would be one in there that would hit my head up and maybe look worse than what it was.
I was trailing even further behind now and had a lot to do. After my corner’s instructions I had to counter my opponent’s tactic of slipping my single jab or right hand. I did this by feigning the jab, not really throwing it and then stepping in with what we call the reverse 1-2.
It was working well, I somehow got level in the fight within seconds. I was in and out sticking to my tactics. I couldn’t keep him off forever though and as we engaged the scores kept fluctuating until the last minute he went three or four points clear, I pulled it back to 22-20 and the final bell rang.
Everybody seemed emphatic as we left the ring, I think we gave both sets of fans excitement and showcased good skills that again, without sounding biased- were pretty high for this particular level. It looked more like an amateur-level boxing bout which may not sound it, but is a good level.
Post Fight Interview
Take Away Message
I felt a huge sense of achievement before even making it to the ring and although it sounds cliche, I had already won. The aim was obviously to win the fight itself but I set myself some uncomfortable goals for the year and learned so much. If it wasn’t for my opponent Pavlos, I would have found it hard to find someone at the same boxing level and same weight for this show- I was grateful to fight a great opponent.
As you can see from the interview, he was cool and composed and from my fighting style of being on my toes, I was ready to collapse. What an experience, I was truly proud of competing at the level I did and who knows- I may be back in there in the near future.