So the rules of Olympic boxing state that all boxers must be at least 17 years old, be no older than 34 and must be amateur athletes. I’m definitely an amateur and will be 34 at the time of the Rio Olympics, so I have one chance and one chance only to make it to the Olympics as a boxer.
With that in mind I needed to get into training straight away so I arranged a private 1-2-1 lesson at the City Gym in Southwark. I’d looked around at a few gyms in London and picked this one as it looked the most professional and least likely to chuck me straight into a ring with a Mike Tyson wannabe.
When I first arrived at the gym I started looking around and picked up a couple of leaflets, one of which was promoting the ‘white collar boxing’ which is a form of boxing in which people in white-collar professions train to fight at special events. I briefly contemplated whether this could be the boxing challenge and then remembered about a recent news report I saw where individuals had been paired up against people who were bigger and stronger than them and ended up getting seriously hurt. I quickly saw sense.
My coach was a bloke called Nigel, a cockney and proper old school boxing guy. We started with a bit of a tour of the gym and he talked me through the different training areas, punch bags and rings.
He then started to strap my hands, helped me put on the gloves and I joined him in the ring. I thought I would have spent most of the session practicing on the punch bags, with potentially a short sparring session at the end. Going straight into sparring though was ideal as I really wanted to learn the basics and experience what it would be like to throw a few punches. So it began, me with the gloves and the coach with the pads.
Just standing in the ring was a surreal experience, I pretended I was Muhammad Ali fighting George Foreman in ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ – not sure I looked like him though. I was told I box orthodox – which is the most common way, where you lead with your left and predominately use the right hand to land the big punch. The first thing we practiced was the positioning and movement. I picked this up relatively easily although my legs were a bit stiff from my 14 mile run this morning. We then started working on the jab with the left before adding in the big right hand (I say it was big – in reality it was probably a bit more like a whisper) and alternating between the two. After a few goes I really started to get the hang of it and we progressed into quick 1-2s, ducking and diving, multiple punches and moving around the ring. It was a tough workout and I was really starting to appreciate how difficult it would be to go a full 12 rounds, I wasn’t even getting hit and I was shattered by the end.
I got a lot of praise from the coach but I’m not sure Floyd Mayweather has anything to worry about. It was great fun and if I had more time I would seriously consider using boxing as a way of keeping fit – but that’s as far as I would take it as the thought of getting hit hard in the head is not particularly appealing.
I’m looking forward to watching the Olympic and making comments like ‘I would have followed up the jab with a big right’ or ‘well as an orthodox fighter’.