I started training with an ex-pro about 4 or 5 months ago and its been an education. I trained in rowing when I lived in London and that was hard work, harder than anything I’d done before but Boxing..? These are the ultimate athletes.

I have an hour training on a saturday morning then on sundays I go to the gym and go through the drills I’ve learned. Some people hate the drills but I love them – the repetition allows you to really get inside what is going on and it becomes hypnotic. The body learns the movements but the mental side requires work, maintaining the concentration to keep the movement the same each time, over and over again. This requires body awareness from head to toe as the whole body is involved in many of the punches and slips or blocks. For example a simple straight right (bizarrely even though I’m right-handed this is my weakest shot) involves pivoting the back foot (the right foot) turning the hips and torso to get the torque and reaching the right arm to land the punch, keeping the left on guard by the chin to avoid taking a punch. I’ve done this thousands of times but still cant get it consistently to hear the satisfying THWACK on the heavy bag every time. Keep good posture, move the front foot first stepping forward, back first stepping backward, left stepping left, right stepping right, take little steps to keep a solid stance, chin down, arms up, side-on to be a smaller target, keep guard up, make each punch crisp and return to stance after every movement, keep improvising and don’t be predictable, don’t stay still, stay alert…

I’ve changed what I do in the gym to make it more sports specific which used to involve 60-80 press-ups but that kills the wrists so I’ve been using the machines to lift weights. Lots of stretching, jumping rope (I still find this impossible) and some obvious cardio. Then it’s the drills.

This usually begins with stepping up and down the gym in stance, first time adding a jab, second time a jab then right, third time jab right duck, block or slip etc and so on. Doing this stepping backwards takes concentration but will come in handy later on when sparring – throwing a jab or two when stepping back means your opponent will either walk into one or back off allowing you a few seconds to right yourself.

Next its a brief shadow box – providing there’s room in the mirror with the young pretty boys lifting weights and grunting – then onto the heavy bag and more drills. Starting simply with a few jabs and rights, some hooks, upper cuts then onto combinations, blocks, footwork before a free session of whatever feels good. When I started I’d do 50x jabs and 50x rights before anything but now it can be more general depending on what I’ve learned with my trainer.

Sparring is completely different and a great way to show just how little you actually know and how unfit you are…
6×3 minute rounds and by round 5 I can keep my guard up, move and throw a few jabs but not much else. Absolutely exhausting. But yeh, my trainer is going easy on me and will put in a few light shots to show when my guard is open or to shake me up. The last 6 rounds we did I landed 2 decent shots – a left hook and an uppercut, that was it – 2 shots, as he moved or blocked everything else..

Now when I watch boxing I view it in a different light, observing the boxers footwork or blocks, the craft and subtleties, who takes the bigger hits or moves the lightest, quickest and looks strong, who has the most heart, the ebb and flow of a fight when one is on top before fading as the rounds go on or changing their game-plan when it’s not working..
when done well its more than just two guys beating each other up.


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