In recent years many schools, colleges and universities have emphasised the importance of keeping fit and healthy through the use of free sport for students. This is something that I feel is an excellent means of encouraging people to keep active and fit on a day to day basis. The problem is due to government cut backs a lot of educational and council funded establishment alike are subsequently having to cut back on their range and promotions of free sport, which in hand, is deterring many people from taking up any sports, not just boxing. The main reason I took up boxing other than to see how I could turn my aggression into something productive, was because my university offered boxing training sessions coached by an English heavy weight boxing champion, completely for free, other than the optional expense of buying your own kit. Due to the changes to university funding and how individual universities are subsequently changing their distribution of spending, our university for example is having to alter the layout and degree of free sports available. Because of this, I am one of many people who is having to consider lowering my level of participation in sports at the university, simply due to not having £40 a month spare for hobbies, just like a vast amount of the nationwide student population.
Despite these changes to university and sport funding, I urge you to get involved in sports and fitness related activities while they are still free. This isn’t just in terms of boxing I’m talking about, I mean all sports and fitness activities ranging from everything from table tennis and equestrian sports to boxing and rugby. There are multiple benefits that can be obtained by participating in sports whether they are free or not! To begin with I guarantee you will feel a sense of accomplishment after learning about the new abilities and skills you have obtained through attending a new sport, all the way to making new friends for life along the way where you share the same tastes and hobbies due to the sport. In addition to this, there is also the obvious health benefits of getting involved in sport, regardless of the sport. Any sport is healthier than being a couch potato!!
When you think of boxing training one of the first things you may think of is quick bursts of intense skipping. This isn’t just because boxers want some playground nostalgia, no. As well as skipping being a great cardio session and workout, it also helps boxers improve their hand, foot and arm speed. Firstly, skipping is a great workout, although it may not appear to be at first sight, due to the fact that continuously jumping on the spot, alongside the constant arm movement engages all key muscle areas such as the legs with the calf muscles in particular, the core, shoulders and arms. In addition to this, the more obvious part is that skipping is excellent cardio due to the fact that while skipping you’re continuously moving and can either speed up or slow down. I would recommend skipping to anyone who wants to further their boxing training simply due to the fact that it will benefit so much in terms of cardio and hand/foot speed.
Another good point to make is the fact that if you’re not very good at skipping than don’t fret! Skipping is like riding a bike, the more you do it the better and faster you get at it and subsequently, the better your boxing will become. Even now I’m no skipping expert but as long as you put in the work than it will more than pay off!
For anyone who’s not heard the outcome of the David Haye and Tony Bellew fight, two things. First, how an earth have you gone this long avoiding the outcome and second, where have you been? It was set to be one of the biggest fights of the year, falling short of the most talked about only to the Joshua vs Klitschko and Khan vs Pacquiao fights. The two opponents were Tony Bellew, recent cruiser weight champion and David Haye, multiple heavyweight world champion. Most bookies had the fight solved as they thought, with the odds everywhere stacked completely in Haye’s favour. To add to this, it was set to be the fight that would either keep Haye’s career going, or end it with a crushing defeat which only added to the already unbearable tension.
The first few rounds didn’t appear to be anything else than what people had guessed, Haye was warming himself Bellew was already appearing to take some hard hits, in between the constant hugging which many thought was too excessive for a heavyweight fight. However it all kicked off in the early rounds when it appeared that Haye had severely injured his ankle after it was clear he was struggling to throw right hands and put weight on the foot. This was later confirmed to be that he had sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon. If you ask me it’s remarkable that Haye managed to put make it to the 11th round, yet alone fight in general. The fight didn’t end with a knockout which is what most were hoping for, instead Haye’s corner realised he was only injuring himself more by carrying on fighting and wisely threw in the towel in the interest of Haye’s future career. It was obvious that as soon as Haye sustained the injury it was extremely unlikely he’d pull through to win, the injury resulted in him not being able to move much and greatly increased the amount of punches he threw that merely made contact with air. By no means am I disrespecting Haye’s performance, instead I think he earned a great deal of respect, even from those who don’t support him, although there was one point in the fight where Haye showed poor sportsmanship, and karma occurred instantly.
To conclude, it was clear to see after the 4th round that there was only going to be one real winner and it was always going to be Bellew from that point on. Credit where credits due. A cruiser weight stepped up to the mark and squared on a heavyweight world champion, took his best hits, on the night, to the chin, and was the one who came out laughing.
Now it’s obvious that there is going to be certain pieces of gear and kit that you’ll need for boxing, the most obvious being a pair of gloves. But if you sit down and think about it there is more than you’d first expect. However, don’t fret! Most of this equipment is easy to get and can be bought for a reasonably cheap price. If we work our way form the bottom of the body to the top, the first thing you may need is a pair of boxing shoes. Now these aren’t completely necessary as any pair of sports shoes will suffice for light training but it is recommended that you have these for sparring and matches. These can be bought in most sports shops and can be found for a reasonable cheap price, I bought a pair made by Lonsdale, a reputable boxing brand, out of my local sports shop for less than £29.99. Following on from this, you may want to invest in a groin guard. This is padding that covers and protects your groin from any low shots from your opponent in sparring, think of it as a head mask for your groin. No one wants the breath taken out of them by a crotch shot. Moving up from this you would be wise to invest in some hand wraps. these are the tapes you see boxers wrap round their wrists and hands before they put their gloves on and their purpose is to help take the stress off your wrists and knuckles as over time constantly making hard contact between your hands and something such as a person or bag will put heavy work on them. These can be bought from any sports shop or alternatively online and are dirt cheap, I bought a pair for £3.99 from my local sports shop. Next up you’ll need the most obvious item, your boxing gloves. These are the item you should put the most research into before you buy them because they come in so many variants. You can buy gloves intended for fighting, sparring, or pad and bag work in particular, in numerous ounce weights. In addition to this, some will obviously be better in terms of quality than others. Since your gloves will be the only thing between your knuckles and what you’re punching it can be worth while pushing the boat out and buying slightly more expensive gloves, to make sure you don’t injure yourself.
Next up you will need a mouth guard. This won’t be necessary for pad and bag work but any sensible gym coach wont let you step foot in a ring to spar or fight without a mouth guard. You don’t want to lose any of those pearly whites! Finally, this is optional an many gyms may even provide you with one but it can sometimes be worthwhile looking into getting a head guard for sparring. This is because if you’re not in a competitive fight and only training, you don’t want to run the risks of getting unnecessary injuries!
There will always be days that you want to quit, that you will question if its all worth it and you’ll want to give up. Remember that these are the days that count the most. If you choose to miss a day because you have no drive, that’s the day you start losing, that’s the day the people who doubt you are proven right and the beginning of your defeat. If you’re like me than you find it hard to stay positive and try to seek inspiration where you can. Everyone has a lot of role models, many have successful celebrities. Although I have my celebrity role models, a fitting one being the great Muhammad Ali, I see soldiers as some of the best role models. If you can stare near defeat in the face and say I can do this than you’ve got that much more drive than the one who says lets call it a day. The key is to picture your goals and think of how your’re going to reach it. When you doubt yourself picture what you’re doing a remember why you’re doing it we all have our reasons. Whether it’s boxing related or not that’s a key thing to remember in life. Prove the people who doubt you wrong but more importantly, prove yourself wrong. You can do it.
When it comes to training, obviously practice makes perfect. You won’t become a champ overnight. When it comes to training you may not necessarily always have someone there with you to do pad work or to guide you. Because of this the bag is your best friend. He’s an inanimate object, you can’t hurt him, you can’t tire him and you can’t break his will. because of this the bag is one of your best training partners! I love the bag because you can’t get personal, you can unleash all your aggression and it isn’t going to hold a grudge against you where as you can’t unleash a relentless barrage against a light sparring partner. In addition to this, you can practice near enough any punch on a bad and due to there being so many different types you can master any technique. As well as the punch bag you can also put in some work on a speed bag. For those who do not know what this is it’s the small tear drop shaped bag that hangs from the side of a wall and you rapidly punch it in circular motions to help increase your hand speed.
To better show how to use a speed bag here is a clip of World champion ex-boxer Floyd Mayweather Demonstrating how to use one to increase hand speed:
Unless you’ve become Muhammad Ali over night or your opponent is abysmal, there will be times when you’re sparring or fighting that will require you to take a defensive stance as oppose to an attacking one. The basics are common sense, if you don’t want to take a heavy blow to the face you have to keep your hands up by your face to take the brunt of an impact. However, there’s more to it than this, you have to be able to bob and weave your opponent, to do this you need a good core as you will have to engage your whole body to move and avoid a blow. If your opponent is going for a body shot and it’s inevitable that it’s going to make contact than the best thing to do is to tuck your arms in tight to the body and twist your upper body so that your arm takes the blow instead of your stomach, which can in many cases be more serious than a hit to the face. In addition to this, if your opponent is lunging for a hit than you can put your glove out to contact it and divert the blow, resulting in the hit either missing or having the power removed from it. As seen in the picture above showing one of Ali’s many famous fights, he isn’t holding his hands up but this can be excused because of his speed and reaction times, if you have the speed to lean back or duck under a blow without being hit than you don’t need your hands up although for anyone other than pro’s I wouldn’t personally recommend it. With bobbing and weaving the key is to keep moving and bouncing around to dodge punches, and wait until your opponent leaves his or herself undefended momentarily and weave a hit to make contact.
To show how to successfully avoid punches, watch this clip of Muhammad Ali dodging 21 punches in 10 seconds showing textbook expertise in the art of avoiding punches: