Sportblog: Learning to box, part one

THE Worksop Guardian sports editor has become a student of the sweet science.

Manton ABC have opened the doors of their gym on Retford Road to journalist Graham Smyth, as he finds out what it takes to learn the sport of boxing.

Here, in the first part of his regular blog, Graham realises there’s more to boxing than lacing up a pair of 16oz gloves.

MY heart felt like it was going to break through my chest, my dinner was steadily rising from my stomach and it hurt to breathe.

And that was after a few minutes of stretching.

Perhaps an exaggeration, but my first experience of a boxing session left me in no doubt – in the land of the fighter, fitness is king.

The club’s facility isn’t yet what you’d call glamorous, but it’s grand, it’s everything they need for the time being.

An array of new looking punchbags and a good sized ring are contained within white-washed walls, which are adorned with some of my cuttings on two-time national finalist Matt Brierley.

The man himself helps me through my first challenge, the circuits.

Myself, Matt and around a dozen other club members jog around the gym obeying the orders of Dean Eshelby, a former professional boxer.

He barks out a number, we perform an action without breaking stride.

Right hand down, left hand down, jump up and ‘head the ball’.

Complacency was just setting in when sets of push ups and sit ups were thrown into the mix.

My legs suddenly felt heavy, my lungs strained.

The ‘warm up’ period wasn’t over.

Brierley, God bless him, suggested a few laps outside.

So off we went, for three laps of the football pitches.

Push ups punctuated the laps.

I won’t lie, I was close to a dramatic collapse.

So the suggestion of a series of sprints filled me with despair.

Once my clear lack of speed and stamina had been displayed for all to see, it was back into the gym for some skipping.

This, I gave a wide berth, to save my clubmates a view of my dinner.

But I was back in ‘action’ on the pads a few minutes later, motivated in a unique manner by Dean.

He ordered me to think of work, even suggesting I imagine I was taking any frustrations out on an individual in a position of authority over me.

Try as he might, goading me and chiding me for my pitter-patter punches, the former pro was unable to coax much power from me.

I’m not an athletic person, and I don’t possess any kind of explosive strength. Perhaps this will come in time.

The pad work done, some of the more experienced members took turns to get into the ring with Brierley and spar for three minute rounds.

Sickeningly, the 18-year-old looked barely out of breath, despite dancing around opponents of varying age and size. What struck me was how encouraging and positive he, and the coaches were, praising any good work and giving constant reminders like ‘keep your hands up’.

I’d seen enough, and done enough and retired for the evening.

Since my first session, and the awful aches and pains that followed over the next 48 hours, I have been back to the gym. My reasoning was two-fold. Show my body that this is going to be a regular feeling. And show the gym that I won’t be put off by my terrible lack of fitness.

It’s only been a week, and two exhausting sessions, but already I feel an excitement at learning. Footwork will be a challenge to someone with no real handle on co-ordination, timing could prove tricky too.

But I get the sense that Manton ABC allow the members to progress at a steady level.

In my next blog I’ll begin to introduce you to the various characters in the gym, and some of the (very) basic techniques I’ve been shown.