Diary of a White Collar Boxer
Martin Theobald

Diary of a White Collar Boxer

White Collar Boxing is becoming an ever growing way of increasing participation of people with no boxing experience into the sport.  Eight weeks training then step between the ropes against a similarly matched opponent.  Sounds simple, right? 

Well I've just finished week two of training to take part in the Ultra White Collar Boxing (UWCB) event in Milton Keynes, fight night still seems ages away on April 10th.  No doubt the calendar will quickly roll around.  UWCB run events up and down the country, each one asking participants to raise sponsorship for Cancer research; with results today amounting to over £2 million handed over for the good cause (my own fundraising page can be found here:  https://www.justgiving.com/Martin-Theobald2/)

Training is taking place at Total Dojo in Bletchley, a gym that teaches boxing amongst various kickboxing and MMA sessions.  Head trainer is Tony Davis, a man who is as friendly as he is strict.  The group forgets to acknowledge what he has said?  That'll cost you 20 burpees at the end of the session.  But he's balanced (not just in stance); the training is as fun as it is harsh.  He has a method about him that makes you want to work out for him.  Why?  No idea.  Ultimately it's not him that is going in the ring to get punched in the face (his competitive fighting days are behind him) but he has an aura about him that reminds you of the 'would run through brick walls for that person' saying.  You have a trust and confidence that what he tells you is the right way.

He is of course helped out by his training team; James, Ana, Kelly, Stuart, Wayne and the two Garys.  It's a good job they are so well staffed with over 120 people attending the first session.  Those numbers have whittled down over the two weeks of course.  For some the training may not have been what they were expecting, others may not be able to fit the commitment in.  As a participant you are expected to attend two sessions per week minimum of the four on offer.

The sessions can be extremely brutal.  At the moment the emphasis is on technique, combinations and fitness.  Jab, cross, hook.  Hook cross hook.  Put a cross on the end of it.  Cover.  Slip.  I'm going to bed with the instructions ringing in my ears, which makes it all the more ironic when I then struggle to remember them by the next session! 

The room is packed every time.  No longer 120 people, but the gym becomes a sweat box when those remaining start going through their paces.  Shadow boxing is a key part to each session, three rounds of two minutes imagining that person you will be boxing and going through your best moves.  Yeah, I really twist that lead foot as I throw the hook.  Simple this boxing lark when nobody is hitting you back.  As the old saying goes, 'everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face'. 

Fitness levels vary, from those that are obviously on first name terms with the local gym instructors to those that may require Google Maps to locate the nearest exercise venue.  These sessions are an equaliser though.  It doesn't matter what level you are, you're guaranteed to each be leaving the room into the cold night air a sweaty mess.  The fittest and the fattest are equal. 

There are some that have clearly laced the gloves up before.  For what it's worth, my experience is in previously doing one of these events (I'm putting my undefeated record on the line here) as well as a fair bit of ringside reporting on the professionals.  More analysis than participation unfortunately.  But it doesn't matter how experienced you are, the group are supportive and willing each other on.  As you hit the combinations on the pads and the trainers keep a keen eye on the body mechanics to correct you when it goes wrong, the person you are working with is always willing you on and offering small tips.  All for one etc.  It's easy to forget that the person you are offering help and guidance to is potentially the person that you are going to step into the ring with on April 10th!

Opponents will be matched nearer the date and revealed at the weigh in.  My own weight has dropped six pounds since starting the sessions.  It's a mixture of hard training sessions and changing diet.  No more chucking a pizza in the oven when home from work, now it's a matter of getting a chicken breast or prawns out to defrost before setting off for the office in the morning.  It becomes a bland diet, but with the training that we are doing it would be near impossible to do so with the standard over chips and fish fingers my body is accustomed to. 

The lifestyle change is hard.  As with most others in the room it's a balance of work/family/training/life.  Is it easy to maintain?  Nope.  I actually feel one of the luckier ones, my own work taking place in front of the computer each day in the office.  Others are more labour intensive, talk takes place while wrapping hands of those that are carrying bricks around the site for a living or equally physically challenging workplaces after a hard session the night before.

In the rare moments at home when the kids have gone to bed I fit in 45 minute to 1 hour sessions.  It's a struggle.  Getting out for a run, hitting the heavy bag I have installed in the wife's dance studio downstairs much to her chagrin, practicing footwork in front of her dance mirrors or just doing a 15 minute exercise routine.  It all hopefully counts come fight night.  Practice may not necessarily make perfect, but it will hopefully make me less shit than I was in week one.

Doing this training is an insight to the life of a professional boxer.  Many may not realise that when a fighter first joins the paid ranks they are expected to sell, on average, 100 tickets.  There is an expectation on fighters participating in this to sell their own tickets to help cover event and training costs.  Nowhere near the 100 of a professional but it is still a struggle to do so and has caused some drop outs amongst the group, those that would rather have more time to do so and are signing up for another event.  It's one more thing to balance amongst the challenges.  Those that have been more successful in ticket sales already have offered to sell any excess in the name of those who are struggling - it's a legit team effort this.

But then, this whole experience should be a challenge shouldn't it?  Physically, mentally, everything.  Each day my body is waking up with a new ache or pain, a different click in my knee than I had the day before.  But fuck it, it's eight weeks of hard work and dedication.  It's in aid of a phenomenal charity that helps those affected by something far worse than aching muscles and clicking knees.  What will happen fight night?  Not a clue.  You eye up those in the room around your size, work some pads with them and see what state they're in by the end of the session.  You start to make a mental note of who you would be happier to be paired off with and who, frankly, you're going to lose a few hours sleep over if you're paired up.  But this is boxing for charity.  Of course the charity element doesn't stop the punches from hurting you, but it makes the hard work seem more worthwhile.

Six weeks left until the ring walks.  People will no doubt start thinking of elaborate ring names and entrance music in the near future.  As for me.......not a clue.  Will have to consider that one nearer the time.  For now the main focus is on Monday nights session and making sure that when I'm throwing that jab my chin doesn't go for a wander into the air waiting to be found by an opposing glove.  Six weeks to correct that flaw, I have every faith that Tony & Co will drill it into me.  If not, see you in A&E!

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