SPORTS editor Graham Smyth has spent the last couple of months learning to box at Manton ABC.
In this week’s blog he recaps his experience to date, the highs and the lows.
IN a few hours I’ll kiss goodbye to my wife and child, head to the gym, wrap my hands and then suffer punishment I don’t really deserve for around 90 minutes.
Friday night has become my ‘boxing’ night, the only Manton ABC session my hectic schedule allows me to attend.
The punishment I speak of has done me good in the last couple of months, I’m fitter and stronger.
I reckon I can throw a half decent punch. At least one. That’s progress, if nothing else.
I’m well used to the torturous circuits we’re put through as a warm up, I can skip with something that resembles a rhythm and I know a couple of combinations to work on during shadow boxing and bag rounds.
My particular favourite (in case anyone was wondering), and I’ve no idea why, is left jab, left hook, straight right.
Perhaps the straight right acts as a satisfying exclamation point at the end of the combination.
On the pads, I still feel like a complete novice – I get combinations muddled up from time to time and forget to keep my hands up, so catch a pad to the side of the head for my troubles.
In sparring, I think the correct term for what happens to me is ‘getting lit up’.
Last week in particular I fared quite badly.
I had two rounds with a lad who was bigger than me and struggled to get through with any head shots, and so had to resort to body shots – all the while taking what felt like clubbing punches to the head.
Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t trying to knock me out, but his strength advantage was evident.
Then one of the coaching staff sparred with me in a round that was more about teaching me.
Both experiences were enjoyable, I got a lot out of it.
I haven’t been forced into the ring, there’s genuinely no peer pressure on me to spar.
But I admit to feeling a little frustrated the sweet science isn’t coming easily to me.
It’s hard work.
Looking back, a highlight has definitely been the increasing feeling that I’m capable of doing the fitness work without wanting to throw up or run away shrieking.
I feel like a fully fledged Manton ABC member – at least of the non fighting kind.
Another high point was watching three of the lads in action at a fight show in Rotherham.
Their performances in the ring displayed guts, determination and no little skill, so I felt proud to be associated with them.
Anyone who steps inside the ropes and faces off against someone who wants to take your head off, deserves massive credit.
One of the best things about Manton ABC is the chance for youngsters to test themselves.
We have some very confident lads in the gym, one in particular who will be a machine by the time he hits mid teens, and boxing obviously does them the world of good.
In the final months of my 28th year it would be easy for me to become disillusioned and frustrated by the fact that I’ve waited a long time to get into this sport, and it’s taking a long time for anything to click.
But as Nottingham mixed martial arts fighter Paul Daley once reiterated in an interview with me, a perfect mantra for combat sports is ‘keep getting better’ - I’m not going to be knocking anyone to the canvas with my left hook like he does, but I can certainly take positives from the tiny improvements I see when I look back to my first session in Manton.
As one final aside, I’m raising money for mens health charities and awareness by growing a terrible, terrible moustache and joining in with the Movember movement.
If you’d like to sponsor my efforts, you can do so here - http://mobro.co/MopeCity
I have to keep the ‘tache for the entirity of this month, unless someone knocks it off my face in sparring.