Sportblog: Learning to box

Worksop Guardian Sports Editor Graham Smyth training at boxing club Manton ABA.  Pictured with Senior Coach, Harry Watson.
Worksop Guardian Sports Editor Graham Smyth training at boxing club Manton ABA. Pictured with Senior Coach, Harry Watson.

SPORTS editor Graham Smyth continues his series on learning to box, at Manton ABC in Worksop.

THIS week I almost stepped into the ring with a former professional boxer.

When I was invited between the ropes, to face someone who’s thrown an awful lot of punches in his life, I weighed it up for a very short amount of time - then regretfully declined.

I have no shame in admitting that Dean Eshelby would make me look very silly if he wished, but that genuinely wasn’t a consideration, it’s not how he operates.

Having missed three week’s worth of lessons at Manton ABC (work and general life commitments getting in the way) Monday was my first session back.

Again, I don’t mind admitting that I was dying on my backside after an hour.

So the prospect of having to spar, move around the ring, throw punches, attempt to avoid those cast in my direction by Mr Eshelby and breathe was simply too daunting – I was running on empty.

Perhaps I should have ‘manned up,’ but I’ve learned the hard way before that when you’ve had a break from exercise you really need to listen when your body says stop.

Thankfully, there was absolutely no pressure on me from the coaches. That’s something I’ve enjoyed about sessions at Manton, you’re pushed to train hard and forced to dig deep into reserves of strength you maybe didn’t know were there – but you’re never bullied.

It has been left up to me to decide when I’m ready to spar.

And I really want to give it a go.

So this morning I was up before 7am, pounding the streets and even using the ‘outdoor gym’ at our local park.

My aim is to get fit enough so that after an hour of hard training I still have something left in the tank, and I can get into the ring and start to put into practical use the skills I’m being shown.

On Monday we did the usual warm up, with extra push ups and sit ups every time someone expressed any kind of distaste for the strenuous workout, or gave Dean any lip (thanks for that Mark Pywell).

Then it was outside to jog around the field and complete some sprints, in teams.

Back into the gym, three two-minute rounds of skipping (which seems to be getting easier, the more I do it) and then freestyle rounds on the bags.

Harry Watson, the real brains behind the boxing at Manton, gave me some more helpful hints and tips for increasing power and in particular making my jab more snappy.

The softly spoken coach, who had a very impressive amateur career before fighting in the professional ranks in the 70s and 80s, has a great way with the lads.

He quietly observes and then steps in, changes their stance or posture, demonstrates the correct technique then steps back to let them try.

His patience, especially with someone as inexperienced as me, seems never ending.

I did a round on the pads with Dean, and putting combinations together is still an effort - mentally as much as physically. But I’m hoping that the more I drill them, the shorter my hesitation will be as the coach barks out instructions.

After a short breather I had some more padwork with one of the senior lads, and realised that hitting a moving target is a whole new complicated world that I’ll have to conquer.

The more eagle eyed of readers may have noticed that this week’s blog has no ‘part four’ in the title.

The reason is that this boxing malarkey is becoming a long term project. Not a 10 part series. If I’m going to get anywhere, I’ll need to commit for the long haul.

There is so much to learn, and I’m enjoying every second (retrospectively at least, it’s torture most of the time in the gym).

Come back next week to discover if I’ve found the fortitude to indulge in some fisticuffs.