Sportblog: Learning to box and out to impress

Manton ABA Boxing Club.  Pictured far left is Senior Coach Harry Watson with Worksop Guardian Sports Editor, Graham Smyth  (w110614-8i)
Manton ABA Boxing Club. Pictured far left is Senior Coach Harry Watson with Worksop Guardian Sports Editor, Graham Smyth (w110614-8i)

THE members of Manton ABC were out to impress on Monday night.

Head coach Harry Watson was back, after a few weeks in Australia, and he wanted to see where we were with our fitness and skill.

The club are looking ahead to exhibition shows and the new season of competition.

Competing in the ring isn’t on my agenda - at least not right now - but I still saw the 90 minute session as a chance to prove to myself that my fitness has improved over the last few months.

The obligatory stretches over and done with, and a lap of the athletics field later, we were in the six-a-side cage at Manton for what I can only call torture.

In teams of three we competed against each other in sprint races, bunny hop races, side step races and then as one group we ran around the exterior.

Harry would call out instructions. Side stepping one way, then the other, stepping in with a jab, stepping in with a three punch combination.

Changing direction seems to really take it out of my legs, after a certain amount of running. Especially at pace.

A senior member of the club voiced his desire to play British Bulldogs - a game I haven’t enjoyed for well over a decade.

So one plucky soul stood in the centre circle, the rest of us in the six-yard area. Then we ran at him. Or rather around him.

Actually, everyone else did - I managed to get tagged straight away, despite my finest Brian O’Driscoll inside step.

Then I went hunting, and eventually there were more of us in the middle than untagged competitiors.

It was all good fun - and made me realise how welcome these little additions and changes to routine are - and how vital.

Mixing it up in training keeps everyone in fine form, the morale is much higher when we’re trying new things as a group.

A few weeks ago the training exercises were conducted by Adam, another experienced lad, and I really enjoyed a fresh take on the workout.

He had us stood back to back with a partner, passing a medicine ball from side to side. We acted as wheelbarrows. And carried our partner in short shuttle runs.

I ached in a new way for the following 48 hours, but I loved the session.

On Monday, after a final race, we returned to the gym for the usual skipping and shadow boxing. Both are so much more natural than when I began this blog.

I’m going to observe some of the ‘real’ boxers in the gym more closely as they shadow box, in particular their footwork - as I still feel like I have two left feet.

Coach Dean Eshelby took me for a round on the pads, and had me drilling a couple of combinations, to the extent that they almost felt instinctive as he called them out.

On the bags, Steve asked for a minute of continuous punching - 20 seconds slow, 20 medium and 20 flat out. Then 15 press ups, before a rest as our partner took over.

We did three of these.

I can’t lie - I cheated slightly on the final set of press ups as I just couldn’t take my bodyweight anymore.

Sparring was out of the question, and I really felt the toll of the session for a couple of days.

But by Wednesday night, when I was down in Derbyshire watching Tigers take on Mickleover, a part of me wished I was back in the gym.

It’s still difficult, still baffling and still frustrating. Crucially, it’s still addictive.