THE THOUGHT of stepping into a boxing club for the first time might seem like a daunting experience to many, but after being shown the ropes at Clearys Boxing Club in Leamington Spa, I can confidently conclude that this is a sport that I would highly recommend for people of all gender, age and ability, writes Observer sports editor Steve Carpenter.
As I made way way down to Clearys Amateur Boxing Club at the bottom of Leamington town, wise street part of me was questioning ‘what have I let myself in for’?
I could have chosen to learn how to throw a few arrows down the local darts club, or dusted up on my cueing action in a nearby snooker hall, instead I was heading for the ring with some of the town’s finest young boxing hopefuls. But I couldn’t pull out.
In truth, I’d watched the likes of Joe Calzaghie, Naseem Hamed and Ricky Hatton all fly the flag for Britain growing up and deep down I had always wanted to give it a go. This was my time.
As I walked up the stairs and into the gym, I noticed a few raised smiles from the local boxers – they knew I was coming and they had been waiting for me.
The room was full of people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, and not just boys. I could see there were three enthusiastic girls who looked just as intimidating as they went through their warm-ups.
Teenager and hot prospect Lewis Williams was quick to offer his services for the warm-up and he ran me through the opening drill of the evening after My hands had been wrapped up and ready for action.
It is a daunting experience not knowing anyone and for someone like me who had never put on a pair of gloves before, I was feeling slightly nervous, but as soon as I was being instructed I soon put that to one side and felt very comfortable in my new surroundings.
The first stage was footwork, which is also seen as a warm-up. This is the first process these young boxers at Clearys go through when they arrive at the gym.
Lewis showed me the ropes and took me through various footwork drills, which at first were difficult, but like everything, the more I went through them, the better I became.
With hands and footwork coordination drills, I was soon finding my rhythm across a series of lines created by former professional boxer/trainer Brendon Ingles (MBE).
These drills have been perfected over the last 30 odd years and have helped shape World Champions including Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson, Junior Witter and Kell Brooke. It’s designed for boxers to help teach themselves to be self motivated.
Coach Edwin Cleary said: “I teach no one to box. I show them what to do and they teach themselves. The results we are producing over the last five years proves this system is certainly working.”
Once I’d found my feet it was time for me to move on to the pads, a system of 30 set combinations once mastered would resemble the pads that Floyd mayweather mastered. this for me, was the most enjoyable part of the session.
It gave me the chance to build on my footwork whilst also going through a series of punch combinations. I quickly learned that boxing isn’t just about power and strength, it’s also about coordination and timing.
Leamington boxer Danny Quatermaine helped me through the pads and I soon found myself in the ring with one of the brightest prospects in British boxing.
From the outside, a boxing ring looks like a small area and compact area, but when you step into the ring, it feels far more spacious. The gym works on body sparring which is designed to learn (conditioning sparring) I tried to use my new moves and footwork with good effect and a lack of adrenaline was resolved when Danny (happily) fired home a few body shots which sparked me into life.
They say time passes quickly when you’re having fun and although it felt like I was being beaten up for two minutes, the time certainly shot by.
I’d like to think I put up a good fight against Danny but deep down I knew he didn’t get out of first gear.
I watched Danny and Lewis spar later on with coach Edwin Cleary and I was taken back by the high standard on show. These two can go far and if they continue with the right attitude that I witnessed who knows where their career will take them.
After a gruelling stint in the ring it was time to step away and take on the heavybag, which was again all about using the combinations I had learned before and it was a good way to let off steam.
It’s easy to look in from the outside and come to the conclusion that boxing is a violent sport for elite athletes.
But I can tell you from first hand experience that boxing is in fact a sport that provides people with a safe and fun environment where everyone is treated as an equal.
Despite feeling apprehensive beforehand, I walked out of Clearys gym with a smile on my face and I’m certain any wannabe boxer, of any age or ability, will have the same amount of enjoyment as me.
If anyone is looking to boxing as a sport or just to keep fit have a look at the many beginners classes Clearys provides visit www.clearysboxinggym.co.uk.