Boxing brings me face to face with a huge contradiction in what I perceive to be my character. I don’t identify as a violent person and I would hope those close to me know me as a level-headed caring individual. But the moment I step into a boxing ring, I am consumed by an overwhelming desire to punch other men as hard as I can and as often as I can. I just love to fight; the harder the better. The satisfaction I get from landing a blow that has clearly hurt the opponent is delicious and unique. It is a feeling that is rarely equalled in any other area of my day to day life. The feeling I get from being tagged heavily by an opponent and knowing that I am hurt, but knowing that I cannot show it in any way, because to show hurt is to show weakness, is equally exhilarating.When a spar begins, I am completely removed from the world outside the ropes; nothing else matters. I only see the pupils of the opponent’s eyes; they inform his every move. I hear nothing but the rhythm of his breathing; tuned in to detect distress signals from lungs that cannot cope. Gum-shield visible from a sagging jaw, the first sliver of spit that cascades over the lower lip of a man pushing himself beyond his comfort zone; these are signs of weakness and fatigue; when I must press with all that I have to gain an advantage. There can be no mercy. He would show no mercy if he were the aggressor. My senses are so heightened and so intense, it equates to an outer body experience; a sphere of life devoid of external pressures; the now, is all that matters. The bell rings to end the round. I must not lose focus. I must stay in the zone; to stray from the zone is to court disaster. The next round begins, we fight on.
My senses are so heightened and so intense, it equates to an outer body experience; a sphere of life devoid of external pressures
Pressing for a gap; pressing for an advantage; pressing to defeat the man in front of me. He is my enemy. But as soon as the final bell goes to end the spar, everything comes back into focus, like a hypnotist snapping his fingers; “you will now wake up”. The first and most pressing action is to hug the opponent. There is no finer human experience than shared combat. The respect I feel for the people I
box with is profound and unconditional. They are warriors with no audience, gladiators without recognition. We are just a bunch of misfits doing our thing, searching for nothing more than controlled violence and the very special brand of camaraderie that accompanies it. This is not a description of a passing phase in the life of a young man trying to explore the world and find himself. It is an honest and heart felt appraisal of how this brutal yet beautiful, violent yet graceful sport has enriched and enhanced my life experience since walking through the doors of the temple of pugilism that is the Fitzroy Lodge, over 20 years ago. My appetite for combat within the ring has not diminished one jot since that day; in fact it has grown with age. I am now a 55-year-old grandfather of four who plays lip-service to the constraints inflicted on me by societal pressure to conform. I hold down a job as a so-called professional. I do extremely interesting work; I work with extremely nice people. But every fibre of the “real” me; the bit inside that has never identified with career based ambition, or a desire to gain material wealth, aches to get back into the gym and express myself naturally; as an honest person; as a man; every minute of every working day.