Secret coach's diary part 7: Rocky goes for a fag
In the seventh part of a candid and revealing series, an anonymous ABA coach describes his experiences, offering an invaluable insight into the highs and lows of life in and around English boxing's amateur grassroots ...
I was at a Halloween party recently. A lad was dressed as Rocky Balboa, bloody face, robe and boxing shorts. I wouldn’t say we were mates - more friends of friends. I overheard him saying he had a fight coming up and I gathered fairly quickly that it was a white collar one, mainly because he looked in terrible shape and kept going out for cigarettes.
I then overheard him saying that it was for a ‘title’. I was dreading the moment he began talking to me about the subject, as I would either have to feign ignorance about the level he was at or call him out on it. I decided to push it out of my mind and carry on speaking to the lass dressed as ... well …I don’t know. A zombie stripper?
“How’s the coaching going?” I finally heard him say, and I shook his hand.
I told him it was tough and rewarding. It was nowhere near as easy or as straightforward as I’d hoped.
“You given up boxing yourself then?” was his next question.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was a fairly shit boxer, although I was just about tough enough to take the odd beating off a good boxer. I realised that after a few years of coming home and not being able to chew my food for a few days, until I sparred again and the same thing happened. In other words I had reached my ceiling. A very low ceiling, but at least I gave it my all. I explained this to him.
“Well, I’m fighting for a title next week. This kid I’m boxing is undefeated. Or so I’ve heard.”
I asked his opponent's name to be polite and he didn’t really answer.
“How many champs you trained?” he asked.
"As a gym, we’ve got three amateur champions at the moment." It was an honest reply.
“Cool…cool. We’ve got tons in our gym. So many I’ve lost count. Anyway, I’ll message you with tickets to my fight. It’s for cancer research,” and with that he walked off.
Not as bad as I expected. But it set something off, something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks, namely that boxing is more of a niche sport than most people working within it realise.
Let's face it, most members of the public don't know the difference between white collar, amateur and professional boxing.
I remember once telling a workmate that someone from my gym was boxing, professionally, on TV. She gave me a quizzical look and said: “Is it for cancer research?”
When I said no she made a repulsed look and said: “Well, that cancer research stuff is the real thing, isn’t it?”
On the one hand, I advocate boxing as a way to keep fit, both mentally and physically, and I think white collar does have a place. It introduces people to the sport. But I am worried from an amateur coach’s perspective about what impact it is having.
That ‘Rocky’ lad was nowhere near in good enough shape to be a fighter. I’m not saying he doesn’t have guts, anyone who boxes has guts, but, when I see 12 or 13-year-olds truly living like athletes in order to compete or 19 or 20-year-olds living like monks to make weight, some lad having a few fags and telling people he’s a champion seems disrespectful somehow.
It also leads to situations whereby a cocky white collar ‘champ’ might march into a legit gym and starting throwing his weight around. It puts the back up of other boxers and some trainers.
But more on that another time, right now I need to head out to see if Rocky has met his match tonight.