We all have a flair for certain things.
Sport is not my bag but, having already written features following the recent news that women boxers will now be able to compete in the Olympics, I decided to see whether I too could pack a punch!
I’m not one for violence. I struggle with my conscience swatting a fly, so I knew I would be useless at sparring.
But, nevertheless, after seeing the women jabbing away at Bradford College when it hosted a recent Box Camp – a first for the city – I was eager to find out the appeal of the sport from a female perspective.
Traditionally, boxing gyms were a male domain. I have to admit it isn’t a sport I would naturally associate with women. Most squirm over a broken nail, so they’re hardly likely to welcome sporting a cauliflower ear or a re-arranged nose!
I wouldn’t bother over a broken nail – I’ve done dry stone walling before – but I did feel a bit of a wuss when I walked into the Bradford Police and College Boxing Academy.
The Academy, primarily for college and university students, opened a year ago at Bradford College after college principal, Michele Sutton and Ronnie Todd, the college’s project manager, saw a boxing academy at another college and developed the idea for Bradford.
“They saw the value of it,” says Bradford’s boxing development officer and former amateur boxer, Paul Porter. “Amateur boxing is seen as a sport which is good for engaging young people, men and women.”
With the support of Bradford Council and the police, the gym is now up and running and has just been affiliated to the Amateur Boxing Association, enabling them to compete in amateur boxing competitions.
“Bradford should be proud of its boxing heritage, and it can really look to the future now,” says Paul.
Bradford is, of course, the home city of the legendary Richard Dunn, the only Yorkshireman to fight Muhammad Ali.
The city is also home to two promising young female fighters – Ambreen Sadiq and Jess Wilson. Maybe they could teach me a thing or two about the sport...
What I really wanted to find out was how a potentially violent sport can be enjoyable. Learning the basics of amateur boxing taught me you don’t have to be a competitor to participate. Boxing isn’t all about the bouts. It can be fun as well as serious.
It’s a fantastic full-body work-out – as I discovered, you use the majority of your muscles, and it is a very disciplined sport. There is probably more respect in boxing than in any other sport.
So how did it go? Well, once the gloves were on, I was off! Seeing the punch bag, I was eager to get jabbing away, but before I could be let loose with my huge gloves, head coach Mally MacIver taught me a few techniques.
First and foremost, I learned the correct stance which is imperative to a boxer’s balance. Standing along a white line, he tells me to put my left foot forward – a pose I shall maintain as it gives me strength to pack the punches and – if I was sparring – would prevent me falling back.
Mally explains you jab with your lead hand which is your weakest, usually the left as it’s the hand you don’t write with.
Standing before me sporting protective pads on his hands to cushion the blows, he encourages me to jab. I was so conscious of missing the pad, but Mally, an ex-pro, immediately put me at ease.
He’s so calm – a natural quality of a professional fighter – and a great coach which is why he’s now nurturing Bradford’s up and coming boxing talent.
Mally was nine when he came into the sport. He competed professionally for three years, winning 12 out of 15 fights. Back injury forced him to quit competing, and he’s been coaching ever since.
He loves the discipline and the respect boxing brings and believes the sport can bring great benefit for youngsters.
Poised for action, I start jabbing away with some basic straight punches at Mally’s pads. My rigid stance was affecting my performance (you need an excuse!), but once I loosened up I found myself really getting into it, twisting my feet and getting into the swing. I even managed a few crosses and hooks.
Jabbing away at the bag was a fantastic energy release. Then I got the opportunity to go in the ring where I was able to cover more ground moving around while jabbing at Mally’s pads.
I couldn’t believe how physically challenging boxing is. It is a tough and very intense sport, and I wouldn’t want to compete, but it is exhilarating.
It is a fantastic way to keep fit, which Paul believes is why boxing is becoming a popular sport for women, so what are you waiting for?
For more information about the Bradford Police and College Boxing Academy visit bpcabc.blogspot.com