Diary of a white collar boxer -Week 6
Martin Theobald

Levels. Ask any professional boxer and they will tell you that boxing is all about levels. Novices who have just turned over to professional and starting their story, journeymen who turn out week after week to lose and help blood the new entrants into the sport. Gatekeepers, those who hang around at championship level and are seen as THE person to get through on your way to the titles. Champions, the elite level of the sport who are chased by so many and in numbers are so few.

It's no different within our group of white collar boxers. There are levels all around. Those that have had a fight before and hold a little bit of experience both of the occasion and the art of the sport. Those who perhaps have another background in fighting; be it a martial art or just being pretty 'handy' when it all kicks off in the pub. People who have never considered lacing up a pair of boxing gloves until nonchalantly signing the online form months in advance before the dawning realisation that the first training session is just around the corner. There's all sorts within the groups, all shapes sizes and fitness levels to go with it.

As the weeks have progressed (and we now enter the home straight of week 6) those levels have become more explicit, more noticeable within the group. Sparring highlights the fact more than any other element of the training. You can go from handily moving an opponent around and avoiding their shots in one round then swap to a new training partner a minute later and find that you are eating gloves for fun. It was highlighted to me tonight more than ever. A couple of rounds boxed in my comfort zone, trying some thing that in hindsight I would probably never do under the bright lights of fight night. Little feints to the body before working a hook. It's all trying new things, some work and some don't. You can do it when you feel a bit more comfortable and perhaps not as endangered by your partner. Then Wayne comes along.

Wayne, one of the coaches and a man with unquestionably more years of fighting experience than myself and likely a similar number on the body clock, took me to school. Fucking battered me. Lefts, rights, in and out of range, making a mockery of my best attempts at closing the distance. He wasn't even trying, that's the killer blow. Don't get me wrong, his shots weren't being loaded up on, but it taught me far more than the rounds when I had things more weighted in my favour. He's a smaller man than me, shorter reach and naturally should be at a disadvantage. This is all about levels though. Wayne has a level that isn't just metres above mine, but floors of a high rise tower. He catches me flush with a shot to the nose. Bollocks.

It's those moments when you question the intelligence of spending your Monday nights getting beaten up. But then, in a split second, your mind goes back to 'why'. The why in this case is those that are in far more pain than a punch to the nose. £8,000+ has been raised as a group for cancer research. That's why. That's why we are all here. One round with Wayne feels like ten rounds with any other partner, it shatters you. But then, there are those that are in a far worse position. A friend of mine, Ben Day, is a professional boxer who recently suffered his first defeat as a professional in a tight points loss. He has battled all sorts in his 30+ years. 'Nothing hits harder than life' is his motto, and he's right. We all have troubles and issues, but very few of us have suffered like those we raise money for. That's why we're taking punches on a Monday night.

Still, all that said, doesn't stop the nose hurting. Cheers Wayne, helped me find my own level!

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