Fight Night: One man’s story of taking up boxing at the age of 32
Thinking about stepping into the ring for the first time? On the eve of the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight a few years back, the Founder of Man’s Action Project, Clive Maxheath did just that. Clive faced his fears and took on his first ever fight night challenge.
He shared his experience in a previously published article from which we’ve pulled the highlights here, as inspiration to any man or woman looking to put the gloves on and take the fight night plunge.
Over to Clive…
Three minutes before the fight my Dad entered the locker room. In one look we knew why I was there. Boxing was a seed planted decades earlier. This moment of reflective relief was broken by a scream from the arena. Fight night, under the arches and this evening I wasn’t a fan in the crowd…I was the Main Event!
Aged nine I remember with joy the era of Eubank, Benn, Tyson & Bruno. Watching ITV Saturday night prime time with Dad was very special. Boxing was for me then and still is now, pure escapism. Frank Bruno once described boxing as show business with blood, the weigh in, the ring entrances, the lights – he wasn’t wrong..
Fast forward twenty three years, aged thirty two my journey to the ring formally began. My sporting career up until then was far from glamorous, but certainly varied, a melting pot of amateur football, racket sports & the occasional round of golf.
Back to Boxing
Once I found a dedicated boxing gym, persistent corrections from the coach showed me that my technique of jumping around throwing wild punches (although fun and weirdly therapeutic) wasn’t going to work.
Fitness was another issue, I considered myself a generally sporty chap who’d be okay, however after two minutes of a fitness class I nearly threw up a lung! In boxing, a superhuman level of fitness is not the chequered flag – it’s the baseline for getting in the ring.
In these early experiences when I walked into the gym I experienced a strong sense of fear. The fear was complicated, there were a number of facets both mentally and physically; fear of the training, fear of the fight, fear of telling people and them maybe watching me fight. The fears were present but my desire to overcome was stronger, one gym session after another, I started walking the walk.
My first sparring match
Now for those less knowledgeable on boxing training, the sparring class is where you put on a head guard and gum shield and test yourself in a semi-competitive environment. As my boxing trainer says ‘You can hit pads and bags all day long, but they don’t hit back. Sparring is where you’ll really learn the game.’
Man! The nerves I felt that evening walking into the gym. The trainer called my name as if I were being selected for some kind of strange sacrifice. I tapped gloves with my opponent and away we went. It was all a blur – but I remember being amazed at how quickly I was out of breath. Being in an extreme situation (someone trying to pound me into the ground) my brain had executed an adrenaline charged survival program. All my senses were heightened, I was fully alert and burning energy fast. It was incredibly exciting, however after about thirty seconds I felt like I’d been sprint training with Usain Bolt.
No pain, no gain!
I’d completed the class & it felt amazing, I had survived. That’s the deal with fear – there is little else better in life than confronting it and coming out the other side. Sparring had taught me two important lessons. The first was the requirement to maintain a level of calm in the fury. I’d gotten too easily caught up in the adrenaline of the moment and as a result some of the fundamental boxing skills I’d learnt previously, were forgotten.
The second was getting used to being hit. With the choice of freeze, fight or flight my natural instinct was the latter! But by trying to ‘avoid’, being hurt I was instead retreating, taking more hits than ever. My coach explained that at certain stages of a fight I would have to take a punch or two in order to get in range and connect with my own shots. I was over another hurdle but there was work to be done. Only more sparring experience and time in the ring would allow me to improve.
In the ensuing months, after taking a lot of punishment and dishing out a little of my own, I was ready to face my next test – the fight night. I signed up and in just a few months time I would be going for three-two minute rounds with someone who was going to try and knock my head off in front of an audience of my closest friends and family, Nice! What I now know looking back was that in this moment I’d won fifty percent of the battle – I’d committed and said ‘I’m in.’
Feeling the fear and doing it anyway
An internal fear had been overcome and my reward came the following week in the form of trainer Martin Dimitrov, Founder of The Square Boxing Club. Martin had seen my commitment and offered to help train me. Martin is a highly respected trainer and previously a Bulgarian champion. A disciplined character renowned for his brutal gym classes and top level results. I’d always respected his approach but now in his small brood of fellow fighters, I was going to be pushed to my limits. No pain…no gain.
Training with a small group of fellow fighters accelerated my learning, we kept each other motivated, supporting one another through some tough sessions in the gym. Martin and one of the other fighters were in my corner for the fight night and this gave me a lot of confidence and inner strength. The bonding between a close knit group of people with a similar aim, has the undoubted power to do that. A week before my fight I completed a final full blooded training session. Martin pushed me to my absolute limit as after one final round of gym sprints I collapsed on the floor panting, covered in sweat. I was ready!
My first big fight
In the days building up to the fight I felt naturally nervous, but confident in the work I’d done in the gym. The training had left me tired at times, but feeling fit, clear and confident. In the hours up to the fight, many emotions ran through my body. I sat quietly, I paced up and down – my brain flicking between nervousness, calm, confidence and fear.
I was last on the bill. Pair by pair others took the ring, until only two remained. Now we’re back where I started, three minutes before the fight,in the locker room – me and Dad. Martin stuck his head around the door and said “Clive…..it’s time”.
Martin raised his pads and I began to warm up throwing combinations 1,2,3,4….1,2,3,4. I built up a rhythm over the next three to four minutes, focusing me completely on the present. I was ushered across the room to stand in front of the red curtain. The crowd were near deafening as the announcer called my name. My music played, I was so close, no turning back now! Brushing the curtain aside I stepped forward into a sea of noise and flashing lights! Moving under the ropes into the ring for a very brief moment I smiled to myself, I’d made it. Deep down inside I knew whatever happened over the next eight minutes…my boxing rite of passage was complete.
Clive won his fight that night, an amazing achievement. But the real battle was the journey into the ring. The weeks of training and dedication. So it’s important to remember that win or lose, if you make it to the ring, you’re a winner.
Up for the fight?
If you’d like to complete your own boxing rite of passage, sign up to our next fight night on Sat 12th May 2018 in London. The training is in central London and led by The Square Boxing Club’s Founder and amateur boxing coach Martin Dimitrov. You can also email us at email@example.com if you’d like to discuss any queries you have before signing up.
Or maybe you’re just interested in boxing training for now. If so, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And a huge thank you to Clive Maxheath for sharing his first fight night experience – you can read the full account in his previously published article. Clive Maxheath is the leader of a group coaching initiative called the Men’s Action Project (The MAP). If you want to become a Man who Walks his Talk, find out more on the MAP website, or MAP on Facebook. Or follow him on twitter @CliveMaxheath to find out more about the service he provides.