By Alice Craig
Many who know me will tell you that I have few other personality traits at the moment apart from boxing. I thought I’d put this to some sort of good use by writing about it.
I first got into boxing as a bit of a pipe dream in freshers and as a way of escaping from my previous interest in long-distance running. I joined with a corridor friend in the first week of term, simultaneously trying desperately to reverse the mistakes of the night before and to find some mates.
There followed a year of plank competitions, dubious pad work, and sweaty dojo sessions where the walls would drip after hours of various gruelling exercises. I absolutely loved it.
I successfully swapped tramping through mud for ridding myself of all aggression on the pads and made a few friends along the way. I was always too shy to spar it out in front of the intimidating squad members and often headed directly to ‘pres’ after training to undo all my hard work, silly fresh.
I worked tirelessly the year that followed to try and make it into Aggression Sessions, undertaking ruthless one-to-one pad sessions with the now President, James Nugent.
In all weathers on my patch of earth garden, irritating both my housemates and the house over the road with the loud bangs of an obnoxiously early Monday morning. I would become easily frustrated at my mistakes and my lack of progress. Eventually, I discovered that the event wasn’t going ahead thanks to our notorious friend Covid-19.
Although I was heartily disappointed because I had been so excited to showcase how hard I’d worked and be part of it all, I think this moment was what encouraged me to pursue boxing to a more intense level.
This year, I have worked as the Fitness Coach for DU Amateur Boxing Club and have graduated to squad member, rendering myself oftentimes as a full kit wanker in the Billy B.
I have also become part of the exec group masterminding Aggression Sessions as Boxing Coach, making the challenging selection of boxers and reserve fighters for our upcoming February Rainton Arena extravaganza.
I have seen boxing grow in popularity throughout the University, gaining traction with events such as Aggression Sessions and Fight Night — portraying boxing as it is: a highly-skilled sport which is open to anyone with a determined mentality and the ability to harness adrenaline and nerves.
On top of all this, I have developed a determination, drive, and passion for the sport which has led me to my first amateur fight on 21st January… in two days at the time of writing.
Boxing was previously a sport seemingly out of touch; heavyweight males at the height of their profession punching the stuffing out of each other in round upon round of bloodthirsty caterwauling from the crowd.
But boxing can be enjoyed by one and all at varying levels of intensity. Despite being completely outnumbered as a female when I was in my first year, the sport amongst young women has grown and grown, especially in recent years.
Most notably, Aggression Sessions has achieved a 50/50 split for our fights this year. Boxing has less and less to do with outright violence and more and more to do with a showcase of supreme physical fitness, ambition, and stalwart determination — incorporating tight, tactical technique.
Boxing has improved all sectors of my life and made me a much more resilient and strong-willed individual. I leave all my aggression and anxieties in the gym, which makes me a much calmer and more balanced individual.
The challenges of sparring and getting absolutely clarted in the face have been testing at times, giving me a bloody nose and many a tear during training. However, each setback has spurred me on to improve and try harder.
Despite it being an individual sport which is associated with mindset and attitude, the community that surrounds it is hugely welcoming and accepting of complete beginners who are just finding their feet in the sport. Finding a new skill and purpose for myself has been hugely rewarding and the strength I have gained both mentally and physically has been a huge boost for my self-confidence.
Towards the end of my school life, I suffered with a debilitating eating disorder which manifested itself into excessive exercise and drastic weight loss to the point at which I had to sit out for all school sports.
Today, I am proud of how far I have come. Boxing has allowed me to see my weight in a completely different way and to appreciate my body as a vehicle for all I want to eventually achieve. Weight has become merely a number allowing me to compete at something I love.
I go into my fight excited and with high hopes of a win. However, I think the biggest win for me will simply be ducking under the ropes and stepping foot in the ring in the first place.
Post Fight Reaction
Can you talk us through your fight?
“On Friday 21st January, at Ramside Hall, I lost my first amateur fight. Nerves got the better of me in the first round — coming up against a much taller girl left me quaking. I brought it back and ramped up the intensity in the second and third rounds — my opponent was struggling to breathe and had totally lost her feet. However, it was just not quite enough to clinch the dub. I was heartily disappointed and many a tear was shed in the changing room, clutching my ‘Runner Up’ trophy. Upon a few days’ reflection, nursing a bruised nose, whiplash, and a shattered ego, I am proud of myself for getting up there, harnessing my aggression, and pushing through three rounds. There are lots of things to improve on but much to be content about. The support and celebration from my coaches and friends afterwards was tremendous! Chin up and on to the next as the ref said to me at the end.”
What song did you step into the ring to?
“Although the technicians at Ramside Hall failed me, I wanted to walk into the ring to ‘Icon’ by Jaden. The lyric that spoke to me most was ‘now I’m focused and we ‘bout to blow up.’”
Who is your boxing hero?
“Katie Taylor — ‘I never think about losing. That’s why it’s so hard to accept a loss.’ She encapsulates the grit and innate belief required for this sport.”
Image: Aggression Sessions