Many will tell say that boxing can’t be compared to any other game and it is one of the most historic sports to exist.
If you are into the sport, you will often hear ‘you don’t play boxing’, or you would be told how it’s the ‘loneliest sport in the world’, yet it brings so much success and joy to those who participate.
To the uneducated eye, a sport that involves being hit and tirelessly working every part of your body can seem hard to enjoy. With the question often asked, how and why would you be involved in a sport so different to anything else?
For many, it’s a family affair, for example Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the best boxer of his generation and undisputedly the richest, who followed in the footsteps of his father and uncles. This kind of family involvement can be echoed by London 2012 Olympian and former cruiserweight world title challenger Michael Hunter.
My dad was a boxer and boxing runs in my family. It’s like two or three generations before me so it’s in my blood. It was kind of inevitable for me to be a boxer,”
he said on explaining how he got into boxing.
Or Lee McGregor, a former Scotland amateur boxing representative who explained the guidance of his older brother brought him to the sport he now dedicates his life to.
I started boxing from a young age, it was more because my brother was a boxer and I just went to the gym with him, watching him do it then we’ve always been involved since. My dad used to love watching it on the TV, he used to get us on the pads at the end of each round and ask us what we learnt from that fight.”
But there are other reasons to begin boxing, a sport that teaches discipline and respect. Former English middleweight title challenger Grant Dennis can vouch for this.
“When I was younger I got into street fights, getting into mischief and stuff like that,” Dennis explains. “I had a local video man that used to come round and he told me to get into boxing so I went to my boxing club. When I got there they asked, ‘so how long have you been boxing?’ I was just a natural at it. It was just a way of keeping me out of trouble and dedicated to something positive.”
But for boxers, who spend a lifetime under strict and maticlous training regimes and away from their family and friends, how do they relax after a fight when it’s all over or after a gruelling session?
After a fight I’m always in the mood to go home and chill with my girlfriend and celebrate the win. Really I like to just go to sleep because I’m knackered,”
Californian native Hunter said: “It can be a very lonely sport but you can get in a zone after training where you’re okay with being alone, when you’ve been alone for a while you kind of get used to it. I like to chill out and I don’t really do to much bar hang out with my friends and just have peace alone.”
If boxing is all work no play, then a fighter must crave the moment they can relax and indulge in a life away from training and clean eating, and for many the opportunity to feast on an unhealthy meal is their main priority after a training camp.
“After a fight there’s pizza involved, milkshakes that sort of stuff,” said Chris Billam-Smith, an undefeated cruiserweight prospect. “I’ve got a chicken place back at home, sometimes I go there in camp as it’s fairly decent, but when I’m out of camp I can have the better things like their milkshakes, chips, that sort of stuff- I can have a feast there.”
The 34 year-old Dennis said: “Outside of camp I normally go for an Indian, that’s always the first thing I go to eat. I stay away from stuff like McDonalds, I don’t eat that, it’s usually an Indian or a Chinese something like that.”
For a boxer, it must seem impossible to think of a life away from the sport due to the dedication needed to succeed, but for many sporting heroes of the past can be used as an influence to carry on performing at the highest level.
“All sportsman that are dedicated to their craft are all their to be idolised. Anyone that is maticlous and puts 100 percent into everything they do I look up to,” Dennis said. “In the past I’d say people like Michael Jordan- he was one of my idols. Closer to boxing I’d say Roy Jones Jr, I always looked to watch him.”
Heavyweight Hunter looks at countrymen Lebron James and golfing legend Tiger Woods as inspiration.
“The people who are at the top of their game, like Lebron he’s getting better every year so those are the kind of people you look up to. The people who are getting better every year and pushing their boundaries and competing at their highest, like Tiger Woods, when he was playing he was getting better and better and I enjoy watching that.”
A big part of a boxers persona is to be fearless, tough and an overall warrior, but they are also human- which means they also suffer from guilty pleasures.
“My missus got me into ‘First Dates’ and things like that, to be fair that’s quite enjoyable to watch when I’m at home,” Billam-Smith said. “I love a little romcom film, Love Actually- those sorts of films but I don’t think there is anything too embarrassing or shameful.”
“Chocolate chip cookies are my favourite. Cookies, brownies and ice-cream I love,” Hunter admits. Everywhere I go if there’s a place that does cookies I’ve got to at least give them a go. ‘Michael The Cookie Hunter’ is what they call me.”
While for Dennis, being a father can bring unusual perks, like being introduced to children’s films he wouldn’t otherwise even know, let alone watch.
“To be fair I’m a father so I spend time with my children, I like to watch some kiddy films with my youngest boy, he’s into Trolls and the minute so I end up watching Trolls or something like that. Which is quite a good film to be fair.”