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Getting punched in the face for charity!

Well I can now finally look back on a challenge that started a week before Christmas. Sat on the sofa with my laptop and a beer considering a personal test for the year ahead.

I had heard about Ultra White Collar Boxing and clicked on the website out of curiosity. It sounded simple “..…Ultra White Collar Boxing is a unique opportunity for people with no boxing background to experience the wonderful world of boxing in a safe and enjoyable environment. Raise money for Cancer Research UK and get in great shape!” What could possibly go wrong!?

Fast forward to 6pm Saturday 18th March backstage at the Royal Armouries Leeds knowing I was about to fight in front of over a thousand people. Heart rate going through the roof trying to look calm I saw the previous fighter being brought back on a stretcher having been knocked down. Why didn’t I just sign up for a chocolate detox or a sponsored run for Gods sake?

Rewind 10 weeks prior to Manahatta bar in Leeds where 250 people turned up to learn the process with which Lisa Houghton-Smith and Richard Smith were proposing to transform us into boxers over the coming weeks. A task they take on selflessly with such dedication and enthusiasm it really is gob smacking (no pun intended).

Cue lots of posturing and sizing each other up as potential opponents around the bar. My main thought looking around was being thankful I was nowhere near the heavy-weight category and thinking how much damage could someone else my size do to me!

So after one last blow out that weekend it was time to buckle down to training and cut back on the booze. I consider myself to be in reasonable shape but the training was brutal; Burpees, squats, star jumps, squat-thrusts, press-ups, sit-ups, planks, oh so many variations of them. Side planks, reverse planks, single-arm-planks, suicide planks?!

Despite the intense regime I looked forward to the training and as the weeks went by I got to know more and more people and sparred and chatted with most by the event. Everyone was doing it for the right reasons and the spirit in the gym was fantastic.

By this point I was starting to believe that I may actually be able to do this and pretend to be a boxer for a night. I enjoyed telling people about it and hearing their reaction and their tips and hints in the ring ranging from “counter with your defensive” to “just knock him out” (neither of which I did on the night). I will never forget one casual response “White Collar boxing? Oh yeah my friends husband did that. He got his ribs broken and then got knocked out……want to see the video?” Um I think I’ll pass, thanks.

For me there were 2 elements of boxing that took a while to get to grips with. Real fundamental problems to be honest. Firstly getting punched, it hurt (who’d have thought) and punching someone else, I kept apologising when I landed a blow!

It turned out that my kids held no such fear and especially my little lad Alfie who would beg me every night to let him put on my gloves and gleefully practice punching me in the stomach. Slightly less cute when he tried the same on his sisters when I was at work! He also developed a taste for porridge with protein powder in as he demanded to eat the same as Daddy after a workout. Boxing porridge as it’s known in our house may be a favourite that endures.

So as the weeks progressed there were three looming dates. The sparring night where we were to fight 3 rounds in a ring for the first time, the weigh-in where we would find out our opponent and fight night itself. The first two events went off reasonably smoothly. Though looking back on my entrance to the ring on sparring night I warmed up with some arm extensions which looking back resembled a chicken impression? Not the menacing look I was aiming for!

The face off and weigh in was a good natured affair for everyone involved and there were considerably less pints consumed than the initial gathering weeks previously.

So back to fight night. Pre-fight medical, pass (no backing out now), dinner eaten nervously back stage, check. Friends and family greeted. Nothing left to do now but go back and wait for my fight to be called…

It certainly wasn’t a boxing masterclass and I’m sure Richard and Lisa would despair if they analysed it blow by blow. Where was the slip, parry, right hook, upper cut combination we showed you in training?

Well we both survived relatively unscathed. My opponent Neil Allan should be very proud. It was an evenly fought contest and we both gave everything we had. It is worth noting that our combined Just Giving pages total over £1,000. I think he is currently £50 ahead in the fund raising stakes. Come on Guillotine fans dig deep! https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/m-Gill 

The night after I stepped out of the ring went by in a blur and not an alcohol induced one either. More great fights, knock outs, amazing entrance music, and even a marriage proposal in the ring. That wasn’t two boxers by the way. There was some love between fighters but not that much!

So Ultra White Collar boxing. As an experience I wouldn’t swap it for anything. Would I do it again? Well if you check Ebay you will find one pair of gloves, boxing boots, hand wraps and shorts. Perfect for someone else to take up the challenge to help fight cancer and enjoy an amazing experience.

As Floyd Mayweather said “Everyone is blessed with a certain talent, you have to know what that talent is….you have to maximise it and push it to the limit.”

It’s clear my talent isn’t fighting. Pass me a beer I’m just logging on to Eventbrite to see what’s on next. I probably won’t do it anyway…..

April Barlow

By April Barlow

A proven recruitment expert. Worked with a range of clients across Leeds and Bradford from start-ups to multi nationals. Recognised for hiring all office based and management roles.
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