Right Hooks And Library Books: So it Begins…

There’s blood on the canvas as SSEGAWA-SSEKINTU KIWANUKA continues his boxing blog with stories of pain, fitness and the freshers’ fair

Boxing Cambridge Boxing Ssegawa-Ssekintu Kiwanuka varsity boxing

You have got to love Monday morning emails. The usual mix of lab meeting reminders, weekend queries from supervisees, followed by a third message: “…if you have any accidents that result in blood splatter, please can you notify a member of staff. We understand this happens and it is not a problem at all, we just need to ensure that any blood is cleaned up quickly”.

Sparring sessions are not exactly re-enactments of Agincourt, but as the PE department put it, ‘accidents’ can happen. I had more so-called accidents playing rugby as a 10 year old, than I have had from boxing. Plus, back then I did not have a Fenner’s staff on hand, just the medically proven ‘magic sponge’ and a halftime orange.

The reason why I should have taken up backgammon – my boots would have looked fresher

Everything is relative. I have friends who wouldn’t step foot in a ring, but happily ski off-piste in danger zones. Avalanche in the alps or a punch from a Cambridge Mathmo?

The trouble is, it can be quite challenging to get this point across to the uninitiated. Plus trying to get the point across in the sweaty, loud, two-day cattle market known as Freshers’ Fair, where you spend most of the days battling irate Domino’s pizza men getting defensive over their margheritas.

How can we draw people to boxing? Don’t mention ‘accidents’… avoid mentioning knockouts to the girls… mention boxing is open to girls too… avoid awkward domestic violence chat from a new possible boyfriend-girlfriend combination… get girls to sign-up their boyfriends… tell boys there are girls in the gym too… lie about the plethora of stacked eligible gents in the boxing club… send away potential psychos overly keen on MMA… stop Chadders from lifting up my shirt.

The dream team of Double Blue Ed Chadwick and CUABC Secretary Ade Teare somehow managed to get 340 guys and girls signed up at Freshers Fair. and 81 turned up on the first night. The rather limited university sports facilities add to the challenge of turning these guys into boxing machines.

CUABC Vice President Ed Chadwick & Ade Teare show their softer sides at the Freshers’ Fair

Fortunately we have three amazing coaches: Head Coach Ben Blowes and the two assistant coaches Lee Mitchell and Richard ‘Dolph’ Hardy. We probably listen to them more than our lecturers. As exciting as computational modeling of dynamic fluid flow is as a topic, in the short term you are more likely to listen more closely to someone telling you the different ways to defend a right hook to the cranium.

Ten down. Ton up. Feet! Twelve down. Floor work. Feet! One-two. Double jab. Right Hook. For a group of intellectual individuals, it is surprising how bad Cambridge students are at following simple instructions. Maybe because if we are wrong or confused (and usually too proud to admit it) we can usually talk our way out of situations. Problem with boxing is you can’t talk yourself out of a left hook to the body. If you’re too slow, you’re going to get slapped.

81 turn up for the first session in the Gym (see anyone you know?). The final 9 for Varsity have just 5 months to be ready.

I am not a fitness fanatic. Having spent most of my youth ‘enjoying my mother’s cooking’, the strict discipline of evening training, morning 10K runs and strict weight brackets is a stark contrast. In rugby you can miss a tackle (the full back will sort it out), in football you can miss a shot, but boxing is less sympathetic to excuses. The only thing comforting is the canvas floor. Still, no one remembers the training, or gives you a medal for it.

Our coaches only have six months in which to turn a bunch of pontificating students into serious amateur boxers. If you’re not fit enough, not strong enough and not technical enough then you won’t be put into the ring. A couple of swings outside the Van of Life doesn’t make you a contender. Neither do a couple of boxercise sessions after legs, bums and tums. These individuals soon got the message when the clap press-ups were part of the warm up. Welcome back to training. Remember, no excuses