The love of coaching
By Neil Perkins
I am entering the final few days of preparation for three boxers who I have been diligently getting ready for their upcoming white collar boxing contest’s. This trio have become like surrogate children for the last 10 weeks as I have had thoughts about them, their training and their contest every day. My role is somewhat unique when preparing white collar boxers for a contest. I am the promoter and the trainer – somewhat of a conflict? For those who surround me, I never like to match ‘my boxers’ in what is perceived as an ‘easy bout’ and instead prefer to corner the underdog – it makes the victories far better.
This trio is somewhat diverse – I have the oldest average age of any team on the show. ‘The Badger’ Richard Willets from nine to five runs the courts in the city centre has been dubbed the badger by his opponent, testament to his vicious attacks. ‘The badger’, suits him down to the ground – he is happy in his own company, doesn’t suffer fools and can be a little cantankerous. At 49 he is one-year shy of 50, but not the oldest in the ‘2-Time Team’. Punter Southall’s Andrew Constantinou plans pensions as a day job and at 51, he should really know better? He should be planning his own retirement, but instead is battling on in a bout that is set to be cracker against the 8-bout (the most of any participant) veteran Matt ‘The Warhorse’ Davies. Hannah Wood works for the Arena Birmingham (former Barclaycard and NIA) and this shy character is the last person you’d ever envisage boxing, her knitting backstage prior to her first contest is testament to her unsuitability to the most brutal of sports.
I have to pinch myself at what I do for a living sometimes. Training and promoting events where people knowingly sign up for three rounds of combat in-front of a baying crowd in a gladiatorial arena. If the truth be told, I am fortunate (and a little surprised) that such successful and intelligent people sign up and follow me on these foolish quests and more importantly trust my judgement to guide them through this process. I am honoured to work with all three – they are inspirational for their own reasons. These three combatants are not first timers – they are all returning to the ring having boxed prior.
Andy and Badger share similar stories of joining the gym as an alternative way to get fit and progressing through beginners intro sparring ad then deciding to take the plunge to box on a show – Hannah I witnessed her transformation a lot more closely. Now if Hannah’s story was that of the caterpillar that went into a cocoon and came out a beautiful butterfly, the journey hasn’t been quite so simple. The caterpillar went into the cocoon, came out, stomped back in slamming the door behind her, cried for 30 minutes and came out again before repeating the process several times – we now have a butterfly that occasionally has panic attacks and threatens to stop flapping his wings and fall to the ground – she is a challenging client.
Hannah’s first session at then Fighting Fit City Gym still lives in my memory. There was some confusion as my Front of House had booked her in for an intro session with me – something that shouldn’t have happened and something I wasn’t aware of. I carried on and delivered the session. For those of you who have ever met ‘Bad Hannah’ the confusion caused her some upset – her face said it all. Hannah is not one that hides her emotions well and as I have come to know her, the lack of structure and order must have sent her mind into overload? A good recovery and the joy of punching recovered the session and by the end, she was hooked. The desire for self-improvement and challenge with her is huge, she secretly relishes challenges and her best asset is that she hates losing – no stone will be left unturned and she is a meticulous perfectionist. In her next contest she has her biggest task to date, and big by the fact that the opponent will be four KG heavier and five inches taller. This is a big physical obstacle to overcome. For her first contest against a shorter marauding opponent, I nicknamed Hannah’s fighting style as ‘the rabbit’ – she would run into the acres of space her superior footwork would give her before firing long-range counters, against this taller opponent her natural fleet feet and footwork will not win her the contest – she needs to fly into the eye of the storm. A polar opposite to the tools that have served her so well in her short pugilist career.
The Badger v The Pelican is a contrasting bout and a great clash, but for my fighter the plan is similar. Richard Willets has arms like a T-rex, where as his opponent stands several inches taller and has long arms that through raking shots – the badger needs to get close and get nasty. On the way in he risks been hit with punishing shots and at 20 years older than his opponent he is giving away every natural asset.
With Badger and Hannah, I have two boxers that the general consensus would consider my boxers the underdog – that is how I like. Andy v Matt Davies is a real 50/50 fight, in this contest I have the advantage of working with a boxer who has superior height and reach – these assets are great to use on Olympic scoring. There is a reason why Matt Davies is dubbed ‘The Warhorse’ in his ninth contest he is incredibly fit, technically sound and has the guile to fight it out with anyone – we don’t anticipate this will be easy.
All three have diligently prepared, they have taken onboard coaching and made necessary adjustments to their boxing – and most importantly executed them in sparring. They have been a pleasure to work with and it has been good to watch them evolve. I look to establish my business and work ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ my business, but the lure of training someone for fight night will always be a rollercoaster that I will always want to get on – I am addicted to the fight.
I am nervous for them as I am excited, I know what these bouts mean to all three of them. They have brought me much joy and productive time preparing them for their contests. To watch them evolve and prepare has been a huge pleasure, if they execute what I know they are capable of doing then I am confident that they can do themselves proud, all three re-ignited my love of coaching. Team 2-Time coaching for the last time……until the next time.