A Boxer's Life

By The Way - Weekly Columns


This week Alistair Sargent visited the impressive MTK Scotland boxing gym in Glasgow, where fighters were preparing for the upcoming 'Burns Night Boxing' extravaganza at the city's Crowne Plaza hotel, to discover more about a day in the life of a professional boxer. Read his thoughts and watch his exclusive interview about life as a professional boxer with Scottish super-welterweights Marc Kerr and Aidan McGlynn below.

"I hated every minute of training. But I said, 'don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion'". Wise words. Words of the widely regarded greatest boxer to ever live, Muhammad Ali. And you don't become the greatest by luck - you become the greatest through copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears. Literally. Sure, some people have genetic gifts which can help, but nobody has ever become successful in sport without incredible dedication, determination and hard work. My admiration for boxers is massive. I'm not sure that the million pound endorsements, designer clobber or private jets could make me want to be punched in the face for a living. Even every cent in Floyd Mayweather's bank account wouldn't have me leaping for a pen to sign on the dotted line. But there are thousands and thousands of men and women being paid to be punched in the face for our entertainment around the globe on a weekly basis - and only a select few are raking in the sort of rewards that might tempt you to risk your life in the name of sport. Short of that I am flabbergasted by the fitness levels that are demonstrated. Boxers are conditioned for 36 minutes of non-stop cardio and explosive muscle movement, all the while being drained by the constant mental application involved in trying to avoid your opponents fist, not to mention the energy sapping effect of all those times you fail and your opponents fists do sink in to your body. You might say 36 minutes is nothing when you compare it to rugby or football, both of which last more than double that. But for me they are incomparable. I've played 90 minutes of football on countless occasions (at a very, very ordinary level admittedly.) I couldn't contemplate being fit enough to box for 36 minutes. Professional footballers do an hour or so of training a day, and maybe an hour in the gym. They turn up at 10am and lark about with their team-mates for a while, playing pranks on each other. Boxers don't have team-mates. They may have sparring partners, or even training partners, but unless they are on the same fight bill they're unlikely to be training as frequently. Consequently there can be lonely miles to be run. Lonely strength circuits. And don't even get me started on the diet! I weigh 75kg. I have done for a couple years now. I am happy with that - it is a healthy weight for my height. I exercise and eat enough to maintain that weight. If I was to be a boxer, at my height I'd need to be about 10kg less (making me at the very limit of super-lightweight) to have any chance. I like cake, pizza and the odd beer too much for that. I wanted to learn more about what life is like as a boxer. So I went along to MTK Scotland boxing gym just along the road from my flat and had a chat with Marc Kerr and Aidan McGlynn, two promising local super-welterweights, to find out what their day-to-day life was like during training camps. I was instantly struck by the incredible dedication of the two guys. Both routinely got up at 6am to run mile after mile before preparing their meals for the day. No in house chefs here. Then came the strength or mobility sessions. There were day jobs to be factored in as well - boxing alone doesn't pay the bills in the fledgling stages of a career. Then it was back to the boxing gym for the technical work: pads, bags, sparring. And in the days before a weigh-in there was likely the prospect of a scalding hot bath to round the day off. Those last couple of pounds don't lose themselves on the scales! The routine must easily account for 12 hours a day, six days a week. Minimum. And we complain about being tired from our day's work alone! Budding professional boxers are regularly doing their day's work and fitting in a full-time training schedule. There's no time for cheat days. There's no time for waiting on the rain to pass (not in Scotland anyway!), no time to worry about the running route being covered in snow or ice. And there's definitely no time for sick days. Fighting at this time of the year it is almost inevitable you'll have a bit of a cough here and a bit of a head cold there during training. Sitting out in bed for a few days feeling sorry yourself won't do. The very best you can do is lighten the load slightly for a day or two. That is incredible commitment. So why do it? Well you'll hear exactly why from Marc and Aidan in the video below. But I'd suggest that deep down you have to love what you do. As someone who loves the sport of boxing but has never boxed it was an eye-opener for me to hear from Marc and Aidan. I knew how hard boxers worked to reach the top. Or I thought I did. Every fighter who steps in the ropes deserves your respect for risking their health for your entertainment. But they deserve it even more for dedicating themselves relentlessly for months on end to be in a condition to compete; for having the mental toughness to stick strictly to a diet against their body's cravings and for torturing themselves in hot baths or saunas in a last ditch effort to make weight and get a fight on. Fighters who fail to make weight are derided, ridiculed and have their professionalism quizzed at every turn. Not from me. Not any more. Nobody wants to miss weight. And nobody hasn't worked to try and make it. Should they drop as much as they do? That is a question for another day. But to disrespect any boxer is to misunderstand the ridiculous amount of work that goes in to training. Anthony Joshua or Floyd Mayweather may be paid enough to be punched in the face. But for what they have given up and how hard they have worked, every boxer deserves every penny they can ever make from this hardest of sports. And don't take my word for it. Hit play on the video below and hear exactly what life as a professional boxer is all about from those living it every day.

My thanks go to Sam Kynoch of MTK Scotland for facilitating and allowing my visit, and for his and his team's hopsitality; to Marc Kerr and Aidan McGlynn for generously giving up their very valuable time to talk to me (twice in Marc's case!) and of course to you for reading and watching. If you've ever thought about taking up boxing, or have thought it would be a great way to keep fit, then I couldn't recommend MTK Scotland gym in Glasgow's south side highly enough. It is a tremendous facility with incredibly warm and welcoming staff. I will definitely be paying them a visit in the not too distant future to boost my fitness levels. And if you don't fancy getting involved but just want to watch then be sure to check out any of MTK's upcoming shows in Scotland, including this Friday at the Crowne Plaza where you can enjoy a three course dinner and drinks followed by a terrific night of boxing - including Marc Kerr going for his very first professional title against the undefeated Michael McGurk. From all at By The Minute - good luck Marc! Check out http://mtkscotland.com/ for more information (and click the photo below to expand for full event information).