Tim Stones is the head distiller at Manly Spirits in Australia, former global brand ambassador for Beefeater gin and one of the most respected and loved people in the UK bar scene. He’s about to take up his biggest challenge and step in the ring for his first boxing match.
I’ve never been in a proper fight or thrown a punch in anger in my life. To those of you that know me, this won’t come as a surprise. In fact, most would probably describe me as a bit of a soft twat.
And I’m ok with that. I’m proud that whenever violence has been on the cards I’ve always been able to walk away or talk my way out of it. I’ve not been averse to the odd friendly play fight (I always lost), but I’ve always avoided the real thing. Because of, or perhaps in spite of this, last week I did something that has been met with the following responses:
“Hahahahahahaha! You?! But you’re a soft twat!”
“Hmm. I’m not too happy about that.”
The thing is, I’ve signed up for an amateur boxing match.
Let’s backtrack a little. Cycling has always been my exercise of choice. But cycling can take time. And these days it’s time I don’t have. 12 hour days as standard put pay to a good 2 to 3-hour ride on a regular basis. Trouble was, I’d not done much exercise for six months and it was starting to show, mostly in my midriff.
Six months ago, while on my way to the brewery near my workplace (part of the midriff problem), I stumbled upon the White Collar Boxing Gym and signed up for a two-week trial. Close to work with intense hour-long sessions. It seemed like a good idea. After all, if used correctly, a boxing gym is a brutally efficient place to get into shape.
Now, I’ve never been what you could call a die-hard boxing fan. The pugilistic arts have interested me but always from a safe distance. Normally the distance between my sofa and the MGM Grand. However, the lack of regular exercise was looming large. A solution was needed.
I went to a handful of the evening sessions and it was quickly revealed to me that I was utterly out of my depth. I had no idea about anything. ANYTHING. These guys were hardcore. The way they skipped about the ring, ducking, and diving, bobbing and weaving, taking and delivering punches with skill. It looked fucking cool and I was the polar opposite. So I switched to the morning sessions. More focus on cardio and less on being punched in the face.
But I wanted to get better. I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing. To be able to move like a boxer, to be able to throw a proper punch, to block, parry and switch. If not float-like-a-butterfly-sting-like-a-bee, then, at the very least bob-up-and-down-like-a-fat-kid-in-a-lifevest-while-not-getting-knocked-out.
Enter Jamie, a friendly but hard as fuck Glaswegian boxing trainer. After a word with him one morning, I started five weeks of boxing technique training with the sole aim of not looking like a newborn deer wearing boxing gloves in the evening sessions. I was prepared to work hard, what I wasn’t prepared for was how much I’d enjoy it.
Especially when it started to come together. Much like when you find your groove on a busy night’s bartending. Punches started to land where they were supposed to, and with increasing power. It began to feel good. The other trainers commented that I wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I was a few weeks ago. Spurred on by this glowing praise, my growing enthusiasm and perhaps as a result of being mildly concussed from a gentle sparring session, I signed up to fight.
I write this on the 21st December 2017. In exactly four months from now, all going well, I will be stepping into a ring in my first (and last?) fully-sanctioned amateur boxing bout. Those that know me will find the prospect of me being punched in the face highly amusing, so I’m going to keep you updated on the training along the way.
Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.