AN ODE TO BOXING AND A CALL TO ACTION BY FELICITY PEEL
Almost exactly a year ago I decided to sign up for an Ultra White Collar Boxing fight. Now, I know this sounds ridiculous but I did not actually consider the fact that I was going to get punched in the face multiple times, suffer numerous injuries and have to get up at 5 am every Tuesday and Thursday to train for 8 weeks. I also did not fully contemplate the fact that on November 1st, 2017 I was going to get in a ring in front of 1000 people and fight. But that I did… and it was the greatest night of my life!
Training was incredibly intense, I gave up drinking for the month before my fight and I became obsessed with the amount of protein I was consuming. I put in tons of extra sessions at Miguel’s (an old school, brilliant boxing gym in Loughborough Junction - where Dillian Whyte trains) and I could barely sleep with the anticipation of it all. The scariest part of the whole thing was actually not the fight itself but the sparring sessions in training. This is the downside of UWCB. For our sparring sessions we were paired up and basically told to fight. It was full body sparring so head blows were acceptable and there were multiple nose bleeds, one person even lost their sight for a bit. At times, it felt unsafe and very out of control. Boxing is not something to be taken lightly, you can seriously injure yourself if sparring is not administered properly and many professional fighters think UWCB is dangerous. Throwing complete amateurs into a ring with only 8 weeks training does not sound like the safest idea.
I totally agree with all of this, and I did occasionally think “what the hell am I doing?” But the overall experience was incredible. I was the strongest and fittest I have ever been in my life. I found a sport that I genuinely enjoyed, something I was good at and that made me feel physically and mentally well.
Since the fight I have continued boxing, I have also taken up Muay Thai although I would never want an actual fight in this - imagine dealing with kicks as well as punches to the head! That is another level of terrifying to me…
It is also an amazing sport to watch. Professional fighters make it look so easy but I now really appreciate the incredible skill and fitness of those at the top. I was nearly sick after three 2-minute rounds, I cannot even begin to imagine fighting for twelve 3-minute rounds!
But there is something fundamentally wrong with the televised sport. For anyone who knows me or has read my previous articles, you will know that I have a huge problem with the normalisation of gambling, its inescapability, the language used in advertising by betting companies, their unashamed exploitation of gambling addicts.
A few weeks ago I was watching Dillian Whyte vs Joseph Parker, and I literally could not believe the amount of gambling adverts that were aired in the commercial break. Almost every single advert was for a betting website or app. I think it is so blatant that these betting companies are maliciously preying on addicts and those in recovery. It does not matter that they quickly remind you to bet responsibly at the end of their advert for amazing odds on the fight and up to £100 in bet credits for new customers. It would be like showing a cocaine addict an advert for half price coke, the best coke they have ever had in their life and then at the end saying “oh but make sure you only take half a gram.”
Unfortunately, boxing (and sport in general) goes hand in hand with betting. Gambling is so normalised and commodified that many people do not even think twice about the fact that it is incredibly addictive, so often life destroying and should be treated in the same way that drug or alcohol addiction is.
So this article is, in part, an ode to boxing, an appreciation of its art and physicality, explaining how mentally and physically strong it makes me feel. It is also a call to action, illuminating the fact that the government, and society in general, need to wake up to the fact that gambling is addictive.
Watching a boxing match with that amount of betting advertising can easily destroy a person’s life.