How To Start Boxing Competitively
Have you ever wondered what goes on in a boxer’s head when they step in the ring for a match? Are they meticulously planning every move like a chess master? Is it all instinct and bravery like Rocky? Are they just wondering what to eat after the match?
As an Amateur boxer, I have 4 years of experience and 6 amateur bouts, and I want to help answer some questions about the Sweet Science that I am asked all the time by newbies in the gym to ease your doubts and help you figure out if boxing is the sport for you.
The Conversation: What it’s like to fight in a boxing match
When I first started boxing, I had one question that was constantly circling in my head: What is it like to fight? Hitting people, getting hit, obviously this was something I wanted to know. Now that I have the experience, I want to break down the big question into four pieces:
(1) Getting Licensed
(2) The Build Up
(3) The Fight
(4) The Aftermath
I hope that with these answers out in the open, others who are considering jumping into the Sweet Science can do so with a sense of security I wish I had when I walked into a ring for the first time.
The exact requirements for obtaining a boxing license (amateur or professional) vary from state to state, but there are some common requirements that exist in every state. These include:
- Passing a standard physical examination. There are several forms you may need to complete, including USA Boxing’s form.
- Submitting an application form and fee. The fee varies by organization but typically is anywhere between $20-$100. It’s important to note that a license in one state may or may not be valid in another state, depending on both state’s regulations. The various governing bodies have their own rules.
- Passing a drug test. Some licensing organizations, and most major sanctioned events at both the amateur and pro levels, require athletes to submit to drug testing.
The Build Up
The two weeks before the fight are when the fighters lose the weight for the fight, put the finishing touches on their strategies, and most importantly: Relax.
- Cutting Weight. This is how boxers lose weight quickly. The first thing to know about cutting weight is to never do it without an experienced coach guiding you through it. Cutting weight is the process of dieting, and in extreme cases dehydrating, to make the required weight limit for a fight. It is very important to note that this weight loss is not permanent; boxers rehydrate and carbo load directly after a weigh-in to gain back much of the weight they lost.
- Final Touches. During the last week of prep time before a fight, I don’t do very much cardio or strength training aside from light jogs, just to keep my body moving. My workouts during this time are almost entirely shadowboxing and mitt work in order to ensure I come into the fight at 100%.
- Relaxation. It is important to take the last couple days before a fight relaxing and giving your body a much needed rest. During this time, I usually spend time with friends and family, indulge in my relaxing hobbies, and put my feet up.
There isn’t really any feeling in the world that can compare to sitting in a dressing room waiting to walk to the boxing ring, or to seeing the lights and hearing the roar of the crowd as you cross those ropes. The day of a fight is hectic and full of adrenaline which can get the better of novice fighters.
- Understanding Nerves. Often new fighters think it is a bad sign that they are nervous, but that isn’t true at all. You are about to get hit in the face; being nervous is natural. The trick to mastering nerves is knowing that they are not your enemy. Nerves make you more alert, improve your reaction speed, and give you that extra push you need in a fight.
- Getting Hit. The first thing to understand is that you are going to get hit in a fight. Even the best defensive boxers in the world still get hit every fight; it is a given in boxing. Sometimes it will hurt, and sometimes it won't, but competitive boxers all understand that it will happen, and we train to minimize the damage when it does.
- Questions and Answers. A fight is a surprisingly cerebral event. Both boxers are trained to hit and to be hard to hit in return. A boxing match becomes a game of trying to enforce your gameplan on the opponent and ask questions he cannot answer. This is why the opening rounds of big fights are often slow and low on action. Both fighters are trying to understand their opponent before they engage. You’d be surprised at the kind of calm that comes with fighting. It is actually very hard to be angry during a boxing match.
- Corner. When I first started, I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to hear my coach in between rounds, but the exact opposite was true. During a fight, you are so focused on what is happening and the threat across the ring from you that you can’t hear the crowd, all you can hear is your coach, the squeak of shoes on canvas, and the thud of solid punches landing.
The immediate aftermath of a fight is a surreal experience. After being in such a high-stress and adrenaline-fueled environment, with just one other person to focus on, it's almost a shock to be “back in the world” surrounded by friends and family.
- Be Proud. Whether you won or lost the fight, you just did something that very few people have the courage or the ability to do: You stepped into a boxing ring and competed in one of the oldest, most strenuous sports in the world. That’s something to hold your head up high over.
- Get Checked. Boxing is a rough sport, and for obvious reasons, injuries post-fight are common. The ringside doctors are there to keep you safe, even if it can be annoying when they interrupt your celebration to shine a light in your eyes and check you for injuries. It's important to listen and comply with what they say at all times.
- Celebrate (by going to bed). Fighting is one of the most exhausting sports on the planet, and as soon as the adrenaline wears off, you will feel all the rounds you just fought. Spend a little bit of time celebrating, take a shower, and then pass out. You have time to celebrate in earnest tomorrow.
- Stay Out of the Gym. Burnout is a real thing, and it's important to enjoy the time after a fight and not overwork yourself. After a fight, win or lose, it's best to take a week or two off of hard training to let your body recover from the literal beating it just took. You can still work out if that’s how you relax, just take your foot off the gas for a couple days.
Boxing - Is it the sport for you?
This is the only question I can’t answer for you. Deciding to fight competitively is a big decision, and not one you should make lightly. As they say “You don’t play boxing”. It is a rough, dangerous sport and must be respected. But it is also extremely gratifying in a way I’ve never seen another sport mirror. In boxing, it all comes down to your training and your willpower versus your opponent’s. If you want to learn as a beginner or as an experienced boxer, FightCamp has the tools and know-how to help you answer the bell and achieve your goals, whether that’s to compete in the Sweet Science or just get an amazing workout.
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The Author: Iain Mackenzie grew up in the middle of downtown Houston and has always been a competitor. He first turned to karate as a young child, where he got his first taste of live sparring and the thrill and discipline of combat sports. From there he went on to saber fencing, where he competed in tournaments all throughout middle school. However, it was not until he had nearly graduated high school that he found the sport that truly spoke to him: Boxing. Training all throughout college and into his professional career, Iain has trained in multiple gyms across Texas and competed in amateur tournaments with storied histories like Golden Gloves and the Houston Open. His goal is to bring people the sense of belonging and self-actualization boxing has always given to him by explaining the tools he uses as a competing boxer to stay in shape, stay sharp, and stay motivated. As a licensed amateur boxer, Iain has the know how and drive necessary to do just that.