READING’S newest cohort of would-be boxers got smacked in the face for the first time this week.
The daring beginners started full-contact sparring as they stepped up preparations for their first Ultra White Collar fights next month.
And despite a few shaky hands and bruised egos, the wannabe bruisers remain set on proving themselves in the ring while raising a fortune for good causes.
Speaking while breathless after an action-packed two-minute round, 30-year-old Jake White described the moment he first got punched: “I was angry. I didn’t like someone punching me in the face. I was rubbish to start with but picked it up when I started moving my feet.”
The PE teacher from Shinfield is now five weeks into training at Shaolin Tigers Martial Arts Academy – Reading in Scours Lane.
He continued: “It’s been hard physically. I played football at quite a good level but this is something else.”
Lucy Mitchell, 23, from Whitley, signed up to fight in June but her opponent pulled out on the day of the bout. Lucy lost both her father Clive and grandfather Sid to cancer recently and signed up again to raise charity money in their memory.
Describing the training, she said: “It is hard but it is thrilling and rewarding. I’m not the fittest but always feel good after the sessions.”
Ebony Day, from Finchampstead, was also among those getting stuck in. At one point, the 5ft 1in 30-year-old apologised for catching her opponent with a punch. Afterwards, she said: “It’s exhilarating but it feels really unnatural when you hit someone.
“I like competition and I like pushing myself. My children don’t understand what I’m doing. When I showed them my mouthguard they asked me what it was for.”
STMA-Reading coach Graham Corker said 53 people had signed up to fight, with ages ranging from 19 to late forties. Each participant has been taught the fundamentals of boxing, including stance, head movement, hand and shoulder position, how to throw jabs, crosses, hooks and uppercuts, and how to catch and block punches.
The final weeks of their eight-week training will focus on sparring, technical drills and conditioning. Participants will have a weigh-in and learn who their opponent is two days before the fight.
Graham said: “Anyone who signs up should be applauded. Trying to learn the most physically and mentally demanding sport of all in just eight weeks is an incredibly tough task, and that’s before you think about fighting in front of around 1,000 people.
“Ultimately they will become stronger in body and mind and more confident, while raising much-needed money for deserving causes.”
The fight night takes place in Henley Leisure Centre on Saturday, November 18. Visit https://ultrawhitecollarboxing.co.uk/locations/reading/ for tickets.
By George Hamilton