words and interview by Harriet Chubb

Boxing is a sport that has been evolving since we graced the earth with our human presence, the simple act in which two people engage in a contest using only their fists is surely one of the most primitive and primal actions that has been in our culture for thousands of years. It is thought that the first time it was recognised as a sport was in Ancient Greece in approximately 688 BC when the Greeks accepted it into the Olympics, since then it’s popularity has been phenomenal all over the world and the sport has evolved into a timeless game, filled with energy and excitement, but above all the contestants need for an incredibly honed physical stature and exceptional level of technique. The sheer mental and physical preparation for a fight is a painstaking task, requiring a certain level of discipline like no other sport. But is this rigorous training and restricted diet healthy for your body? Hip and Healthy investigates the world of semi – professional boxing with a little bit of help from Erkan Ibrahim, the recently crowned WSO British Super Middle-weight Champion…

How long have you been boxing for?
For two and a half years.

What made you want to take up the sport?
My best friend and subsequently my trainer, Greg Stallard – ex ABA Boxer. We built the boxing gym in his back garden and it all started from there!

Were you an active person before you started?
Not massively, no. I used to play football at a high level, but after an injury to my knees it meant that I couldn’t continue, so I turned to boxing.

What does your training consist of?
It is a complete lifestyle change – a strict training regime and restricted diet.

How do you prepare physically for a fight? Give us a week by week breakdown…
It is generally a five week process. It starts with two weeks of high level conditioning, consisting of all fitness exercises, no sparring, very similar to pre-season football. After week two we move onto pad work, foot work, explosive stuff and building on technique. This is all including a restricted diet and of course no drinking or smoking. The end part of the process focuses (weeks four to five) on game plans, which consists of the same exercises but with a subject or context. For example, if I know that I am fighting someone much taller with long arms, then I will work on my inside technique. If I don’t know who I am fighting, I practice my strengths to make sure I am fully prepared.

How about the last few days/hours before? Give us a breakdown….
A few hours before the match is the all important weigh in. I have to hit exactly 12 stone to make my weight category; I am normally pretty good but if I think I am not going to make it, there are things you can do, for example skipping in a sauna. I also don’t eat or drink anything before the weigh in to make sure I am bang on target. Afterwards, I will eat a light meal, for example a chicken salad baguette, which is great as it includes both carbohydrates and protein. 20 minutes before the fight I will eat something sugary, a handful of sweets or a banana and have a V-max Pro drink – this dilates your capillaries and blood vessels so that blood can be transported faster around the body – increasing your maximum performance.

Do you think that this strict diet and regime takes its toll on your body? Is it Healthy?
Yes – I do think it is a healthy way of life, purely because as a normal human being I have a tendency to be lazy and would carry a lot more weight without this training. Since I started boxing, my weight has stabilised and I have far more energy in my daily life from all the exercise and the healthy food I have to eat. Boxing is about changing your lifestyle, and for me it has changed my lifestyle for the better.

How do you prepare mentally for a fight?
I try my best not to think about it until about two hours before, when I start to feel anxious and begin welcoming the adrenaline that I’m going to need. When it gets to this point I try my hardest to zone out and listen to my ipod lying down – trying to conserve the energy I’ve accumulated.

How does it feel to win?
It is the best feeling, no drug could possibly compare to it. To be declared the winner in a fight with someone who is exactly your weight and size certainly puts you on a high that’s hard to come down from! To be British Champion is something I never thought would happen.

What do you miss most when you are training for a fight?
Other than food, it would be choice. The choice to not go to training and have a night off or the choice to be able to go out with my friends and have a drink – that is all taken away from me, I have no choice when it comes to training.

Your body comes under immense physical pressure during in a fight – how do you care for yourself afterwards?
I don’t do anything special; I listen to the doctor, replenish my carbohydrates and protein and replace the fluids I have lost. Then I celebrate!

There is a certain stereotype associated with boxing, which was unfortunately not helped recently when David Haye and Dereck Chisora came to blows at a press conference, what do you think of these stereotypes and how do you avoid being tarred with this brush?
If you step back and take a look at what boxing is, it is two men potentially risking their lives with potential brain damage and other serious medical complications – all for entertainment; it is a blood sport and always has been so there will constantly be this sort of stereotype associated with the industry. It is the nature of the beast. But this does not mean that boxers themselves should not behave properly or are above anyone else – including their opponent. Personally I am a traditionalist, I believe in listening to and respecting the referee, shaking hands after a match and being a gentleman outside the ring at all times. This is what nearly all people associated with the sport believe in too. The incident with Chisora and Haye has set a disgraceful example to the industry and to the public, but this was a one off occurrence.

Do you think anyone can learn to box?
Yes, anyone can learn to box, but not everyone can learn to win.

Want to get into boxing too? Visit www.eastside-boxing.co.uk where you can buy the Active Combo (below), £39.99

Image by: www.flickr.com/photos/meesterdickey/432953792