What You Need to Know About Boxing Before You Start
Boxing for Beginners
Welcome to our boxing for beginners! Here, we will make sure to cover all you need to know before you actually start boxing, so that you can prepare better and be able to make an informed decision. Well, here we go! (The bell rings and the match starts!)
So, What Is Boxing?
When most people think about boxing, they immediately think of punching, and mostly punching other people. However, that is a simplified version of what boxing actually is – and a wildly inaccurate version that does injustice to the sport. Boxing is a lot more clever than that. Let’s start with the semantics and take another look at the word itself: boxing. If you were like me, you’d notice the word “box” elegantly tucked in there, boxed in by the –ing. So what is the gist of boxing? Well, to put people in a box, and box them in – by punching no less. You’d notice that the boxing ring is also a perfectly square “box.” So what does this mean? It means that you’re about to engage in a sport that’s very focused, cerebral and elegant, despite outside appearances. It’s all about out-thinking, outmaneuvering and out-punching your opponent. This requires intelligence, because opponents fall more easily when you box them in. But in order to box them in, and bring them down, you’re going to need the raw power and stamina to do it.
That means that besides having the instincts and the brains on how to outmaneuver your opponent, you’ll also need two things: physical strength to be able to pull off powerful punches, combined with endurance to keep you moving, hopping, receiving punches and punching back for prolonged periods of time. Remember, you’re boxed into a ring which you can’t escape, and must fight back because you’re not alone. To reiterate, you’ll need to be physically fit and be able to persevere in order to be successful in boxing. A strong chin helps too, since it will be your opponent’s target, along with your shoulders, sides and abdomen. Being mentally sharp is also a prerequisite – it helps you avoid your opponent’s punches and come back with a lightning fast counter-strike.
But how did boxing begin? Why does it exist? Aren’t there more efficient combat styles than punching, you might wonder. It is no wonder that the history of boxing goes all the way back to ancient times, when slaves fought against each other in gladiator arenas. Mastering the art of punching other people in the face was a matter of survival in the slave pits of ancient Sumeria 5000 years ago. It was effective, and it is based on pure anatomical accuracy, evolutionary survival instincts and basic biology – destroy any thing’s head and you win. You’re safe. You’re not eaten, robbed, or killed. It is not surprising that boxing persevered through history and remained a part of our modern times – it is one of the most efficient fighting techniques. It is, in a way, a very important part of being human.
Times have changed, however, and boxing is now an officially recognized sport. There are two variants of boxing: professional boxing and amateur boxing. Professional boxing is usually done for a prize, most commonly money, and it involves a lot of spectacle. Some of the most popular boxers of all time have been professional boxers – Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, Mike Tyson, Wladimir and Vitaly Klitschko, Floyd Mayweather, Jack Dempsey, George Foreman, Manny Pacquiao… the list of legends is too long to include in its entirety. Additionally, professional boxing, being a spectacle of sorts, involves a lot of risk – fighters usually fight with little to no protection, which can sometimes result in fatal or crippling injuries. In a sense, we can blame professional boxing for the perception of the sport as brutal or dangerous. However, there’s one more side to the coin.
It may come as a surprise, but boxing is deemed as one of the relatively less dangerous contact sports out there – especially amateur boxing. In 1996, the accidents report of the United States National Safety Council looked at hundreds of different types of sports, and the severity and frequency of the injuries their athletes suffered. Surprisingly, it was found that amateur boxing was the safest of all contact sports, landing on the 23rd place of all injury-producing sports, behind gymnastics, in-line skating and even football. This is because in amateur boxing, the combatants wear protective head-gear, wrist protection, handwraps and gloves usually marked with white tips – to aid the referees in noticing and scoring clean hits.
Whether you get involved in professional or amateur boxing, however, the essential gear you’d need is pretty much the same. What you need is a pair (or two) of quality boxing gloves, a punching bag, boxing shorts and handwraps, so as your hands don’t get chafed and the inside of your gloves is protected. I’d also throw in a jumping rope in there too, to remain true to the classic style of boxing legends. Fake it till you make it, then bring it on!
How Fit Do I Have to Be?
When it comes to boxing for beginners, this is a question you shouldn’t be asking, since it can only hold you back! But, for the sake of the argument, a good measuring stick for engaging in a round of amateur boxing (with the intention of winning!) is the following:
- Be able to run 3-5 miles (5-8 kilometers) without getting too tired
- Be able to do rope jumping for at least half an hour
- Be able to hit the heavy punching bag consistently for 15 minutes
- Spar with any amateur from the gym or your boxing club
- Spar twice the number of required rounds (two times 3 rounds for amateur boxing)
Keep in mind however that the requirements above are the necessary precondition for actually joining a very real and intense boxing match, and not for beginning your boxing training or endurance exercises. Needless to say, 90% of people aren’t capable of pulling that out. Which is why the correct answer to the question of “How fit do I need to be to pick up boxing” is: however fit, or unfit you are. It doesn’t matter.
See, getting to the gym, or your local boxing club is half the battle. Once there, talk to the trainer and he will assess your situation and suggest the appropriate exercises to get things going. You’ll be moving at your own pace, even if all you can muster is 1 push up or a 1 minute run. Chances are you’ll feel terrible, regardless of how fit you are, because even physically active and “fit” people find it very challenging to match up with the requirements of boxing – you’ll find many stories on the Internet about it. This is because boxing requires both strength, mass but also mobility and endurance. It is not merely running, or not merely lifting weights – it is doing both at the same time. Not easy.
That being said, knowing what to expect, or what types of exercises you’ll need to be doing is helpful. Most commonly, because the goal is to build up endurance and strength, the best exercises for boxing usually involve running, jumping the rope, and punching the heavy bag. The exercises can be split into two groups: endurance/mobility exercises, and strength/defense building exercises.
For example, running helps you build up stamina, while rope jumping can really improve your mobility in the boxing ring since it strengthens your leg muscles, allowing you to move more easily or just stand your ground. Next, in order for you to build some sturdiness into your body which will shield you more (and hurt less when getting punched places), squats and sit ups are helpful. Doing sit ups and squats will harden you and build your leg and abdomen muscles, making you more difficult to push or throw off-balance. Besides, you’ll want a thick shield of muscles protecting the organs in your torso. So, the harder your abdominal muscles – the safer you are, and more difficult to push around. Regarding punching strength, push-ups and chin ups (or pull ups) are advisable, since that way you’ll be building and hardening your arm and shoulder muscles. This is important, but remember – strength without speed is useless. So, speed is key, and the best way to practice some movement and quick punches is to also practice shadow boxing. And of course: punching the heavy bag or sparring with your boxing partners in the gym.
Be sure to consult with your physician before picking up boxing though. Specific injuries, conditions or anomalies will make boxing an impossible, or even dangerous activity, so it is always advisable to see your medical doctor first and get his opinion.
What About Potential Injuries?
On the topic of injuries, boxing is notorious. While as we mentioned above, it is one of the safer contact sports, it is also a sport in which a rare injury can be paralyzing or even fatal. Since the 1980s, more than 200 boxers have died due to injuries received during training or actual competition, with the biggest offender being the infamous and unpredictable “knock out” (or KO). Doctors are still unclear about the amount of force necessary to either knock a person unconscious or outright kill them. This is why the danger of this type of injury during boxing has been a reason to call for a ban on the sport itself many times. That being said, it would be too late to worry if you get knocked out. But the following injuries occur far more often and it is best you’re familiar with them:
- ‘Boxer’s Fracture’ – this is basically a break in the bones of your palm, more specifically just under the ring finger and usually little finger. This type of injury commonly occurs when punching an immovable object hard with a closed fist. The sturdier bones survive the shock, but the more fragile and thinner bones of the fourth and fifth metacarpal (bones of your hand) take the force and get fractured. Symptoms include: sharp pain in the hand right after the punch, swelling, difficulty moving, discoloration.
- Carpal Bossing – a slight massing of bone at the back of your palm. This usually causes little pain and maybe some discomfort, depending on the strain put on your hand.
- Cuts and Lacerations – quite expectedly, these happen when an opponent punches you. Their either happen because the attack was so strong that your skin got crumpled too quickly and tore, or because the angle of the glove or some irregularity on it scratched you. Careful, though, because cuts can also be produced getting head-smacked.
- Shoulder Dislocation – the name says it all. Your upper arm (humerus) bone is getting torn away from your shoulder (scapula). It hurts like hell, probably because someone just blasted a powerful punch you in the arm. Besides the pain, you’ll also notice that you can’t move your arm.
- Concussion – it means brain concussion. Usually the result of falling or getting KO-d, knocked out because of a strong punch in the head. Concussions are traumatic injuries, meaning that any way you turn it there will be some damage done to your brain and you will either be impaired temporarily, or – permanently. These injuries happen rarely, but as the saying goes – being forewarned is being forearmed.
Risky business this boxing for beginners thing. Boxing is indeed dangerous, and some of the injuries are downright scary. However, boxing also has many benefits. Attending boxing training is one of the fastest ways to burn calories, and gets your belly flattened in no time. It gives everyone a great shape, which is why many women practice it, and some super models occasionally do boxing exercises to keep their body built to perfection and keep their bodily features balanced. The psychological benefits are powerful too – it eliminates stress, gives you courage, and once you’ve overcome the fear of actual physical confrontation with another person – the sky is the limit.
What Is the Best Way to Start Boxing?
As I mentioned above, deciding to start is half the battle. Don’t worry if you’re not fit enough, or not strong enough, or not ready enough. Just go. At first you may hate it, or find it exhaustively challenging, but once you win over those beginner’s battles, you’ll feel amazing that you pulled it off and you’ll be wanting more! Boxing is hugely rewarding, both physically and psychologically, and can help you gain the self-confidence that can open you for a lot of other possibilities in your life down the line. Oh, and yeah – now would be a good time to re-watch all those Rocky Marciano movies with Sylvester Stalone! There are now seven of them, one for each day of the week to keep you motivated! To borrow a quote:
Life is not about how hard you can hit, but how many hits you can take and still keep going forward. That’s how winning is done! (Rocky, 1976)