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But this never stopped me training, if anything it often funded my protein, my gloves, my wraps and my shorts. I’d always been into boxing, but actually taking part in it taught me things the TV never could. I learnt that keeping your elbows close to your ribs and throwing your hips gives you more momentum. I learnt that staring your opponent in the eye centres you in the ring. I learnt that saving a big right after throwing the left was a much better idea. Although I was only competing at a very basic level – below amateur even – I began to immerse myself in boxing. I fell in love with it. I started going once a week at first, then twice, then three times, and then I’d box in my lunch breaks as well. I longed to be in that filthy room of swinging bags, I loved the inch wide gaps underneath the crumbling window frame that allowed your bones to freeze, the withered skipping ropes hanging from a rusty nail, and the rancid glued down canvas of the ring with its sagging ropes held together by duck-tape.
When you see boxing on TV it looks so glamorous, but the real raw foundations of it almost always begins in a den of sweat and blood like this. Forget your LA Fitness’ with their corporate class-conscious inhabitants, paying through their noses to run on a simulated street as they stare out of the window at a real one. I was in a real gym; I breathed and lived for it. The little room at the top of a terrace was where I lived, but the boxing gym became my home. The sweat that poured off of my forehead was my shower. The green buzz in the eyes and the drone in the ears that you get when someone really sends your jaw across the room was my TV. The wooden floor with its upturned nails and dipping boards where I lay doing sit-ups was my bed. I vowed never to move out.