Characters At The Boxing Gym



Boxing training brings people of all kinds into gyms. A good example of this was seen in the movie Million Dollar Baby. There was the country boy who freely used racial epithets around Morgan Freeman's character, Eddie. There was also the character played by Anthony Mackie, Shawrelle, who was always swaggering around when he wasn't picking on Hilary Swank's character.

I've participated in boxing training at several different gyms, and I've visited many other boxing gyms. My experience is that the boxing community is mostly full of good, solid people.

However, like every other environment, there may be some personalities in the gym that range from being mildly annoying to sorely testing the limits of your tolerance. Some can seriously take the focus off of boxing training.

Here are some of them. . .

1. Mr. or Ms. No-One-Can-Tell-Me-Anything-Because-I-Know-It-All

There was a guy in the gym who spent a lot of time telling people about the previous boxing training he'd had elsewhere. No one was safe from being interupted in the middle of their workout to hear his "wisdom". Every time I turned around, the guy was hitting the heavy bags with no handwraps or gloves on. When the coach and I would tell him to protect his hands, the reply was, "That's how I trained at the other place." "Well, you're not at the other place. Put some gloves on," I once grumbled to him.

The last straw was when the coach was working with those who had matches coming up. The coach asked me to assist with teaching the basics to the newcomers. As I was explaining to someone how to throw hooks, the guy stepped in between the new person and myself. He proceded to show the person the alleged "right" way to do things. "This is what you should be showing him", he told me. I fumed inside, but I didn't want to cause a scene, so I said nothing.

But the next time the guy walked into the gym, I let him have it. I didn't scream and curse him out like I had planned, but I was direct and let him know I didn't appreciate the antics. The guy mumbled an apology that I knew wasn't sincere. But I had made my point, and the incident never happened again.

That's the main way to deal with the harder versions of this kind of person. Shut them down, preferably in front of a group of people - the coach and a few others were standing around when that confrontation took place. Embarrassment is a great tool.

I knew of a coach who conducted boxing training mainly with kids and teens. In my experience with kids under age 12, they are usually eager to learn boxing techniques. Teenagers are a different story, especially the males. One young man bragged about all the street fights he allegedly won. When some of us tried to explain the rules of boxing to him, the young man dismissed us. "I know how to handle myself in a fight," he smirked. The kid kept begging to spar, despite the fact the youth coach pointing out that the kid needed more training.

Finally, the youth coach grew tired of the young man's know-it-all-attitude. He let him spar, but put the young man in with another teenager who had great boxing skills. The young man took a beating. After the sparring session was over, the coach asked him, "Now are you ready to listen to me about boxing training?"


2. The Guys With the 'No Girls Allowed' Sign Up

Yes, I realize that it's the 21st century, but don't get it twisted - sexism is alive and well. Boxing is still dominated mostly by men, and is still considered the domain of men. There are some men - and some coaches may be included in those numbers - that don't believe women should be involved in the sport.

If the coach is showing chauvinism, walk away from that gym and go somewhere else. It ain't worth it trying to educate people who choose to remain ignorant. Neither is it worth paying your hard-earned money for boxing training at that gym and putting up with disrespect.

When a lot of men gather together, they'll start talking about subjects that probably shouldn't be mentioned in polite company. I've heard about illegal escapades, condoms that failed at the wrong moment, and various other stories that most would deem unsavory. I've heard a lot of dirty jokes, too, and I've laughed at most of them. But if the women in the gym are being made to feel uncomfortable because of inappropriate comments and gestures made towards them, that's a problem. Speak up! Plus, remember you have a pair of boxing gloves on, too. Enlist the coach's and/or gym owner's help in keeping the atmosphere hospitable.


3. Divas

Everybody should give each other -- especially the coach -- their respect during boxing training. Maybe having an entitlemnent attitude works in upscale health clubs because the clientele expects special treatment. But it doesn't fly in traditional and municipal boxing gyms.

One guy was always grumbling about, "the coach is more interested in working with the people who have matches coming up than with helping everybody else." It wasn't fair nor accurate. No, the coach could not hold the punch mitts for that guy every time he came to the gym. There were other people in the gym for boxing training that the coach had to equally give his attention to. . .duh.

A woman who used to come to the gym once complained that she had come from too far away not to get the most attention from the coach. However, she only lived a few miles from the gym, and she had a car. Whenever she didn't believe she was being noticed enough, she'd pout and moan. Her antics weren't attractive.

Just as problematic are those who drift in and out of the gym. There are those who sign up, show up one day then disappear for weeks. When they return, they want the coach to stop everything else so they can catch up on what they missed in boxing training.

Those people who expect a red carpet to be rolled out and attendants at the ready to fan the sweat off of them are in for a rude awakening. Most coaches don't have time for whining, and no one else in the gym wants to hear it.


4. The Social Set

I've noticed a lot of women over the years who sign up together as a group to attend the gym. Not long after the warmup exercises are over, they're in the corner happily talking away. But not much of a workout gets done.

It's fine to be friendly and sociable at the gym. However, time goes by quickly, and you are paying for that time. Don't let wanting to be social get in the way of boxing training - which I'm assuming you went to the gym to do.


5. The Odd Among Us

Thankfully, I've run across very few of these people at the gym. Most of the ones who have shown up weren't members of the gym, just people who roamed in and mercifully left quickly - or were ushered out by the coach. My advice if one of them actually signs up to join? Watch them.

I groaned inwardly when a woman I knew from elsewhere decided to sign up for the gym a few years ago. She had a reputation as being some serious bad news, and I knew that she had conned some people at the church where I attend. She was not a member of the church, but she presented herself as someone who needed help. Those who reached out to her unfortunately got burned.

Her strange behavior began immediately, and others in the gym noticed it. Mumbling to herself was one clue that something wasn't right. Initially, I didn't tell the coach and the others what I knew about her. I didn't want to come off like I was spreading tales. One day she wasn't in the gym, and the coach suggested that everybody watch their personal belongings the next time she arrived. He had been sure that she had been eyeing people's gym bags. I had to come clean then and let all know about her. Fortunately, she dropped out of the gym not long afterwards.

Here's something else that women may have to contend with at the gym. There are guys who get a thrill out of having a woman beat up on them. In my experience, most guys will spar with women at the gym, but most aren't exactly comfortable with doing so. Some will flat out refuse to spar with any women.

I've sparred with guys who will not hit back very hard, and allow me to get a lot of practice doing offense while they do defense. I understand -- there are still men who've been raised not to hit females. But there are a few guys who get off on a woman hurting them. Some will pay some women privately to do it. Others show up at boxing gyms and martial arts dojos. Keep an eye out for them. Women shouldn't be the object of some men's fetishes while they're participating in boxing training.


6. The Former Pro or Amateur Boxer With Opinions

Men and women who formerly fought as amateur or professional boxers can be found in most every boxing gym. Many boxing gyms are owned by former boxers. A lot of coaches, trainers, promoters, managers, referees, and timekeepers spent time in the ring in the past.

Others just stop in the gym to hang out. Boxing has an addictive quality about it; most can't give it up completely, and they remain involved with it on some level. Former boxers love to tell stories about their past fights, as well as pass on advice. Don't dismiss everything they say, because some of it may be useful in regards to your boxing training.

But even among the ones who have the experience, it may be necessary to weigh what they're saying to determine whether the advice is valuable or not. For example, I'm acquainted with a guy who's now a professional boxer. Back in the day, the guy was a rising star in the amateur ranks. There was no end of people giving him advice, as well as their opinions. Once, a man claiming to have had a number of professional fights approached him after an amateur match and rattled off a bunch of odd things that he felt the younger boxer should do in the future to make sure he would win matches. The younger boxer's coach was offended at the affront to what he had already been teaching the young boxer. The young boxer employed the "one ear and out the other" technique. I looked the "professional" up and down, wondering who he was, and why there was an urgent need to give advice when none was asked for by anyone.

It's important to know what to check for when looking for a gym.

How to find a good boxing coach.

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