Are you over the age of 35 and have an interest in boxing? If so, Master’s boxing might be for you.
What’s missing in your life that you want to invite someone to punch you in the face… or maybe the liver…
how about a good shot to the ribs before your church board meeting tonight? I can’t tell you why master’s boxing exists or why it is growing across the country. I can tell you that I’m smitten. I drank the Kool-Aid.
WHAT IS MASTER’S BOXING
Master’s boxing is less about ‘master’ and more about ‘older’. Amateurs over 35 who would like to train and compete under the USA Boxing organization are considered part of master’s boxing. So, while I have felt completely inept in boxing over my journey (sometimes more than others) I have still (technically) been a part of master’s boxing.
Someone can train under the master’s boxing umbrella and never compete in a tournament. There are myriad benefits that come from boxing training and competition is not required. For those that want to compete, the master’s organization does a phenomenal job of trying to match boxers with similarly skilled opponents.
The matches are determined using three criteria, age, weight, and experience. It is comforting knowing that your first attempt will be against someone with similar stats; especially the experience.
So, what’s the draw to master’s boxing at the age of 35+? Boxing is a combat sport. Have you enjoyed past experiences in combat sports? Have you been a part of team sports that were aggressive, but always wanted to try something more individual? Or have you been absent from competitive sports your entire life and want to change that? Whatever the reason; there is something to be gained and it’s a great idea.
This article is in two parts. Part I intends to document my time in master’s boxing before an official competition or tournament. Part two will be after my first tournament. At this point, I have spent a little over two years training. While everyone’s journey is different, I’ll spend some time sharing my experiences to this point. Side note, my wife thinks I’m an idiot for doing this. But that’s another article.
For a little background, I’m a 50-year-old male with an athletic history. From youth through high school I had some degree of participation in baseball, karate, track, football, wrestling, and swim team.
Decompressing, stress management, and weight control were mostly handled with 3 to 5 mile runs from the late ’80s to the present. In my mid-30s, I started doing triathlons. I spent about 12 years addicted to the sport. Eventually, I picked up the goal of qualifying for the world championships in Kona, HI. I was never fast enough. 10:47 at Ironman Arizona in 2008 was my fastest time, but not good enough. I’ve spent my fair share of time in the weight room as well. My last goal before picking up the boxing gloves was the 300, 400, 500 challenge.
The idea is to bench press 300, squat 400, and deadlift 500 lbs. I conquered the bench press, got within 25 lbs of the squat, and could not pass 425 on the deadlift. I eventually threw in the towel… symptoms of chronic issues in elbows and other joints were starting to surface. It was tough to admit defeat, but it seemed to be the best answer for the long term.
This brings us to a couple of years ago. I was 48 years old and wanted to learn how to box.
I was intimidated. One more time… I was intimidated.
I was not ready to walk into any boxing gym knowing how green and ignorant I was. To knock a little of my “newbie-ness” off I watched many online videos. I watched videos on wrapping your hands, stance, creating angles, defensive strategies, heavy bag workouts, head movement, speedbag drills, etc… I put a heavy bag, double end bag, and speed bag in my garage. I also built a makeshift slip line. Little did I know that I could’ve walked into any of the gyms I eventually attended, and they would’ve helped me regardless of my experience or skills. There was no reason to be so intimidated.
After a couple of months of working out solo in my garage, I started attending a local boxing fitness gym, Nick’s Fight Club in Amarillo, Texas. They have workouts that are boxing-based, but you don’t have to step in a ring and actually box. That was fine with me as I still had so much to learn. I quickly realized that I had plenty of cardio in comparison to most, but my boxing skills were nonexistent.
FIRST AMATEUR BOXING PROGRAM
I continued to work out at Nick’s for cardio as well as building my hours of heavy bag and mitt work experience. I also started going to another boxing gym a couple of nights a week for more boxing-specific experiences, coaching, and sparring. It occurred to me that I could spend as much time hitting the heavy bag and working on footwork as possible, but I needed sparring to progress.
I picked a local gym that had an amateur boxing program. I loved the boxing coach at this gym. He had decades of experience and was excited about working with someone older. I was, however, the oldest member of the team by about 34 years or so. The team members were about 16 years old and under. They didn’t seem to mind having me in the classes and warmed to me when they realized how hard I worked.
After a couple of weeks of working out, the head coach asked me if I had a mouthguard. I did. So, he and I worked on some close quarters sparring. This was my first exposure to sparring. I’ll never forget that first round. I am pretty sure I didn’t breathe at all. At the end of the round my legs were completely drained, I was out of breath and my senses were pegged at 100%. That was the most exhilarating thing I can remember doing.
I continued to work out at both gyms for a couple of months. My sparring increased, but I was never comfortable and didn’t get enough time in the ring to relax. I was a fish out of water every time. It was still exciting, and I knew I needed to continue if I was ever going to improve. I sparred with younger, older, bigger, slower, and faster people. All of them knew how to box which meant each second was a challenge and a bit overwhelming for me. My time at this gym was cut short. My boxing coach was ill and started missing classes. The classes weren’t the same without him, so I stopped going. It was only later I heard that he had passed away. Heaven gained a great angel of a man and boxing coach.
SECOND AMATEUR BOXING PROGRAM
I was still convinced that joining an amateur program was the way to go. So, I joined another local boxing gym. This gym was smaller and much more intimate. Similarly, to the last gym, I quickly became fond of the coach. It was obvious how much he cared for all the students. My time at this gym was also short-lived. During one of our exercises, I bruised a rib which took me out for months. Eventually, I could still do work and drills, but core work or sparring was out of the question. During this time off I continued to work out at Nick’s.
WAKING UP TO NICK’S BOXING GYM
It was during this time that I finally realized what was in front of me the entire time. Nick’s has multiple boxing coaches and trainers that are available to work with members in one-on-one coaching sessions. This is even better for me than the amateur programs at the other gyms. I can coordinate individually with each trainer to work out at more convenient times. Not only is this more convenient with my schedule, but one-on-one instruction for an hour is much more focused than group instruction. There have also been multiple boxers at the gym who will spar.
Sparring is a special time. It can be a time to learn and try new things. It can also be a time for your opponent to try and beat you up. Make sure you are getting in the ring with someone who has similar goals as you. And if you feel like things are out of control, simply take a knee and/or get out of the ring.
For months I would workout at the gym for general fitness as well as boxing-specific training. I have had one-on-one sessions weekly to beef up my footwork and ring awareness. I have slowly grown my familiarity in the ring, sharpening techniques, and generally being submersed in the boxing environment.
MASTERS BOXING TOURNAMENT
While this road has been entertaining, challenging, and thrilling, I wanted to have the experience of boxing in an actual match. Covid-19 had other plans. I initially signed up for a tournament in Atlanta, GA which eventually was canceled.
Later I signed up for a tournament in Las Vegas, NV which was postponed multiple times. The best part about these delays was the added experience and time for me to work and improve.
I eventually stumbled into a group of four other men at Nick’s training for the October 2021 Houston master’s tournament. Two of them have competed in master’s tournaments previously making their insight invaluable. Nick’s is also home to some professional boxers, kickboxers, and MMA fighters. One of them has been gracious enough to coach our master’s group in preparation for Houston. His name is John King. Look him up.
He is amazing. Don’t miss the video of him recording the fastest knockout in Glory kickboxing history. He has been a blessing in many ways; coaching us is just one of them.
By the time we step into the ring in Houston, we will have been working out as a group for about three months.
We are working out together a couple of days per week and spar about once per week. It has been a blessing to be a part of a group working towards the same goal.
Sparring has become more and more natural, and confidence has been improving as the tournament nears.
Houston’s tournament is a two-day event. Assuming enough participants show up we will have matches each day. How many victories will we get? Will there be TKOs or KOs? Or maybe decisions? Will the bouts be close? How long have our opponents been training? Have they put in as much time as us? Who wants it more? What’s their cardio like? Can we weather the storm of an initial 30-second burst of haymakers and overhand rights?
See you soon in Part II with all the answers!