B O X E R S WHO ARE
W O M E N
State of Mind Fitness gym is a small gym, under the arches near Hammersmith station in London. The owner, Barry, is an ex-Royal Marine, whose members feel like a family, taking a personal interest in his students and pushing them beyond their preconceived limits. The circuits are always group circuits, so the students work for each other as well as themselves. Women are treated the same as men, no gendered attitudes can be found at Barry’s gym so WE LOVE HIM. Hazel is a semi-professional boxer who has been boxing for two and a half years, and recently winning her fight at the ‘Too close to call’ event show.
Hazel works full time with children in a hospital, distracting them through their hospital experience. She is on her feet all day with anxious children, finishing work and coming straight to the gym to train 2 hours every night. She initially started at Barry’s to lose weight 4 years ago and found that it had a positive effect on her life outside the gym as well, improving her eating habits and raising her confidence levels. Previously there weren’t any women at the gym to train with, apart from Rachael who recently became amateur. Through fighting in the ring she has found two more female training partners, but only in the last couple of months, however, she argues that she can take a punch because she initially only trained with men. Furthermore, boxing has given them more confidence, Danielle explains that ‘you just have that aura in the first place not to mess with you’, as well as mind and body confidence in general.
Danielle has been boxing since she was a child and defies the myth that boxing will make a woman ‘too muscly’. This issue seems to be one that puts many women off, but actually Hazel believes that her figure has become more hourglass shaped since she started training. She explained that ‘it’s not just for men...do you know how much core work is in it?... For a woman to have a great core, I think that’s fabulous.’ She reckons that looking at boxers who are women, they are often light and slim - obviously depending on the weight category - but they are definitely not huge and muscular.
It does seem counterproductive to worry about your figure and what other people think of your ‘femininity’ in the world. Surely the most important thing is to feel fit and healthy and strong, supporting your body and mind. Doing something because you love it and because you want to improve fitness which ultimately makes you feel good. This article ‘Best boxing classes in London: the fast way to a Victoria's Secret Angel body’ feels like it undermines women as still the purpose of exercise is to fulfill a sexual identity.
Boxing seems to attract people who want to improve fitness, for example, Hazel began her journey with the desire to lose weight, and Danielle talks about how much confidence it gives you. However, she reckons that it can take women a bit longer to pick up because they haven’t got the confidence/physicality straight away and tend to think more about their footwork and technique rather than going for it like the guys generally seem to.
Danielle believes that attitudes towards boxing have changed since the 2012 Olympics, the first to include women boxing. Previously ‘it was just a boy brute sport’ and if you were a woman you were an outsider as you were not fitting into the stereotype; ‘you were either gay or you looked too masculine’. Prior to the Olympics, the gym Danielle trained at saw her as the ‘girl fighter’ but since then she has become just ‘a fighter’. Her gender no longer comes into her identity as a fighter, although she concedes that it might be just because she has been there for so long.
“the guys you train with they don’t go ‘aw she’s a girl’, you aren’t much different, because they are your brothers aren’t they, and they just think of you as another fighter.” (Danielle)
This interview was made before her win at State of Mind Fitness event ‘Too Close To Call’, and she explained that before a fight it is very important to be relaxed and keep distracted. For the first 30 seconds of the fight ‘you just kinda look at each other and go ‘oh..shit’, what am I doing? (laughs)’.
Hazel explains the attitude of men in the gym:
“I find that men are so different. So say when we do sparring on a Saturday, he might say 'Nina, go in that corner, Hazel go in that corner, right Jeffrey do her corner, Timothy do her corner', and sometimes he’d get the girls to corner for the guys, and how many times they will just not listen. If they don’t know us, they would just stand there and try not to listen, and Barry would say, ‘no you’ve got to listen’, and they honestly don’t...and then they see me spar and then they are like ‘actually she’s better than me and I should have listened to her’. It happened to me only the other day but he saw me get in the ring with Barry and then he realised I was better than him and he should have listened to me.”