Joining the OSU Boxing Club is more than just haymakers and knockouts.
“Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson.
Though Mike Tyson’s boxing career will go down with a little controversy, the man makes a good point. Boxing is a brutal sport, and it has a way of teaching quick lessons. In other words, getting punched in the mouth hurts. A lot.
The common viewer might look at boxing and think, “No way. Who in their right mind would enjoy getting punched in the face?” But after talking with the Ohio State Boxing Club, comprised of more than 160 members, I, a common viewer, learned that boxing is so much more than just haymakers and sometimes biting ears. In fact, the sport of boxing involves intense training sessions of strength, cardio, and endurance to prepare you for the fighting where sparring only happens if you are ready. It also has nothing to do with biting ears so don’t get any ideas.
Mark Wallinger, coach of the Boxing Club, said he has helped build this enormous roster of only students mostly through word of mouth. He explained that while they are a competitive team that travels for matches and tournaments, recruiting students into the club isn’t how he wants to build the team. He’d rather have someone come with a natural interest. And with the club almost reaching 170 members, the largest on-campus, it seems like there’s plenty of natural interest to
The practices for the club are carefully instructed with medical trainers on hand and students are broken up into groups based on experience. Contrary to what you might see on Conor McGregor’s Instagram, training isn’t strictly getting in the ring and knocking the hell out of your opponent. Wallinger explained that since the fights are relatively short in time, but require so much out of you both physically and mentally, a majority of the practice is spent on intense cardio training to prepare your body for the endurance tests in the ring.
And not everybody is meant for the ring. Remember what Tyson said? That’s the same sentiment from Wallinger. If you get in the ring, get popped in the mouth, and realize that you do not like getting punched in the face, you can drop your gloves on the spot and steer clear of the ring. No shame from your club members, no one in your face telling you to do it again. It’s whatever your comfortable with.
“There’s no shame in that, you can still be a great member,” Wallinger said. “Last year we had a non-competitive president and this year our president does not compete.”
On the other hand, there are plenty of members in the club that enjoy sparring. It is the name of the sport after all, and you can’t really be a boxing club without boxers, right?
Take Bertina Xue, for example. She fought in nationals as a freshman. She’s studying welding engineering here at Ohio State, and she’s been boxing since the end of her junior year in high school thanks to some encouragement from her English teacher who was also a boxing instructor at a local gym. It started as a way to stay fit, and it grew into a love for the sport and the community around it.
“There’s just something so appealing about ‘suffering’ through a difficult training session with a close group of teammates. We hype each other up all the time,” Xue said.
Boxing also tests her mental fortitude.
“There are so many things to think about and then translate over into punching combinations that it requires absolute focus. I don’t think any other sport has demanded more focus from me than boxing.”
For many new boxers eager to get in the ring, Wallinger said he noticed a lot of people are looking to throw heavy punches that knock out your opponent; and that’s not how boxing works. He explained that throwing heavy punches drains your energy much more quickly leaving your gassed throughout the match. That’s why when newcomers arrive he doesn’t have them instantly hop in the ring. It’s dangerous for both fighters, and Xue said that fighting style is a sign of disrespect in boxing.
“I always feel a mutual respect with my opponents when we step in the ring together, to try and knock him or her out within the first punch is just underestimating their skills,” she explained. “My strategy actually is to feel my opponent out and play it more on the safe side in the first minute or so.”
The boxing club meets three-days-a-week on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Sometimes they are at Jesse Owens North for practices, other times they are at a local gym like Old Skool for sparring. Where you end up, Wallinger said, is completely up to you. If you are looking to become the next Floyd “Money” Mayweather, the intensive training to get you at your boxing best is waiting for you. And if you are just looking to keep the winter weight gains at a minimum, a few nights a week of working your ass off will surely help burn those extra calories.
Regardless of the route you take, it could all change—for better or worse—after stepping into the ring. You just have to show up to find out.
Feature photo by Brian Kaiser.