It’s funny how many people ask me this about boxing.
Short answer: yes. If that’s all you need to hear, that’s cool, but it’s one of those simple questions (like “Is there really a Santa Claus?” and “What does Paris Hilton do?”) that perhaps calls for a more complex answer. Lucky you! I’m here to elaborate.
Beginning with the obvious, it hurts to get punched in the face. Ditto ribs, gut, and ears. Even with big, puffy 16oz boxing gloves and headgear on, it hurts. One’s nose, particularly, stings quite a bit when you get popped there. Teary eyes and bloody noses are not uncommon.
But here’s the cool thing: when you learn that you can actually take a punch, that’s pretty awesome. And when you learn you can last an entire round, that’s even more incredible.
But the simplest fact of the matter is that in boxing, you don’t spend most of your time being punched in the face (ribs, gut, ears). You spend most of your time training and conditioning. And that’s the biggest part of what hurts in boxing.
To really bring this home for you, let me give you the list of the top five tortures a boxing trainer inflicts upon her willing (yea, even eager) pupils.
1. Neck snaps. Heh. An accurate name if there ever was one. Lay on your back in the ring with your shoulders and head suspended over the edge. On the trainers count, snap your head quickly to the right three times like so: One, two, three, ONE. One, two, three, TWO. And so on to ten. You should be completing the ten snaps in about fifteen seconds total. Then you do ten to the left. Double time, now, and keep your eyes open. Now that your neck is starting to seize up, do ten to the front, really lifting your head as high and a quickly as you can. When your trainer finishes that set and starts everyone over again from the beginning, you may feel as if you are going to pass out or die. You should be so lucky; this is only the second set, and there’s still one more to go.
2. Ring slides. These sound and look innocuous, but they’re deadly. A group of five gets in the boxing ring and forms a circle, facing in. Aaaaaall you have to do is glide sideways, as fast as you can, in that circle with your teammates, for as long as the trainer says. She who holds the stopwatch is your master, and you are the slave. Now move it. At first it’s okay, but after about 2.5 minutes the bottoms of your feet start to burn. Periodically the coach will shout, “Switch!” and you change directions, but it doesn’t help. After several three-minute rounds of this, you will sob with relief when the trainer calls time. The next day you will have massive, slidey blisters on the bottoms of your feet. You will moan a lot and annoy all the people around you. You will avoid the gym like the Black Death.
3. Arm circles. When the trainer tells you to purchase a couple of two- or three-pound weights, do so immediately. Because if you fail to show with your little weights, they will punish you by making you use the five-pound or heavier weights, and you will experience serious agony in short order. Stick your thus-laden hands straight out in front of you and begin to make little tiny circles. Again, the count is One, two, three, ONE, and you’ll do 25 in the front, then without dropping your arms do 25 straight up above your head, then 25 behind your back (you gotta hunch over for those), then 25 with your arms extended out to your sides. Whatever you do, don’t drop your arms or the whole team will suffer for it. For the cherry on top, extend your arms out to the front again and Just. Hold. It gets worse. Because that’s only the first set.
4. Mountain climbers. Push-up position. Pull your feet, one at a time, up to your chest, as if the floor were a vertical wall and you were Spiderman climbing it. Pretend Dr. Octopus is chasing you and you have to go really fast. Do ten million repetitions, and keep your butt down. This is why it sucks to be a superhero.
5. Duck walks. Squat all the way — I said ALL the way down, until your behind is hanging an inch or two from the floor. Now walk. Quickly. While carrying a 12-pound medicine ball at the back of your neck, lifting it straight up in the air, then returning it as you duck walk. Do laps. This is the only exercise I simply can not do (although all my in-their-20’s teammates can). I’m guessing it’s the over-40 factor, along with the rice krispies I have in my knees.
There are more tortures, but I think you get the idea. Strangely, my boxing team meets twice each week for a two-hour session of this sort of thing, and generally speaking those of us who are on the team also commit to three other gym sessions on our own every week as well. Go figure.
So yes, Virginia. Boxing hurts. But for some reason, we do it anyway.