UEA’s famous annual fight night is just a few months away. Training takes place four times a week for the dedicated members meaning the occasion promises to be of a higher standard than ever. The boxing club can certainly stake a claim to currently be one of UEA’s most successful societies.
Just a few years ago the club struggled due to a lack of members, equipment and organisation. Concrete spoke to current club president Billy Kensit to discover how UEA’s boxing society solved these issues.
How has the club grown since you first started?
I joined the club when I first came to UEA in 2013, when it had at most twenty members, most of whom were third years. The club had fundamental issues, with no regular coaches, insufficient equipment and no regular kit suppliers. . I had the benefit of being a member of my home club since a young age, which was run by my grandfather to great success. I was fortunate to be chosen as UEA’s boxing president alongside a keen new committee and we set out a new vision for the club. We aimed to recruit 100 members, participate for the first time in BUCS, compete in Derby Day, gain membership to the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) to enable greater opportunities, establish a regular kit supplier, get new equipment and train coaches within the club. We achieved all of this by the second year. We set up the ring for the Sports Fair which seemed very popular and this year we recruited 130 new members.
What do you think have been the reasons behind this growth?
I think it’s because of the increased exposure boxing is now enjoying, coupled with a new wave of people recognising boxing as an excellent way to get fit.
We ordered £5,000 worth of equipment, both for boxing and for fitness. This was helped by a Sportivate grant from the local council. We increased the sessions to four a week, with Wednesdays and Sundays run at UEA as fitness sessions, appealing to those interested solely in that.
Why have you been officially recognised by the ABA and how will this change or benefit the club?
I contacted Jon Dennis at the local club Attleborough ABC, who had previously worked with my grandfather, so he knew the standard I wanted to achieve. We officially became a satellite club of Attleborough, which the ABA recognise. This allows UEA members to have bouts against other ABA clubs and enter ABA tournaments.
What are you expecting when the club starts BUCS, results and participation wise?
We have two strong contenders Thomas Collins at under 69kg in the 2-10 bouts category and Rifat Hussein, a previous ABA semi-finalist at under 64kg. We also have several promising young fighters looking to compete for Attleborough, and have a full team ready to compete against Essex on Derby Day.
How welcoming is the club towards female members and what has accounted for the rise in numbers?
With the massive increase in membership, we saw more and more women joining. This meant that we had to adapt as many female members were interested in the fitness element of boxing.
In the past the club recruited female members, but they often left after a short period, so we invited discussion about what our growing number of female members wanted. We aimed to be more diverse and inclusive and I feel we have achieved this.
We recruited a new female coach to ensure the female members’ needs were being met, and the emphasis on all sessions, irrespective of gender, is to work to the limits of your ability. Everyone can work to their own best effort within a time period, instead of having to achieve an unrealistic expectation.
What has led to several members becoming qualified coaches and how has this benefited the club?
In our mission to expand opportunities for the club we hoped to include the teaching of coaching.
With the satellite status, six members passed the ABA level one coaching course, including a new female coach, Kirsty McAlpine. It will benefit the club massively in the long term as we are now self-sufficient and have a good bank of experience to continue to grow.
Where did the idea for the 24-hour spar come from and was it successful?
The idea of the 24-hour spar came from a desire to raise money for two causes close to my heart: Cancer Research, and Refuge. I lost my nan to breast cancer and the money raised for Cancer Research was dedicated in her memory. The attempt saw me sparring continuously for 24 hours with members of the public and club boxers taking turns against me. It proved massively popular and we raised over £600 for the two charities.