Amateur Boxing for Beginners: A How-to Guide Part I

by A Manly Guest Contributor on November 18, 2010 · 16 comments

in Health & Sports, Sports

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Martin Schatz.

People come to boxing for a variety of different reasons and goals.  Some come to the sport as a tool for self-defense, some come for fitness, and some have aspirations to compete.  All are respectable goals, but this three part series will focus on those who plan to compete in amateur fights through USA Boxing.

In this first section, we will discuss how to find and decide on a boxing gym and how to decide on a coach.

Finding a Gym

First and foremost, an aspiring fighter needs to find a place to train.  Despite the booming popularity in boxing and MMA, this is often easier said than done.  First, keep in mind that not just any place that “has boxing” will do.  For your easy convenience, we have provided a list of gym attributes to look out for.

Find an actual boxing gym. This means a gym that exclusively coaches boxing.  This means no martial arts gym that “also” teaches boxing.  If you are interested in becoming a well-rounded martial artist, by all means, find a place that teaches ground fighting in addition to their stand-up styles.  But this post is for boxing and boxers, and MMA gyms do not usually have the A) quality of instruction, or B) the quantity of sparring partners necessary to mold a successful amateur boxer.  You also end up having to share the ring with the Muay Thai classes, the floor space with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu guys, and so on.  Believe me, an MMA school that has boxing “classes” is not where you want to hone your craft.

Which brings me to my next point…

Eliminate most (but not all) gyms that have structured boxing classes. Classes are great for fitness crowds and hobbyists, and I know that a lot of grappling sports are taught this way, but they do not a great boxer make.  As the popularity of boxing and kickboxing has exploded, all sorts of gyms have tried to cash in by offering instruction and classes in these sports.  Look, there is nothing wrong with boxing classes, but they are not usually geared towards making a competent fighter.  Some quality boxing gyms have started adding class times in order to offer the best of both worlds.  They have the guys training for fights in the back, while a 7:00 pm boxing class grooves to the latest in top 40 beats.  That’s all well and good, and I have seen some very respectable gyms do this.  In fact, my favorite gym that I have trained at was set up like this.  I would not automatically rule these hybrid places out, just be sure to check carefully into their fighters and coaches.

Eliminate any gym where the only guys who have fought before are the coaches and trainers. That tells you immediately that you will not have enough quality sparring partners once you get some degree of skill.  Getting your teammates ready for their fights and having them help you get ready for your own is a vital part of the gym environment.  If you are the only aspiring fighter at the gym, you have outgrown it before you have even laced up a pair of gloves.

Finding a Coach

Most legitimate boxing gyms have quite a few coaches and trainers who work as private contractors.  Some of them are friends with each other, some are enemies, and some are rivals. Once you have decided on a gym, I would talk with the owner/manager/guy-at-the-front-desk about what you are looking for.  He will ask you about your goals, your experience, your age, etc.  A lot of the time he will recommend a particular coach to you, which makes your job easier. Once introduced, you will most likely go through the same round of questions that you just answered.  If you have some experience, the coach will most likely put you through a workout. He’ll hold the focus mitts for you, watch you hit the bags, and watch you shadow box.  You are looking for someone with whom you have a good rapport.  I like to watch and see how he interacts with other people in the gym as well.  Does he seem liked, or at least, respected?  Who else does he train?  These are my suggestions for what I look for in a coach, but other traits may be more important to you:

1. Does he train other amateur fighters who are currently competing? It would be nice if he has guys around your own weight and experience level.  This way, you always have a ready sparring partner if there isn’t anyone else available on a particular day.

2. Does he personally work hard? Is he engaged in what his fighters are working on?  I always like it when my coach is working with someone else in the ring but notices me on the other side of the room and yells out for me to quit messing around.  It matters to him that I am doing things right.

3. Is he on time, not terribly hung-over, and mentally “there?” Sad story, but a lot of current trainers and coaches are ex-fighters, and boxing is a hard business.  There are a lot, more than one might think, of broken-down ex-pugs who are broke and at bottom.  For some of these guys, boxing is all they know, and that’s why they are still in gyms.  It is simply the only way they know how to make money.  I would suggest looking for a coach who still has a strong passion for the sport and cares deeply about coaching a new generation of fighters.

Once you’ve picked a gym and a coach, it’s time to get your feet wet and jump in. But as a newbie, you may be nervous about how you’re supposed to act in a boxing gym. Next time we’ll cover how you’ll be expected to carry yourself and train at the gym.

What other tips do you have for finding a good boxing gym and coach? Share your advice with us in the comments!

Amateur Boxing for Beginners: A How To Guide Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pete November 18, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Nice article, looking for the next segment.

2 Chris November 19, 2010 at 6:25 am

Had I been in the same mindset 20 years ago and had the opportunity for it, boxing would have been awesome. At 35, though, it’s a little late to start taking licks in the noggin.

I actually wouldn’t mind finding a place that did classes. Sure, it wouldn’t be as tough as the dudes working out in the back, but it would be a heckuva workout. Hmmm…

3 Martin Schatz November 19, 2010 at 10:18 am

Chris – This is a useful directory for gyms throughout the U.S.

4 Preston November 19, 2010 at 10:40 am

35 is not too old to get started. I just got a buddy of mine into boxing at 45. You should check out the Master’s Boxing Division:

I agree 100% with finding a true boxing gym. We have guys come into to spar and can definitely tell the difference in those that are getting trained by boxers and those that aren’t.

5 Terry Malloy November 19, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Most important thing for finding a good trainer is finding someone who understands your goals.

For example, I want to train hard, get better at the sport and really learn technique, spar frequently, etc. but I know I will never make (proper) training for even an amateur tournament a priority (other than the occassional white collar fight) — my job and other commitments still come first. So, I’m looking for a serious trainer, more than just “boxercise,” someone to push me, but someone who also realizes I can be pushed only so far.

My trainer (who works with professional and amateur fighters as well as some other clients like me) completely gets all this, and it makes for a great relationship between us — inside and outside the ring. We both take it seriously, we both work hard, and we understand if something else comes up from time to time. Other trainers won’t work with someone like me, which is fine obviously, or they will work with someone like me but won’t like it, which is anything but fine.

Point being, be honest with yourself about what you want and your ability to commit to those goals and then be 100% upfront with prospective trainers about whether they are really willing to work with you toward those same goals.

6 Bryan Schatz November 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Great article Martin, looking forward to parts two and three!

7 Brian Goodwin November 20, 2010 at 9:41 am

I have to admit that even after a short period in college when I took a basic boxing class, I still remember some of the key techniques. Keep moving and always keep your guard up! Great article. It’s made me think about finding a local boxing gym and taking some refresher courses.

8 Steve Harrington November 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I’ve thought about getting into boxing but have been nervous about how to get involved. So I really enjoyed this article. Keep em coming.

9 Jon W. November 21, 2010 at 2:07 am

amateur boxing is an INCREDIBLE way to push yourself and really bring out your man spirit. and anyone can do it with enough work and dedication. When I was in the army I boxed amateur and never since then have I pushed myself as much physically (and I have finished an olympic distance triathlon since then), plus the confidence gain is incredible. When you slip a two punch combo and come back to land a 3-2-3, it’s like a drug.

Good trainer is key though, just like in the article. My trainer was awesome, former pro boxer, worked his tail off, his fighters all competed, he was intense. To me, the nastier the gym looks, the more raw it is…the better.

Boxing will man you up in confidence, humility and strength.

10 John Smith November 21, 2010 at 3:58 am

This is a good article. I suggest taking up Mixed Martial Arts however. Boxing teaches you how to throw punches in a ring setting, which will of course lead over to self defense on the street. But MMA rules are a lot like street fighting. That stuff could really come in handy some day. I got in a fight not long after I started taking classes. I was amazed at how different i fought after the classes than before. Way more improved! Better safe than sorry.

11 Marcellus W. December 1, 2010 at 12:02 am

Ain’t no Old-Timers Day in boxing, Preston.

12 T.Greene October 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm

hi im 34 yrs old and ive been in quite a few street fights in my life.i think im well gifted with my hands.something keeps telling me to try boxing,but i dnt no were to start @. if you cld please guide me in the right direction please

13 mario January 10, 2013 at 8:01 pm

boxing for beginners any age 20-30 no problem/ 30-40 tidieous,larthargic/ 40+ heroic? 1st find a gym 2nd start training what boxers are doing like skipping,heavybag,floor/ceiling then,handpads and when fit start moving around with someone around your weight,only spar 3 rounds few times a week and then when ready have a few amatuer or go in the masters games and as for the dangers thousands of men and boys box whats a black eye a chipped tooth compared to the advantages to be made.

14 roger June 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm

im 18 and I have a year left in high school I like to fight but id like to do some mma or boxing to learn more but idk really were to look for a place to train I need help

15 Carl Aley March 12, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Youse guys (sorry, but I AM from Philly) seem to think that post-40 years old is somehow ‘over-the-hill’ to begin boxing. Well, let me tell ya, when I was 63 I was 50# overweight and had had 3 heart attacks! That’s when I stopped taking ALL prescription poisions I was on, stopped trusting doctors and drug companies, and started listening to my body. Now I’m 71… at 145# I’m the same weight as when discharged from the army (50+ years ago) and a member of Joe Hand’s Boxing Gym (yea, the same one Bernard Hopkins fights out of). I’ve only been working with my trainer, but I’m READY and ANXIOUS to start sparing, and then a few honest-to-God bouts with a motivated, same-weight (not same age) opponent. Hell… boxing just may kill me, but isn’t that a better way to go that by waiting for you walker and ond-age home?

16 Griffin Rizzo March 24, 2014 at 10:17 am

im 15 bout to turn 16 and im just starting to work on my boxing career my goal is to be a light heavy weight champion of the world ……. im coming up from kansas city so look out in a couple years


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