It’s a freezing cold Wednesday night in Lincoln, as I wondered the high street, trying to find a boxing club. I approached two gentlemen smoking outside of a pub, and asked them where the building was… I could not believe the answer.
I walked down an alleyway behind the very same pub, and I saw a small building that no one would have known was there. As I approached the front door, I heard someone shouting commands to the people inside. I opened the door to something that I thought you could only find in a Rocky movie.
The gym was full of punch bags dangling from the ceiling. Newspaper clippings of other boxers’ success over the years surrounded the gym on its walls. The instructions of the coach echoed throughout the room, and the sound of gloves hitting the bags followed.
Every so often a bell would sound, telling the students of the gym to switch places in a regimented training scheme… it felt old school. It felt like people had put in their blood, sweat, and tears into training to become a champion here.
The room did not have modern equipment or fancy facilities: it was gritty and intimate, but the atmosphere was still electric. A ring dominated the room, with coaches and students leaning on the ropes, watching and giving advice to the students hitting the pads inside the ring.
One of those students was up and coming boxer, Nathan Underwood.
Nathan got into boxing through watching matches with his father, and admires Gennady Golovkin, the unified WBA, WBC, IBF, and IBO middleweight champion, and Canelo Álvarez. Nathan continues to be inspired by these boxers, as he watches as much boxing as he can in whatever spare time he has. Nathan is a real student of the game.
As he first started, Nathan said jokingly that he was “useless” at first, but it is as his coach in Lincoln, Terry Allen, said: when Nathan first entered the gym, he was like the majority of his students in his club when they first start out; “Most are unbalanced, lacking in confidence, but learn as they go. They come to the gym thinking that they fight with their hands but you fight with your feet with your footwork, a lot of young people don’t understand that at first.”
The echoes of the coaches shouting and encouraging students, with the sound of gloves pummelling bags continued – it’s so loud that even my voice recorder picks up the thunderous noise.
After a vigorous six week-long training camp in both Evolution Gym in Louth, and Terry Allen’s Unique Boxing Gym in Lincoln, learning as he goes, Nathan sadly lost on Saturday via points scoring to Sam Spooner, from Bullwell Amateur Boxing Club.
However, Nathan still has a record of 5 wins out of 9 amateur fights, with a previous undefeated streak, as he continues to progress and learn.
Undeterred and fearless when I interviewed him before his fight, Nathan said: “I always try to do the best I can and compete against anyone they put me in there with.” As Terry also said: “It’s all about progression and learning.” Nathan stated fighting at a county level, and winning his first fight “was the same as any other”, showing his valour and gumption towards boxing from the start.
He seemed shy at first, as one of his other coaches Colan Forman told me: “Nathan couldn’t believe that [you] were turning up to interview him”. In fact, he wasn’t shy at all: he was just exhausted from training. He was putting in the work on the pads, bags, and footwork exercises. He was attending two separate classes in the space of one evening, which showed his dedication to the sport.
Nathan has the potential to be a major name in the future of the sport – but it all starts somewhere, putting in that hard work, in the heart of Lincolnshire.