Checkmate easily delivered in 'physical chess'

Reporter Nicholas Jones is put through Jaime Ridge's boxing workout by trainer Monty Betham. Photo / Richard Robinson
Reporter Nicholas Jones is put through Jaime Ridge's boxing workout by trainer Monty Betham. Photo / Richard Robinson

It was a training session that started with pink strapping and gloves, and ended with my apologetic punches that wouldn't dent Playdough.

Thirty minutes of the most basic boxing training will give people newfound respect for Jaime Ridge, Rosanna Arkle, Butterbean - anyone who braves a boxing ring.

Used to comfortably running for up to an hour several times a week, the sudden change from aerobic to anaerobic fitness had me in tatters.

Breath was lost and never to return after the first "warm-up" drill of skipping - including "burpee" exercises as punishment for each time the rope hit my feet (too often).

A game of "tag" with trainer Monty Betham - the aim being to tap each other's shoulders or knees - produced a score of about 20 to one.

(Betham would later admit he allowed the point out of pity).

But it was during the next session of circuit exercises that I thereafter became a grimacing exercise zombie, dripping both sweat and shame.

One set equalled: down-and-ups on steps for 30 seconds; 30 seconds on the heavy bag; 30 seconds of jumping squats and chest-to-ground press-ups; and a final 30 seconds on the heavy bag.

After three sets, broken up by one-minute rest periods, punching power went from poor to symbolic.

My arms felt like those of a Tyrannosaurus rex at altitude.

"Keep the hands up," Betham instructed, making swipes at my head with a pool noodle to demonstrate the lesson.

I had other worries, but the photographer later confirmed that Betham, who works at Boxing Alley in Auckland, was smiling from ear-to-ear at the chance to toughen up a Weekend Herald reporter.

The final exercise was a body sparring session in the ring, with three rounds of two minutes broken up by one-minute breaks.

Betham invited me to punch away, effortlessly taking my powder-puff shots before occasionally delivering a punch to my ribs. Despite being all but one arm down after breaking his hand nine weeks ago, Betham could have picked me off at any point in the three rounds.

Glancing away shots and pegged in, I considered a Rope-a-Dope approach, then simply turned away and moved to a free area of the ring - a cardinal sin in boxing.

Oxygen-starved, I simply didn't care when alerted to this - a knock-out blow would have been sweet relief. The memory of yelling at David Tua to throw more punches in his world title fight with Lennox Lewis was suddenly absurd.

Afterwards, Betham said the explosive nature of boxing training was a shock for everyone in their first training session.

"I think a lot of people watch a boxing match and go, 'what are you hugging for? Just hit him'."But once you've given everything and used up all your energy, if your opponent hasn't, then you're in a bit of strife - as you saw when you were in the ring with me. That's why I love it - to me it's physical chess.

"That gameplay with each other, those strategic moves. But under extreme fatigue."

Boxing action
* KFC Godfather of All Fight Nights
* 6pm July 5, SkyCity
* Main bout Shane Cameron versus Monte Barrett

- NZ Herald

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