We sent one of our journalists to Dublin's newest boxing gym to see how fit he really is

If you like full-body workouts, Underdog gym could be for you.

The photographer managed to capture the only moment where I looked in any way competent.
The photographer managed to capture the only moment where I looked in any way competent.

I LET KATIE Taylor down. I let Kenneth Egan down. I let our proud country’s history of boxing, both amateur and professional, down.

Boxing looks very difficult – a glimpse at Carl Frampton’s 24-pack or one of the HBO 24/7 specials lets you know just how much they all train before fights – but I was just doing one 45-minute class.

Surely I could reach the final bell, right?

I was invited to Underdog Boxing Gym on Cuffe Street in Dublin’s city centre to try out one of their classes. It was a mixture of basic boxing skills – pads, heavy bag and some footwork in the ring – with a bit of circuit conditioning training thrown in too.

The gym opens to the public this coming Monday and they are trying to tap into a market of people who enjoy a full body workout rather than the traditional weight lifting or aerobic exercises.

There are five trainers at the gym, and they cover a lot. Karl Bennett, Victor Rabei and Manny Bique cover the in-ring stuff while Eddie Luby and Darren McClelland are strength and conditioning coaches. All five are certified coaches in their area of expertise.

boxing3 The Underdog staff and a very tired journalist.

The boxing element of their sessions makes it fun but if you haven’t had any experience throwing punches in bunches before, your system might be in for a surprise.

I thought I was reasonably fit. I have a gym membership and usually go 4-5 times a week, doing the ‘traditional’ exercises that make fitness hipsters roll their eyes.

But it turns out that I am a fitness fraud. I knew I was a fraud, despite looking somewhat fit, but the scale of my fraudulence surprised even me.

After a brief warm-up, my first task was to hit the heavy bag while Victor gave me instructions. I needed to circle it like a shark, left-to-right and then right-to-left, and throw punch combinations.

In my naivety, I started fast. One, one-two. One, one-two. I felt like Floyd Mayweather initially but quickly turned into Butterbean.

My footwork became a bit sloppy and the first rule of throwing a punch – always tuck your chin in behind your shoulder to avoid a counter – was forgotten quickly and often. At the end of the first three minute round, I felt very, very tired.

But despite my struggles, I only lost to the heavy bag by split decision.

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It was a tough but rewarding exercise. You get some cardio work done from shifting around the bag and your arms and shoulders get a hit from punching incessantly.

After another round on the bag we moved into the ring. This required more movement and whenever my new trainer Manny shouted ‘Dip’, I needed to duck or face the embarrassment of being potentially knocked down in a non-contested training session.

The pad work required more elaborate combinations – double jabs and four/five punch combos – and as the intensity was increased, I struggled to maintain my energy levels. It gives you a massive appreciation for how boxers – like Andy Lee last weekend – seem to gain strength as a fight goes on because it was a struggle for me to continue punching with power as the round continued.

An interesting wrinkle between rounds was what the guys called an ‘active recovery’, which consisted of squats and then mountain climbers. Rather than taking a complete rest, this relatively easy mini-set allowed you to catch your breath before getting back in the ring.

Thankfully, the fourth round focused more on technique, which meant I could work on learning the basics without fear of collapsing from exhaustion. After my tutorial, Karl broke the news that the boxing was just to get me ‘warmed up’ for the conditioning part of the class.

Personal trainer Eddie took over and broke it down into four exercises to be done continuously for 15 minutes:

  • 10 wall balls – throw a 10 kg medicine ball up against the wall and catch it. Sounds easy… it is not!
  • 8 box jumps – you squat down and jump up onto a box (think it was 24 inches).

Source: ScottHermanFitness/YouTube

  • 6 medicine ball slams – just raise a medicine ball high above your head and slam it down on a mat as hard as you can.
  • 4 barbell thrusters – Probably the toughest of the four but the least reps.

Source: ReebokCFONE/YouTube

The circuit started off pretty easily but by the third or fourth trip around, my shoulders and arms ached from an accumulation of punching, medicine ball lifting and wiping my brow with a towel.

That was the end of my session but then I took a tour of the two floors where Underdog operate from. The top floor is where the ring and boxing equipment are while the lower floor is where the personal trainers will run the fitness classes.

People can sign up for a wide range of classes from beginners boxing to advanced to circuit training to a combination of both. If you are tired of the standard gym routine or are looking to get fit, Underdog gym might be a fun place to start.

At the very least, you might finally appreciate some of Ireland’s most successful athletes a little bit more.

To book a class at Underdog gym, click here.

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