The Boxing Match


On reflection, I suppose the most enjoyable and carefree period of my life was the three years after I left school aged 15. Although education now continues for much longer in most of the western world, this was the UK school-leaving age in 1960. For those three years I was a telegram delivery boy, my first year on a bicycle and the following two on a motorbike when I legally became of age to own a driving licence. It was a period of time when like most youngsters I felt almost immortal. I had money in my pocket that was earned, nothing fantastic but it did give one a degree of independence. Also there were none of the future adult worries about providing for a family, mortgages or insurance, those things would come soon enough but not at that moment of time.

It was also a drug free age for most people, this being something that young and old alike would be horrified at. Drugs were simply not the done thing and it makes me wonder even now why people use them as those who have never tried them will know, you simply do not need them. Life is more enjoyable to the full without them. The almost drug free culture of those days has certainly kept me in good stead and apart from the rare anti-biotic prescription from a doctor that is the way it will always stay as far as I am concerned.

The legal age for buying alcoholic drinks in a public house, (bar), in the UK is 18, the same as it was in 1960. I still had to wait until I was 21 before I legally became an adult and awarded the traditional  “Key of the door”. I am aware the minimum age for buying alcohol remains at 21 in some countries which I find strange as also in most countries, people are now legally classified as an adult at that age. I suspect like most 17-year-old youngsters at the time, we did enjoy the occasional late night pint in a public house, with the oldest looking of our mates being pushed to the front of the queue to do the buying. A new emerging pop group named the Beatles marked the transition from the post-war years and heralded the brave new future.

It was also a time before regular girl friends although my friends and I would occasionally take a girl home from the local dancing hall called the Ilford Palais. As with most youngsters of that time, friends would brag about their sexual exploits from the night before, however one always knew it was not true. It was an era when the pill had not yet arrived and society still attached a great social stigma to unmarried mothers. Due to the potential consequences, most girls simply would not dare get involved in sexual relationship with a one night stand or even more regular boyfriend. Heavy petting however was another thing.

There has always been a strong boxing tradition in the East End of London and the telegraph branch of the Post Office where I worked at was no different. Each year the London Region of the telegraph service would hold a boxing competition between the various postal districts that comprised the London Region. Each year my own Eastern District would proudly hold onto the winners cup and never had been known to lose the competition. It was not a case that all us youngsters were budding world boxing champions but more a case of being “persuaded” to enter. As the Godfather in the film of the same name would say, we were made an offer we could not refuse. In our case it was anyone who did not wish to enter would become the practice punch bag for those that did wish to enter. Needless to say this ploy always worked, it also ensured that my area retained the cup.

The competition was decided on a points basis with so many points being awarded to the winner of a bout and lessor points to the loser. Due to the high number of entrants from my district being much greater than any other, it was required that many of us would be paired against our colleagues rather than rival from another location. This ensured my East London District would always come out with the highest number of points even if we lost every bout against opposing districts.

Training

Our boss was something of an elderly white-haired man and something of a father figure to us all. He was certainly elderly to us youngsters but at that time, I suppose anyone over about 25 years old seemed as equally elderly. Although he was frail looking he did show us some photographs of himself and friends at a swimming pool when he was young. At that time he certainly displayed a muscular physic to be proud of although health problems in latter years clearly led to his wasted away look. Ernie or simply “Guv”, (short for Governor),  to us decided that we need to come up to match fitness several months before the event. Once we submitted to and passed medical tests to confirm our fitness to participate in the boxing match, Guv placed the entire office under a strict training regime. Every time our lunch break came around, Guv would detail us to run a circuit around Wanstead Flats. Wanstead Flats is a large open area of grassland near our office and is the southern most tip of Epping Forest. Our dress was regulation navy blue shorts, white singlet and plimsolls, fancy trainer shoes did not exist then and this would also be our dress during the boxing match. The circuit around Wanstead Flats and back to our office was about four miles and for the first week we all arrived back knackered. (Colloquial language for being physically exhausted). After about two weeks when we arrived back with our rapidly improving fitness levels, Guv simply told us all to go and do another lap.

The basement of the multi-storey office where I worked was huge with a long corridor and doors located on either side. One of these windowless basement rooms about 30 foot square, was allocated to my office and used to store our sports equipment. We did convert it into a temporary gymnasium with punch bags etc. As a person who had never boxed before I began to learn some of the rudimentary skills. As an individual I am not particularly keen on boxing but I did learn I had something of a lightning fast killer punch. As absurd as it may seem, there was a period of time during each training session when we all wore boxing gloves and the room lights were turned off. Being windowless the room was pitch black. The rules were quite simply, one had to simply stumble around in the dark and punch anyone you might make contact with. You would never know who you had hit or indeed, who had hit you. Startled cries of pain from the darkness always meant someone, somewhere had made contact.

The Fight

The night of the big fight finally arrived and I think all contestants felt a little trepidation at how well each would fare in their individual bouts. I think most of those who did not come from the East End felt daunted at their prospects as the fearsome reputation of the East Enders preceded them. To my dismay I was not matched with a contestant from another area but with a person from my own part of the world. Although he came from a different office to mine he was also well-known as an amateur boxer, clearly my own prospects of winning became severely diminished.

All bouts consisted of three rounds of three minutes duration. From the start, my opponent came straight at me like an express train as I came under a deluge of blows. His superior boxing skills soon showed and believe me, it hurt. The lightning fast killer blow that I did not know I possessed until I started training managed to put my opponent on the canvas twice with the referee starting to count him out. Unfortunately he struggled back to his feet on both occasions to return to his vicious onslaught. Eventually the match went to full-time and the judges award the match to my opponent. Although I managed to floor my opponent twice he clearly had the upper hand in term on the number of blows that landed on me. I did not feel too bad about the result considering I was a complete beginner against an amateur boxer and felt proud I managed to stay the distance and never went down once. I was also awarded a silver medal for getting my brains bashed in. That I am glad to say was the my first and also the last  boxing match I ever participated in.

My area as usual retained the champions cup for another year and as for myself, I certainly ended up a lot fitter due to the training, even if somewhat bruised.

For anyone who may read this who is in the same 15-18 age group I was in at that period of time, I would strongly advise you to enjoy your life while you can.

One Response

  1. […] original post here: The Boxing Match « Mick's Muses's No Comments by admin on December 10, 2010  •  Permalink Posted in […]

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