CityBoxer Boxing Training at The Ring in London

Earlier tonight I revisited The Ring in Southwark, South London, for a CityBoxer one-on-one taster session (£40). In a way I guess you could say that I was cheating, booking a taster session. I had booked another taster session with them eight years ago and followed up by booking a whole ten-week boxing course. I had done some boxing at different gyms since.

However, in terms of my skills I was not cheating at all. I was very much an absolute beginner without any talent or ability.

The best way to get rid of frustration

I love boxing. It’s the perfect way to get rid of aggression and frustration that inevitably builds up in most of us over time. I’m not more aggressive or more frustrated than the next guy, don’t get me wrong. I’m probably below average in terms of aggression and frustration. But boy does it feel good to do some punching.

Working through some issues

On a completely different note, Ellie once had the idea of booking us into several couples boxing sessions. I had initially been sceptical, because Ellie is a relatively small lady and I am a relatively tall man. Nonetheless it turned out to be great fun for both of us. Naturally I was only going at 5%, but that was enough to keep Ms B on her toes. Equally, I am pretty sure she enjoyed punching me, and she sure as hell was not going at 5% but more like 120%. We were clearly both working through some issues.

Whenever she caught me unguarded and placed one in my face, I made it a habit to get back at her at 8%. For a very brief moment each time that happened she seemed a tad scared, going “No, don’t do that, Stefan” and the other people in our group started looking. I hesitantly went down to 5% again and sure enough, a few minutes later she’d land another punch right in my face…

The Burf

Eight years ago I had my CityBoxer London training sessions with a fun guy I’m still in loose touch with. He reported into Mark “The Burf” Burford, the head coach at The Ring. Today I was lucky to be trained by the big man himself. And he is big.


Mark is one of the coolest and friendliest blokes I’ve ever met. I was a bit pushy when I arrived at the gym, having hardly made it on time due to traffic problems. Mark was preparing some espresso in the kitchen, facing away from me. Without making any effort of turning around he mumbled something about taking it easy.

A couple of minutes later he walked over to the far end of the bar, where I was standing, greeted me and put a paper cup of espresso in front of me that tasted delicious. Mark doesn’t rush things and he likes a good coffee. Fair enough.


When I had finished my cuppa I made my way to the changing room and changed into the boxing gear. Five minutes later I was back at the main area with the main ring and the bar and kitchen area. Mark spotted immediately that the way I had taped my hands was rubbish. He made me take the tape off and then showed me how to do it properly. I’m pretty sure it was different to how I had been taught eight years ago, but fine in my book. Gotta move with the times. I even downloaded Tiktok, so all bought in here.

Mark made it clear he didn’t think that my gloves were very practical and he recommended a different type and make. For today my old gloves would do.

Punching pads

We went straight into punching pads. Mark explained which number signified which move. One was a straight left, two was a straight right, and so on. For about 25 minutes he went 1-1-2-5-3, 1-2-1-3, 3-2, 1-2-3-2, and so on and I followed his commands. As some of you know, I’m a huge metal head, so it was pure bliss listening to AC/DC and Metallica while dancing around the ring.

I-N-S-A-N-E workout

Before I started to do a tiny tad of boxing I had no idea how energy-consuming throwing punches is. Yes, it looked like it takes a bit of energy. Of course. But I had no idea what an INSANE amount of energy it takes. I truly believe that five minutes of throwing heavy punches equates to a one-hour heavy workout in the gym.

How to warm up before a run

When runners talk about their sophisticated techniques of warming up before a big run, polite boxers try hard not to laugh. Boxers run 10 or 15k to warm up, then they do some boxing, before doing some weight-lifting and skipping.

Everything in one single training regime

I never pretend to be particularly sporty. I’m not. But I’ll say this: I’ve never tried my luck at a sport that took so much out of me and that gave so much back. There simply is no better exercise regime than the one that goes with boxing. Strength, explosive speed, flexibility, endurance, cardio… you name it, and boxing training will be roughly one million times better at it than the next best training regime. And that’s a conservative guess.


Eight years ago I was on the verge of signing up for a fight in front of a CityBoxer London audience. I had gained Ellie’s permission, had asked for the paperwork, had filled in the paperwork, and signed it. The only thing left to do was to hand it back to my trainer.

Back then every newbie was encouraged to do so, completely irrespective of their skills. The idea was that on fight day there would be three or four fights between newbies before the semi-pro lightweight fights kicked off. The day would finish with the semi-pro heavyweight fight.

I had done the pros and cons. Pro: it’s a great incentive to train hard. Con: you could potentially end up with a real bad headache, or so I thought.

During the last fight day before what was going to be ‘my’ fight day, an amateur boxer got killed at The Ring. It was the first fatality in an amateur fight in England and the first of any boxer in England since 1995. This is terribly sad. It is, however, not in any way a stain on The Ring’s or CityBoxer London’s vest: boxing is dangerous. Boxers train to be dangerous and to cause maximum harm. I’m not that much into boxing as a combat sport. I see boxing training as a great way to increase my fitness and mental health.

Gentlemen (and inspiring ladies) in the ring

Is boxing ethical or even a sport? I’m not going to get into that. What I will say is that very different from UFC where it is common practice to punch people’s heads when they are already flat on the ground, boxing does have sportsmanship, fairness, strict rules, and a long history of largely very gentlemanly or ladylike conduct in the ring. A very large percentage of elite boxers have excelled as role models, especially for young men and kids from underprivileged backgrounds.

No discrimination against fatties

In principle, big is beautiful in boxing. Andy Ruiz Jr., the fat Mexican (not an insult, factual) that beat six-packed Anthony Joshua, weighs twenty kilograms more than me, thirty more than Tyson, but he became world heavyweight champion… as a chubby cherub, how cool is that, right!?!!

Back for more soon

After the pad-punching, Mark made me do a few exercises like punching the mini-boxing-bell-thingy (sorry, I’m not just rubbish in practice but also in theory) and some pads fixed to the walls, before we did another round of hand-held pad-punching. Then I was finally released. It had been a fun 45 minutes, but I must have lost about 5 litres of sweat.

I’m planning to book more sessions at CityBoxer London soon. 5 out of 5 in my book.

Looking for more fun activities? Check out our posts about skiing in Mayrhofen, kayaking in the New Forest, jetlevving and skydiving near Cambridge, or deep sea fishing off Brighton.

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  1. Boxing sounds like such a great workout! It’s always nice to find a way to exercise that’s also fun. I had a good laugh over your story about couples boxing. My husband is currently taking Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing) classes and is trying to convince me to join for a class. I think not! I don’t even think I’d survive the warm ups.

    1. Oh.. Muay Thai sounds much more extreme but very cool. I guess I see where you’re coming from with the not-joining-your-husband thingy. It’s much easier for me to do shadow boxing instead of real boxing than it would be for your husband to pretend to nearly hit you hard with his foot but not actually hit you haha… Thanks for leaving this comment.

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