'Joining the world of white collar boxing taught me true meaning of pain'

By Charlotte Callear | In-depth | Published:

Weighing in at just 62kg and standing at a petite 5ft 5ins, a charity boxing bout was not an obvious fundraiser for Charlotte Callear

Eye of the tiger – Charlotte gloved up and ready to rumble

The room was alive with sweaty men and women fervently skipping in front of misty mirrors and a boxing ring ominously stained with blood splatters.

In a sharp scouse accent, Coach yells out a command: “Get on the floor and give me 25 sit up twists, then skip, 25 squat jumps, and continue to skip, 25 burpees, then skip again.”

The room drops in synchronisation to obey.

I joined the chorus of cursing and groans from exhausted amateur boxers giving birth to phantom babies.

The loud ‘motivational’ music blaring through speakers failed to drown us out, because we are all being constantly reminded that if we cheat Coach we are cheating ourselves.

Plus an ex-army scouser shouting orders at you is enough to warrant silent submission – especially when the punishment for not doing an exercise is, well, to do more exercise.

This was the first gruelling session of eight weeks of training in preparation for an ‘ultra white collar’ boxing match, where amateurs have to face off in the ring to fight each other and raise a minimum of £50 for Cancer Research UK.

I love the idea of raising cash for a good cause, but the thought of running – unless it’s a hot bath after a long day – seems daunting, and considering my less than impressive culinary skills, a bake sale would drive people away.


So boxing it is.

Charlotte squares up against fellow boxer Lee Vincent

As a petite 5ft 5 inch woman weighing 62kg, I had never thrown a punch or ever been punched in my life, so I had my apprehensions about signing up.

But after the first session I knew I had nothing to fear. The group was a melting pot of different people, all with two things in common – the complete inability to box and a desire to raise money for charity.


It attracts everyone from gym-crazy to ‘gymophobe’, tall to small, and fat to thin. We all grunt, sweat and laugh together, thriving on every moment of it. A short online registration through Facebook was easy enough which was then followed by a meeting and a set of rules.

They are stated clearly in black and white on a piece of paper handed out at the door at the start of the first session by Coach, a bulky tattooed man with a shaved head named Graham Mcfadyen, who is either laughing with us in between exercises or at us during circuits.

Rule number one is to only refer to Coach as Coach, who you must respect (rule three) along with your fellow boxers (rule four).

Phones, gum, mp3s, and sitting down are all banned and the final rule is to work hard whether that is by completing straining army-styled circuits where we flip tyres, squat weights and wildly wave around heavy battle ropes or by beating our weekly bleep test score.

I hadn’t known true pain until I was lying on a blood-stained boxing ring doing sit-ups for three minutes, having long since reached what I thought was the absolute limit of my endurance levels.

Fair enough, after a while I resemble a beetle stuck on it’s back, all arms and legs flailing around helplessly. It gets to the point when I can no longer move.

Anyone starting off too unfit, too shy or overly ‘feminine’ tends to get over it very quickly – mostly because you are too exhausted to care about anything other than a break and water.

Four weeks in and I found myself leaps and bounds ahead of where I started. I had never heard of commando press-ups (Ed... don’t try them at home!) but now I am proud to say I can do 10(ish) of them.

By the time we started sparring my heart was beating out of my chest.

Everything I had learned escaped my mind once I faced a person in boxing gloves in the ring rather than a bag that couldn’t hit back.

But after regaining my senses, the experience was addictive as the adrenaline kicked in and I took a few hits, including one blow to the nose.

The training has left me bloody, sweaty and physically sick on more than one occasion due to sheer intensity of it all.

Has it all been worth it? I guess I will find out in a few days time when my newly honed fighting skills are really put to the test.

  • Charlotte and the rest of her white collar brawlers will hit the ring at Wolverhampton Racecourse on July 14. Visit for tickets.
Charlotte Callear

By Charlotte Callear

Reporter based at the Express & Star's Wolverhampton head office


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