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Joanne Salley fights for Cancer Research

On the 12th September I will be jumping into the ring for a second time to raise money for Cancer Research. The Great Room, Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane is the arena and the audience a heaving mass of black tie clad glamour, the movers and shakers, celebrities and socialites. This biannual Boodles event is the much sought after social occasion in London and with the average ticket priced at 500 it certainly sets a standard. The aim to raise as much money for the Gordon Ramsey foundation to fight Neuroblastoma.

Every year for the last 17 years I have taken part in two charity fund raising challenges from marathons to long distance climbs and long distance cycling. Putting my self outside of my comfort zone and helping others is something, which gives me focus and purpose.

It all started in Miami in 2008 while on a walk in the evening, whilst my friend was back at the apartment getting ready for a night out, my inquisitive nature was allured up a set of steps after hearing a familiar noise of a bell (end of a round). I only had just watched the Oscar wining Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby”, so it didn’t faze me as a girl to walk into a boxing gym. I was met by an ex boxer who towered over me with some suspicion, I stood in the corner and watched the class with intrigue. He asked if I wanted to join in and after buying the gloves and wraps I was there the next evening. Bikram Yoga was near by and was a wonderful contrast to the boxing and so after 10 days of participation I was the fittest I had ever been. I think I inspired a friend and in August 2008 we went to Barcelona for a boxing training week. It was here that I found myself for the first time in a ring adorned with headgear and a mouth guard, quite the opposite from my friend, I found that I could punch and be punched. Most people are great on the pads, on the bag and with the fitness but would run a mile from the ring. I guess it was then that I realised the mental discipline needed, not only the physical.

There was female boxing in the 1904 Olympics so it is not a sport new to women although it was only in 2012 it made a comeback to the Olympic arena. Women boxing divides opinion more than most sports and indeed the most difficult thing I have found is some people’s response when I say I am training and taking part in a white-collar boxing match. I guess it is not what would be expected from a model and an ex Miss Northern Ireland! Its an intense physical and psychological discipline which involves the ability to overcome fear and anger. It’s about control and skill, outscoring and outclassing your opponent, a physical game of chess. Its by no means a soft sport and you have got to have guts to go in the ring and throw a punch and receive one. The training works and conditions every muscle including the heart and the lungs, and challenges cognitive functioning by keeping the mind sharp and engaged. For those not wanting to step into a ring the training itself is the most exhilarating way to workout combined with a sense of accomplishment and empowerment.

I started training a month ago at KX, managed by Gideon and my program overseen by the watchful eye of Lawrence, hard nosed boxing training with Carlos and Scott and strength and conditioning with the dream team in the gym. The support of KX has been fundamental to keep me walking on this road, when the alarm jolts me from slumber and I roll over aware of every muscle, I only have to think of the people who support, push and believe.
It’s tough to train solo, so having expert eyes making sure posture, position and the routine is perfect, fuels confidence and promotes growth. Everyday I am stronger, fitter, faster; everyday closer to the 12TH September and everyday a day closer to be ready to walk into the ring as a boxer fighting for a cause.

- Joanne Salley

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