Recorder reporter steps into the ring explore Nicola Adams effect

Boxing trainer Steven Gallante at the Reebook gym in Canary Wharf.

Boxing trainer Steven Gallante at the Reebook gym in Canary Wharf. - Credit: Archant

Many people are up for trying new things at the start of the year—but my eagerness to get in a boxing ring was generally met with disbelief.

Newham Recorder reporter Melissa York in a boxing training with Steven Gallante at the Reebook gym i

Newham Recorder reporter Melissa York in a boxing training with Steven Gallante at the Reebook gym in Canary Wharf. - Credit: Archant

But more and more women are raising their fists in the name of exercise, especially after Team GB’s historic success during London 2012. Call it the Nicola Adams effect.

Newham Recorder reporter Melissa York in a boxing training at the Reebook gym in Canary Wharf.

Newham Recorder reporter Melissa York in a boxing training at the Reebook gym in Canary Wharf. - Credit: Archant

“There’s never before been an Olympics where we were talking about a female boxer,” explains Steven Gallante, my coach for the session. “Her footwork was absolutely unbelievable. She’s in and out. It was a joy to see and for British boxing, it was amazing.”

Steven, known as Stevie G in fitness circles, moved to Stepney when he was two, took up the sport when he was 12, and won his first fight in Bethnal Green’s York Hall when he was 19.

After that, Stevie spent two years in the Royal Green Jackets and two years as a trainee in the Royal Marines which he describes as “the toughest thing I have ever done in my life.”


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Thoroughly tougher, Stevie now has nearly 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry and he’s leading the Reebok Sports Club’s first women’s boxing course for beginners in Canary Wharf.

Stevie said: “From all the women I’ve trained, I know that women really enjoy the technical side of things. They like to know why they’re doing what they’re doing.

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“When a woman gets on a pair of gloves, I don’t know what happens to her. You saw it yourself, focusing, getting into it! When women get into boxing, they really love it.”

Stevie lived up to his military past as soon as I walked in and immediately told me to put in a few minutes on the cross-trainer as a warm up. Whatever happened to star jumps?

Then I got into the ring—the “office” to Stevie—where I was taught how to adopt my stance and how to hold my hands to protect my face.

We started off with wraps around my hands and Stevie put me in front of a mirror where I was taught how to move with my punches.

Just as I was beginning to feel a bit like a ninja, we progressed to the gloves that were approximately the size of my head and I suddenly felt clumsy again.

But with Stevie’s encouragement, I became less focused on what I looked like and more about what I punched like.

In the group boxing classes, everyone applauds each other at the end of demonstrations so it feels more like a social club and less like training—an aspect that means more people stick with this form of exercise than those who sign up for solitary trips to the gym in the New Year.

It can also be a completely equipment-free form of exercise that can be practised in your front room or in front of the bathroom mirror.

Boxing works every part of your body without you consciously thinking about it, according to Stevie, and it did feel like a workout, but only once I had stopped moving around the ring—I was having too much fun to notice the hard work.

It almost goes without saying that boxing is a combat sport, so even a non-contact course has self-defence benefits.

Stevie also said boxing is a mental workout as the self-discipline and focus required of a boxer is nothing to do with power or physical strength.

He said: “It’s a thinking sport. If you’re tired, you need to know you’ll find the right punch.

“It’s not like any other class where, if you get it wrong in zumba, or aerobics, or a body pump class, no one necessarily gets hurt.

“But in a boxing class, if someone’s not watching where they’re punching, someone gets hit in the face. So you always need to have your wits about you.

“I got told before that a good fighter capitalises on your mistakes—but a great fighter tricks you into making mistakes.”

Strong, smart, fearless females—women’s boxing needs you.

The Women’s Boxing course runs for nine weeks from Monday, February 4, from 12.30pm to 1.30pm at Reebok Sports Club, 16-19 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, E14 5ER. For costs and booking, call 0207 970 0925.

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