Your Essential Guide To White-Collar Boxing

Your Essential Guide To White-Collar Boxing


Tempted to mix up your sporting routine, challenge yourself to something new and get in the ring?
Well you'd be one of many giving white collar boxing a go. It's not for the faint hearted but it will give you an adrenaline rush like few other sports will. We spoke to ex-world middleweight champion Darren Barker, the co-founder of TwelveThree boxing gym about what a typical training programme looks like, how many hours a week you need to commit to win and – most importantly – how to avoid getting hurt.

Can you explain exactly what white-collar boxing is?
White-collar boxing matches are held all over the UK. People who are curious about boxing or want to learn a new skill train like a professional fighter for a set period of time, before getting in the ring and fighting an opponent for three two-minute rounds. It’s a great opportunity for people with little or no boxing background to experience it, in a safe and enjoyable environment. The majority of white-collar boxing events are in aid of a charity, so it’s a great way to get fit, while raising money for a good cause at the same time. The venues can often be quite swanky, so it’s a good night out for the families and friends of those competing.

And how do you get started?
There are many organisations offering white-collar boxing. It’s important to do your due diligence before signing up, as there are organisations out there that don’t offer the gold standard in safety and have inexperienced coaches. There are little to no sign-up requirements. As long as you can train hard and push your body in the build-up without any concerns or worsening previous injuries, it’s safe to take part.

Once you’ve signed up, what happens next?
Usually you will be invited along to a registration meeting, where you will be given all of the information about the process and have the chance to ask any questions. Then the training starts and – before you know it – it’s show time.

Tell us about the training…
The training is intense, but it will get you to where you need to be, and there is no pressure to push yourself further if you are not in the position to. At most boxing gyms, your coach will be with you every step of the way and provide you with everything you need in order for you to reach your goal. A training programme will usually consist of technical and fitness drills, alongside sparring two to three times a week. Participants are also recommended to do a minimum of one cardio session a week. The ‘fight camp’ 12-week training package we offer at TwelveThree consists of two one-hour sparring sessions per week, which are held in the ring and carefully supervised. Participants learn to hit and not get hit, with both technical and body sparring alongside tactical coaching and drills.

"Ideally you need to be training two or three times a week for an hour at a time"

How many hours a week will you have to commit?
Ideally you need to be training two or three times a week for an hour at a time, but there is no limit – you can train every day if that’s what suits you. Some people like to train more frequently to help reduce anxiety and nerves before the fight.

And is nutritional advice included in the training?
This will depend on the gym you have chosen to train at. If you are unsure on what your diet should look like, then it’s important to ask your coach. At TwelveThree, our coaches provide nutritional advice throughout the process. Boxers need to eat little and often in order to keep their metabolism high. A diet of protein and complex carbs with plenty of veg, wholegrains and water is recommended. Participants should also carb up in the build-up to ensure they have lots of energy on fight night.

How do you know a good boxing gym from a bad one?
Most boxing gyms are pretty bog standard. They will include a ring, bags and training equipment such as dumbbells. It’s important to look out for coaches that have been around the sport for a while. The quality of the coaching will tell you how good the gym is.

Talk to us about the gear – what do you need to wear?
A standard gym kit, hand wraps, gloves and a gum shield are all the gear you need to train. At the event you wear a vest, shorts, boxing boots to protect your ankles, gum shield and hand wraps. Gloves and a head guard should be provided.
What is a weigh-in?
It takes place at the beginning, middle and end to track your progress through the training programme. It is essentially jumping on the scales to ensure you are matched up with someone similar to your weight. You are matched against weight, height, fitness, ability and experience.

"Disguise the fact you are hurt as much as possible."

Talk us through the night of the fight…
Upon arrival at the venue, you get shown to your changing room to get comfortable with your surroundings. Sometimes opponents will be split up to help set the atmosphere and boost adrenaline. The organiser will explain the order of the evening and let you know what time you’re competing. With half an hour to go, you start warm-ups with your coach, get into your kit and apply your hand wraps. Your coach will then walk you down to the ring for show time.

Getting punched hurts, right?
The adrenaline and nerves take away any pain you would normally feel, but this doesn’t apply for body punches – they hurt and you can’t disguise the look of being winded! My top tip is to try and not show your opponent any pain. Disguise the fact you are hurt as much as possible.
Is there any surefire way to win a fight?
Boxing is very simple when you break it down. If your opponent can’t hit you, they can’t win. If they hit you, make sure you hit them twice. If you hit the opponent more times than they hit you, you will win. Fact. The most common boxing mistake I see in the ring is dropping the hands and looking away from the shot. You should keep your hands near your opponent’s eyes or gloves at all times, and maintain a proper boxing guard.

Can you give us five fight night tips?

  • Enjoy it
  • Try not to get hit by the opponent; hit them more times than they hit you
  • Stay focused
  • Be proud of what you’re doing and what you’ve achieved
  • Remember what you’ve been taught

Do you find lots of guys continue boxing after the event?
Most people I have met who have previously fought at an event have done more than one. The feeling of bettering yourself and improving for the next fight is addictive and gives you the motivation to train for the next one. The adrenaline on fight night is one of the best feelings ever; people want to feel that again and again.
Which is the best fight night? And why?
Fight nights have gained popularity in recent years and are really big occasions, so there’s a lot of good ones to choose from. Do your research and speak to people who have competed before. Always make sure the organisation will look after you throughout the whole process. If you want something more low key, where there is less pressure from people watching you, then I would recommend signing up for Fight Camp at TwelveThree. If you want something bigger and more glamorous, there are events at banqueting suites and London hotels which are watched by hundreds of people.

And is it actually safe to compete?
The sport itself would say no, as you get punched, but if you are with a well-respected company that will teach you to hit and not get hit, then of course it will be safe. A doctor will see you before and after the fight, and there are also medics ringside. At the end of the day, entering into white-collar boxing is done at your own risk and the gym you’re training at should have insurance.
Finally, what would you say to someone thinking of giving it a go?
You’ve had the thought and you’re curious about it, so get down to a gym and give it a go. You only live once, so just do it. Don’t be one of those people who regrets not taking part. Everyone I know that has taken part has loved every minute of it. It’s an experience that will live with you forever, and that feeling of pride you get from taking part is amazing.

For more information, visit

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at [email protected].