THE amateur sport is struggling to come back in Britain. There are no tournaments and activity is restricted. But international teams have been able to go overseas and are trying to make up the lost time.

Scotland’s Sean Spence has been training with their High Performance set up and last month was in Russia on a tough camp with hard sparring. “That was my third camp completed with the Scotland team. What they’ve done is take us out of Scotland on training camps,” Spence tells Boxing News. “They’ve had to do all the right procedures and have been getting us tests non-stop.

“We were in Lithuania on a training camp and obviously we’ve just been in Russia and I think we’re going to get another one in before the end of the year. So it’s not bad. We’ve not been at full capacity in our high performance centre. They’ve not had everyone back in, they’ve just been doing small numbers, social distanced stuff. They can’t do any padwork, they can set people tests on bags and do S&C stuff in there. So it’s not completely normal but it’s been a lot better than for your average club boxer.

“I give them their dues, they’ve done excellent by us.”

“There was talk of there maybe being bouts and stuff [in Russia but] it was kind of test match sparring. We got sparring all the way through it and then at the end of the camp they got us set up with our sparring partner and we did a three rounds test match. It was just like a fight, just as good and with the standard of the Russians. Everyone was round the ring like a fight and we were all going mental for each other. The Russians rooting for their boys and we were rooting for ours,” he continued. “It was hard all the way through, you know how good these Russians are, I don’t think you could pick a bad one.”

But the Scottish boxers are having to shake off their own ringrust. “The same sort of thing happened in Lithuania,” Spence explained. “They’ve been hosting tournaments, they’ve been hosting the nationals. When we were sparring in Lithuania we had test matches with them [and] they were at a good standard.

“It’s exactly what we needed and everyone rose to the occasion.”

But they are having to play catch up. “We’re sort of getting left behind,” he continued. “There have still been tournaments and nationals and stuff going on around the world, apart from Britain. We are being left behind. But we’ll just try to get through as best we can and I commend Scotland’s team for doing it for us, for taking us away and trying to keep us up to scratch and keep us improving.”

He’s still looking for a fight. “Because of everything going on obviously everything’s changing every week to be honest with you, so there’s always that concern about it but we’re meant to be going to Ukraine for the same kind of idea, a training camp, sparring,” he said. “They’re trying their best to get us to fight as well as a training camp. So that’s the next step.”

International boxers like Sean are well aware of the advantages they enjoy compared to boxers in clubs back home. It’s been tough in Scotland, even though there was a positive development. Under 18s in clubs in tier three areas in Scotland have now been permitted to spar and do padwork.There still has to be concern that harsher restrictions could be brought back in, especially as a second lockdown closed gyms all across England this month.

“It was an absolute nightmare for [Lochend, his club] having to close because it’s a full time gym,” Spence reflected. “It was rough for the first few months it stopped. Then they got to come back and it had to change. It was doing alright, Terry [McCormack, the head coach] had to put on different classes so you could come in at different times and not everyone be bunched up together, you know how it is. It was going alright I think, it was pretty busy. [There were then] new restrictions where you couldn’t do the group classes and it’s just been more of a nightmare again for them.

“People loved the vibe and the atmosphere coming in, everyone getting stuck in together, getting a big team workout. It’s not got that. It’s surviving but it’s taking a big hit as well, just like everywhere else.”

But he remains focused and determined, grateful to be making the most of being a Scottish international. Sean says, “I just want to be as successful as I can and that’s all I’m thinking about. The [Commonwealth] Games, that’s on the radar, the Europeans, World championships, just try and get medals at all the major tournaments. Not just the major ones, even the small ones. I want to fight in as many countries as I can and win as many medals as possible. That’s my aim.”

Another lockdown in England forces gyms to close

ON Thursday (November 5) a second lockdown came into force in England. It means once again boxing clubs have to shut down.
Individuals are permitted to train outside in a public space, such as a park, providing they remain socially distanced by at least two metres from others. They can also exercise outdoors with people from their own household or support bubble. Individuals can also train outdoors with one other person from outside of their household, providing social distancing is strictly followed. Sparring and padwork is not allowed.

It’s a bitter blow as amateur clubs were trying to get back on their feet after the first lockdown, still dealing with reduced numbers and coronavirus restrictions that halted sparring, padwork and any competition. There is never a good time to lock down but now it is especially harsh.

“We’ve just been building a bit of a momentum,” said Salisbury coach Paul Edwards. “This is the biggest blow.”

I’m trying my best to keep positive about it but it is tough,” he continued. “The kids are getting fed up.

“This is their place of solace, the boxing gym.”