The quiet serenity of Westridge Gardens on a crisp Sunday morning a week ago, greeted three young men who had arrived for an outdoor boxing training session.
Josh Gympies, 26, a featherweight fighter from Portland, and former WP lightweight champion Jadie Klein, from Westridge, were already hard at work by the time ChrisLee Meyer, a junior middleweight fighter from Grassy Park joined them.
The sweet smell of spring and the sound of little birds chirping cheerfully, provided the ideal backdrop for a heavy sweat sesh under the watchful eye of no-nonsense trainer Ashley Whiteboy, from Westridge, who runs a club for amateurs and professionals.
In a sport that can be both beautiful and brutal at the same time, this was an ideal opportunity to stop and smell the roses before getting down to business.
But there’s no time to waste, there’s work to be done, says Whiteboy, barking instructions at his charges to get going. He knows all too well that once they step into the ring, things might not be as pretty. Also, he says, the lockdown and ongoing restrictions limited their chances of fighting and have made it difficult to train. Ever optimistic, Whiteboy believes his fighters have what it takes to be successful in and out of the ring but needs support and motivation to keep going.
The fact that Gympies, for example, is out training for upcoming fights is nothing short of a miracle, Whiteboy said. A near-fatal head-on collision on Baden Powell Drive in 2017, almost crippled the fighter’s chances of ever stepping into the ring. However, a remarkable recovery saw him going from not being able to walk to standing up by himself.
“I thought my career was over, I didn’t think of ever getting back in the ring,” said Gympies, who started out with well-known referee Eddie Marshall’s Portland Boxing Club eight years ago..
“My main aim is to get my pro licence back and hopefully, God willing, get back in the ring,” he said.
Training mate, Klein, agrees, saying he also has ambitions of turning pro and still has a few things to prove to himself while in the prime of his life.
“The lockdown just gave me extra time to improve myself. So next year, hopefully I’ll be able to take part in trials and join the professional ranks,” he said.
For now, the concrete skate park, metal rails and steps of the amphitheatre that surrounds the park, will serve as a makeshift training area to prepare them for when they face the real deal, inside the ring, going toe-to-toe against an opponent hell-bent on tearing them apart. “One more time,” Whiteboy shouts, as Gympies and Klein make their way up the stairs and down again.
“Boxing is a disciplined sport,” said Whiteboy, whose family has been involved with the sport for many years. “I’ve been in the game for quite long and my aim is to improve their lives, to try and make them better boxers,” he said.
“I’ve got some good boys around me and hopefully, we’ll be successful, hopefully we’ll be on a bigger stage,” he said.
“All praise to God and I’m grateful for everybody that supported us. If there is anyone who would like to come on board and support the club, please do.
For more information, or if you’d like to support the club, call Whiteboy on 082 838 3978.