How many rounds of sparring should you have before you enter your first amateur boxing competition?
I love this question, and coaches enjoy arguing about it. We’re naturally argumentative. We’ll punch you, if needed.
Seriously. If you make the transition from boxing fitness to sparring, you’re almost always going to be asking yourself the question “Should I compete?” And if you decide to compete, how do you know when you’re ready? Is there a physical bar? Is it about conditioning, or skills? Or is it primarily mental? A mix of both?
One view: Get in quickly (6 weeks)
In fact, one of my fellow officials and a boxing trainer for many years is putting his guys in the competition ring a bare 6 weeks after they begin working in the gym. For him, it’s all about mindset and having an attitude of learning; he expects his boys (who are mostly military, and definitely already in condition) to bank competition experience by going to and getting matches at as many sanctioned events as possible.
That seems nuts to me.
But I’m just a girl. However, I will punch you, if needed.
Actually, I think it’s legit, in his case. Here’s why.
1. His boxers are already in great condition.
Boot camp will do that for you, jack.
2. His boxers have a strong “do what your leader tells you” mentality.
These military guys are listening hard to their coach’s voice, and carrying out the commands they’re given. Very valuable skill in boxing.
They may also already have a good idea that boxing will be rough, and are okay with that.
It takes a while to get used to being punched in the face, and it’s possible that military dudes have an edge here.
3. His boxers have the best chance of getting matches.
All his boxers are guys. It’s much harder for women to get matches because there is a smaller pool to draw from. You may travel to five or ten events before you finally luck into a match, which is why it’s so much better to try and find pre-matches.
My view: Get 100 rounds of sparring (4-5 months)
Let’s say you spar once a week at your gym. You probably get at least 5 rounds each time you spar, even if they aren’t all in a row at first. At that rate, you should have a pretty good idea of a) what it’s going to be like in an actual bout, and b) what kind of shape you need to be in by the time you get 100 rounds.
In 5 months at the most — but probably closer to 3 or 4 months, since you’ll do more rounds each week, you’re going to be ready to Do The Thing.
“Are you ready to compete?” checklist
Your coach will actually help you figure out whether you’re ready, but here’s my basic checklist. It’s not complicated.
1. Do you know the basics of technique? Can you protect yourself even if you’re dead tired?
2. Do you have the stamina to box 3 to 5 rounds in a row?
3. Are you reasonably used to hitting someone hard, and being punched in the face?
4. Do you have a coach you trust to take care of you and act in your best interest?
Mini-rant about the rules
I would say something about “know the damn rules” since I’m a ref and all, but honestly, your COACH should know the damn rules and teach you. I have some crazy stories, dude. Buy me a vodka tonic and I’ll share them, with names and photos. Okay not the photos.
But you can take matters into your own hands and learn the actual rules of boxing (guess what? You’re judged on a LOT more than punches) by downloading the two USA Boxing rulebooks: Technical and Competition.
Your turn, badasses
So, what do you think? Is 100 rounds of sparring enough to get you ready? Let’s argue and punch each other in the face. C’mon, it’ll be fun.
Both sparring photos by destinationdiy on Flickr