Mullins ‘can’t fault’ Sport Relief celebs ahead of March bouts

March 20, 2018 | by Gemma Field


Sport Relief 2018 sees another group of celebrities compete inside the boxing ring, having all started out as complete novices beforehand. A challenge for the celebs themselves no doubt, but an even bigger challenge for those responsible for ensuring they’re ‘fight ready’ on the night.

Samm Mullins, who’ll be coaching two of the celebs on the night, admits he had to weigh up the risks and rewards of getting involved. However, ex-footballer, Wayne Bridge and Love Island’s Camilla Thurlow have done enough so far to ease his initial fears.

“I was a bit dubious about it, I’ll admit that. I thought, this has got banana skin written all over it. I didn’t want to look stupid, and more importantly I didn’t want amateur boxing to look stupid. But I can’t fault them (Wayne and Camilla). They’ve really stepped up, it’s been a pleasure to train them,” he said.

Mullins said making sure the sport was represented properly was a big factor in his decision to get involved.

“I saw it as a bit of a challenge, really. You don’t get long, but I thought I’d give it a month and give an answer after that. Within a week, I had both of them ringing me up saying ‘when can we train again?’ – they’ve completely fallen in love with the sport.”

Mullins commented that having seen Wayne and Camilla turn to the sport of their own accord, half the battle is over, and he is confident they will represent amateur boxing well on the night.

“They’ve both got the boxing bug, which for me is almost job done already,” he said.

On whether this type of event is a rare chance to show anyone looking to take up a new sport that it’s not as simple as brute force and throwing wild punches, Mullins was absolute.

“Exactly that. They (Wayne and Camilla) are waking up to that. The work that’s involved, the lifestyle, the discipline. Everything. They’ve both said it’s completely changed their opinion on boxing and given them a different outlook in general, in terms of the lifestyles they want to lead.”

“Through going to the shows, they’ve seen the nerves, they’ve seen the kids crying when they lose. They know now it’s not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. A lot of these celebs go to shows, clap and cheer, but now they know what goes in to it.”

The celebs, according to Mullins, have also had their previous misconceptions about the nature of the sport re-written, seeing a new side to boxing through their experiences in training.

“The first time Camilla got sparring, she got hit on the nose and was like ‘wow, I got hit!’. She realised it’s not that bad, and said she’d thought that the only people could make good boxers were the hard lads at school,” he said.

“She walked in to my gym as shy as anything, thinking that a boxer had to be a bully. Now she’s seen the skill involved, there’s a real admiration for the other side of it. She’s really come out of her shell.”

Mullins went on to say that the notion that boxing is only for ‘hard nuts’ that like a fight is something those involved in the sport are keen to dispel, encouraging more people to try it at their local club.

“I get people come up to me at my gym saying ‘Sam, you’ve got to take a look at my boy, he’s always fighting at school’. The first thing I think is he’s got no discipline. To be honest, I don’t want them in my gym.”

“I want to train the ones at the other end of the scale. The ones that probably get bullied. They don’t want to fight, but if they do have to stand up for themselves, at least they’ll know how to stop someone hitting them.”

Wayne and Camilla have clearly taken to the sport quickly. In Wayne’s case, you might assume that in being an ex-professional sportsman, he’s at an advantage. Mullins says that’s not necessarily the case.

“I’m not so sure, you know. Everyone thinks he is, but that’s a disadvantage. Everyone thinks, ‘oh he’s a footballer so he’ll be really fit’, but as he said to me ‘Samm, I’ve never hit anyone in my life.’

Wayne has said that, even in comparison to the training he was put through as a footballer at the peak of his career, nothing has compared to the strain preparing for his fight with Spencer Matthews has put on his body.

“He says the strength in his legs and his upper body he’s feeling is amazing. He wishes he’d done boxing training while he was playing, I think.”

Mullins’ main role on the night, he said, will be helping both Wayne and Camilla to maintain their composure in the spotlight. He expects them both to be successful based on what they’ve shown him.

“I’ve really tested them. I’ve taken them to different clubs, had them sparring, in front of people all staring at them. They’ve not always won, but they’ve remembered their training,” he said.

“I want to see them do what they’ve been taught. Block a jab. Throw a jab. Keep their shape. If they don’t run in with their hands down and lose the plot, I can’t see them having a problem.”

Watch all the Sports Relief action on the BBC on Friday the 23rd of March from 7pm.

Samm Mullins was speaking to James Alder

The Celebrity Boxing provides not only an opportunity to raise money for the charity but to also showcase the benefits of amateur boxing for entry level boxers when conducted within the Governing Body’s rules.