UK Disability History Month: Toby Totney v Cystic Fybrosis

November 23, 2021 | by Matt Halfpenny


Becoming a boxer is not the first thing that might come into the head of someone with cystic fibrosis, but Priory Park’s Toby Totney has found the benefits to his overall health to be significant, as Alicia Winbolt, discovered.


Toby Totney was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis aged only eight weeks old and faces a daily battle with the condition, but he has not let it hold him back from his huge love for boxing, joining the Priory Park Boxing Club in 2018.

“We were told by Toby’s doctors that boxing might be a good way of improving his fitness. We’d approached a number of clubs and when I spoke to Paul Gough at Priory Park, who just shrugged and said: ‘Bring him’,” said Gwyneth Totney, Toby’s mum.

“We had already tried football and kickboxing and I never thought he would stick to it. With Toby, there was always something which stopped him. With football, if it was cold or damp, he couldn’t go because he picks up colds so easily.

“I remember he first went to Priory Park on a Saturday, then the Tuesday and Thursday. Now he trains six days a week and we have to force him to take a day off.

“He had no interest in boxing before taking it up, it was purely about fitness. But he tried it and loved it, so we got his own gloves and that spurred him on a bit more. He made friends and that made him want to go back.”

“The nurses are very proud with how fit and healthy he has become through being involved in boxing. I always say boxing is the best, but you have to have a great set of coaches behind you. The training that comes with boxing will always be a good thing for cystic fibrosis.”

Toby has recently become the first boxer with cystic fibrosis to become carded and have a skills bout on his club show.

England Boxing medical staff received a letter from Toby’s doctors and specialists to say that it was safe for Toby to box.

Toby said: “I have been boxing now for two years. maybe three. I like that it’s about team work not just me, and I have my friends who I train with and my coaches. I like sparring but my favourite thing about boxing is doing the bouts.

“Priory Park have never said I couldn’t do anything. Days out, team building, shows, they always said OK! Dale and Tom have been my beginner coaches and they have always pushed me and trained me to be the best.

“Now I am a carded amateur, it’s still those who sort everything out and do my corners. They have even taken the time to learn about the medication that I need when I’m training.

“My health is better now than it has ever been. My weight is up and height is up and my lung function capacity is also up. Before I started boxing, I was in hospital at least three times a year and I have only been in three times since I started boxing, just for check-ups.

“My aim is to go to the championships. That’s all I’m training for at the minute. I want to be good enough for that.”

Toby is living proof that boxing can be a sport for everybody with no barriers, and that it can be great to help manage health conditions.

If you have a health condition or disability and wish to take up boxing, please make sure you consult your doctors and specialists beforehand.

To find out more about England Boxing’s new inclusive hubs, click here.

To find out more about Cystic Fibrosis click here.

UK Disability History Month is running from 18th November to 18th December. Find out more by clicking here.