With Spartans White Collar 3 just weeks away, lets relive the experience of Spartans White Collar 2 though the eyes of one if it’s competitors, Aziz “Soulsnatcha” Musa:
I’ve never had a fight. Ever. Despite growing up near Blackpool (and its notorious weekend antics) despite having the build of a fighter for most of my 20’s, despite having a loud mouth and unfettered opinions on just about everything, in my 41 years on earth, I’ve never had a physical fight. I’m not making any judgment here on those who have or have not fought, I’m merely making this point to emphasize just how ridiculous and unlikely it was for me to decide in January this year that I’d enter Spartans White Collar Boxing in Dubai.
On January 22nd, I was 150kg in weight. That’s right. 150kg! To fight on June 4th I’d have to be 110kg. I’d done the math. I needed to lose 8.4kg per month. 2.1kg per week. 0.3kg per day. But that’s not all. On January 22nd, I had hypertension, I was borderline diabetic and I could barely walk up a flight of stairs without panting and gasping for air. I was that guy you read about in the papers, “40 year old survived by a wife and 4 children dies suddenly of a heart attack.” This was a real possibility, and I knew it. To make a massive change, I needed a massive motivation. Nothing motivates me more than the impossible.
So began my journey into the ring. I didn’t really diet, I followed a 16:8 intermittent fast and just ensured that I was in a calorie deficit every day with the help of My Fitness Pal. I ran almost every day. I did weights, I made simple rules for myself like:
- If I didn’t sweat through my clothes once a day the day wasn’t done.
- Take pleasure in aching muscles, it’s just weakness leaving my body.
- And when confronted with cake or some other delectable I just couldn’t resist, I’d just tap my gut and say “I enjoyed many of those over the past 10 years, no need to do it again”.
But ultimately, the greatest motivator of all was simply the fear of being punched in the face for the first time in my life.
By the time I arrived in Dubai for a 12-week training camp, I was down to 130kg. Right on track. Now I needed to learn how to box! I’ve always loved boxing. The art of pugilism is much more scientific than casual observers give it credit for. It’s more akin to geometry than wood chopping. It’s the art of hitting without being hit. I was pretty good at the first part. as it turns out, being 6ft 5 and having long arms is a huge advantage. Also, many years playing tennis gave me decent hand/foot coordination. However, what surprised me most was how quickly I got comfortable being hit. I distinctly remember the first sparring session I had with Eliot (who would later become my opponent at Spartans White Collar 2). Eliot was the heaviest hitter in our group, and I was genuinely nervous. Within the first 30 seconds, he clocked me perfectly with a right cross (a punch with the right hand, that comes from behind the chest and therefore has more distance and velocity). SMASH, it rocked me instantly. My reaction took me aback just as much as the punch. Instead of cowering, or even going down, I literally heard myself say “see, that wasn’t so bad was it, now MOVE FORWARD!” And I did. That was a mistake too, Eliot was more skilled than me so he caught me a few more times before the bell rang. but after that session, I felt a strange sense of elation. I’d endured something that I’d never endured before.
I suspect, as a non-boxer if you’ve read up to this point, you basically get what I’m talking about. I honestly don’t think those who have never boxed before can understand what I’m about to say next. You see, boxing didn’t make me more aggressive. It made me less aggressive. More controlled. More mentally stable. More focused. More in tune with the people around me. More able to deal with adversity. More cognisant of others and their challenges. There isn’t an aspect of my life that didn’t change the moment after I stepped out of that first sparring session. I was more disciplined than I had ever been. I trained and trained and trained. I averaged 12 training sessions a week including daily runs of between 5-8km, as well as personal training sessions with the amazing coaches at Spartans Boxing Club.
Finally, fight night arrived. The event itself was spectacular. A 600 guest black-tie event in a swanky ballroom in Business Bay Dubai. I expected to be nervous. I wasn’t, not even slightly. I was excited. I watched the fights eagerly and cheered on my brothers and sisters whom I’d fought and trained with. I nearly missed my time to warm up because I was so engrossed in the action. My fight name, “Aziz SoulSnatcha Musa”, was called out, and I was walked out by The Don Noizy who had written a song for my ring walk. And that’s it. That’s all I can remember. Days later I am still scraping around for more memories of the actual fight. I’m told it was a great fight and close-fought. Eliot won, I knew he’d won, I could sense it at the final bell. When the announcement came, “And the winner is, Eliot…….” I snapped out of my trance, and I was genuinely elated. Eliot is such a gentleman, we’d worked together for so long and both came so far. At that moment my overwhelming emotion was pride. Pride for him winning, pride for me losing all that weight, and pride for both of us for having the minerals to step into the ring. And reader, know this; It takes serious minerals to step into a ring.
The next few minutes were a blur. I had some specific things I needed to say when I got the microphone. I needed to say how boxing saved my life. I needed to say how proud I was of my eldest brother Naz for creating Spartans Boxing Club. I needed to say that Spartans isn’t just a place to train, it’s a place to belong. I’m not sure if I managed to say all those things, but I think I got close to some approximation of what I wanted to say.
As soon as I stepped out of the ring, a man came to me, hugged me, and started telling me how well I’d done and how proud he was of what I’d achieved. I cried for a moment but then held it back. When I looked at him, my dazed mind couldn’t quite fathom whom I was speaking to, I just thanked him and moved on. It was Rocky Fielding. I only realized 2 days later when my brother told me. So if you read this Rocky, thank you. Your words meant a lot.
In fact, thanks to everyone. The amazing team at Spartans, Sam, Jalal, Simon, Frank, Russ, Fash, and of course Naz. Thanks to Eliot who will remain a lifelong friend as will all 20 other fighters. And most importantly, thanks to my wife Lumyaa, whose first words when I said I wanted to do the impossible, were “Nothing is impossible. I’m with you 100%,” and she was.
So the obvious question is: Is that the end of the story? Well, anyone who has ever boxed and trained for an event already knows the answer. There are few things on earth as addictive as the thrill of boxing, so no, this is not the end. It’s hardly even the beginning.