THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKOUTS
Fight back against pampered workout spaces and enjoy a bout of true grit at Spit’n’sawdust. The edges may be rough; the results are elite
The people of Banbury in Oxfordshire are proud of their gym. The sense of community is palpable. As MH arrives, it’s to be met by 20 locals keen to bask in the day’s excitement. The contrast between Spit’n’sawdust and London’s elite establishments is obvious: there’s no brushed copper or Malin+goetz shower gel in sight, and members do not walk silently by, wearing don’ttalk-to-me headphones. It’s buzzing.
And it’s all down to its owner, Dave Earle. After 12 years as an amateur champion boxer, Earle began a career in fitness, creating classes for overweight men. “I didn’t feel there was a specialised place for men to go,” he says. “Especially those lacking in confidence.” Thus began an ethos of catering to the less fortunate. Membership is free for those down on their luck. There’s one class Earle is particularly proud of: “We do a boxing session that’s immediately followed by cognitive behavioural therapy,” he says. “The aim is to get those truly struggling with mental health back into work.”
Aspirations of six-pack abs and rightcross knockouts can also be realised here. Google Rob Evans, Earle’s greatest success story, and you’ll find a chiselled male model and boxing coach with 150,000 Instagram followers. It was Earle who moulded him into a national cruiserweight champion. “The first time he sparred, he got battered. He is proof of what you can achieve with hard work,” he says. “In two-and-a-half years, he became the best in the country.”
It’s impossible not to be inspired here and, against the worn backdrop, it’s easy to envisage your own Rocky story taking place under these rafters. You just need to throw the first punch.