Aurum Press, £12.99stg
What makes anyone want to box, and why would a woman want to get into the ring? The reasons according to Kate Sekules – journalist, travel writer, food critic and boxer – are similar but varied. Sekules' adolescence was where she discovered the driving forces behind her pugilistic urges. Just before her eighteenth birthday, her beloved father died from cancer. It wasn’t until much later that she discovered that both her parents had suffered from the tragedy of parental suicide. This discovery pushed Sekules in the direction of the dark and dangerous elements of the late 1970s zeitgeist – punk and drugs. When not recording Peel Sessions with her band, Out on Blue Six, she struggled with self-esteem and weight issues, experimenting with arm-cutting and narcotics.
Sekules eventually decided to try and regain her health and went to an NYC gym with hope in her heart, and more than a little muscle on her frame. She details her initial dalliance with, and serious hatred of, aerobic exercising until one day her trainer casually introduced shadow-boxing into the workout. Immediately she was hooked on what she regarded as a workout, far superior to step-aerobics. From this initial flirtation, Sekules found herself seduced by the lure of Gleason’s – possibly the most famous boxing gym in the world – where she began to train and eventually to spar. When sparring fails to quell her insatiable curiosity about what it is like to fight competitively, Sekules does just that. Two fights later she decides to hang up her gloves, but after reading this book, you realise that is not the point.
Sekules’ professional boxing career may not have been a particularly lengthy or illustrious one, but one cannot but admire her spirit and vigour. She writes with an engaging fluidity, vividly conjuring up the sweat-soaked, dingy dens of the boxing world. This is an edgy, inspiring tale that rails against stereotypes of women in sport, and serves as testament to Sekules struggle with her self-image and weight – instead of letting it beat her, she stood up and threw the first punch.