When it comes to being fighting fit, boxing is an option many in Gwent are turning to. SOPHIE BROWNSON finds out more.

BOXING training is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people recognise the health benefits and realise that you can train like a boxer without actually competing.

Providing a great full body workout that is guaranteed to get your heart pumping and those calories burning, boxerfit can be more beneficial than the gym in more ways than one.

A great way of improving stamina and boosting the cardiovascular system while improving core strength and balance, boxing also teaches important self defence skills - proving popular with women who want to get fit and stay safe.

St Joseph’s Amateur Boxing Club in Newport is one such gym encouraging the rise in popularity of the fitness technique, teaching regular mixed boxerfit classes as well as taking on small groups of three and individual training.

Located in the heart of the city, the gym on George Street is run by former professional boxer Tony Borg.

Mr Borg was named the 2011 Welsh Coach of the Year among other titles including a Welsh senior title and three British titles. He began coaching at the age of 24 when his leg was injured after being hit by a car while out jogging.

He said: “When I was seven or eight years old I was getting in to trouble scrapping at school so my mother sent me to a boxing gym.

“But when I was 24 I snapped my leg and from then went into coaching and I have been doing it ever since.

“I am based in Newport but have boxers come to me from places such as Swindon, Bristol, Swansea, Cardiff and Bath. “

Mr Borg continues to train professional boxers but trains both men and women on an individual and group basis purely for fitness.

“The people who come to me to train love the pad work and the boxing training,” he added.

“Boxing is good for everyone as it is all cardio and explosive training.

“In an hour session you can get an awful lot done.”

But the coach warned that everyone needs to warm up to prevent injuries.

Recently the gym purchased a lot of equipment for this sole purpose including cross trainers, bikes and running machines after receiving support from Thames Valley Construction and Sported who donated £18,000 between them.

“I use my skills to train people incorporating both self defence and fitness,” Mr Borg continued.

“With the ladies I can keep it one to one or train them in a group of three.”

Jodie Emes, 25, who runs the Cwmbran pub The Blinkin' Owl, has been training for over a year and loves it.

She said: “I was looking for a personal trainer on Facebook and someone recommended Tony so I came for a session and have been going ever since.

“I find Tony really motivating and I really enjoy it so I have stuck it out.

“I have been coming here for a year and a half and sometimes bring friends along and we take it in turns to train with Tony.

“It is brilliant training and really pushes your limits.

“My fitness has really exceeded and I have lost half a stone.

“It has boosted my confidence.”

Ms Emes trains for an hour with Tony, two to three times a week, with training sessions including a range of push-ups, running, weights and punching sequences.

She added: “I have tried a few personal trainers in the past but with boxing you get so much more out of the session.

“I would definitely recommend it.”

A typical boxerfit session involves a warm up on the running machine, boxing circuits in the gym, pad work, a weights session, abs and leg work as well as stair sprinting.

But it’s not just women that go to lose weight - Mr Borg has trained many different people in the sport including children with special needs and teenagers.

“Everyone has their reason for doing boxing,” he said.

“With boxing you don’t get much of a break - it is a really good hard session.

“But you can push someone too far as it is very much an individual sport – some people want to get in the ring and some don’t.”

To deal with this, Mr Borg sets individual and achievable targets for clients so they have a goal to work towards.

Head coach Roger Williams said: “It is one of the cheapest sports. You don’t need a lot of equipment - all you need is a skipping rope, a gum shield, gloves and a head guard which you can get for around £30.”

Training for fitness also means that participants can just wear trainers instead of proper boots.

Boxing increases cardiovascular fitness and can be done for a variety of reasons including losing weight, maintaining or improving fitness as well as a useful activity to do alongside marathon training.

Many people joining the Navy or Army also take it up to increase their fitness levels.

A typical session would involve a warm up of running for 3km on a running machine for 15 minutes, stair sprinting, a session in the ring with the pads for 25 minutes, light weights and sit ups before doing more cardio work on the cross trainer in the gym and finally a warm down.

Mr Borg recommends that those training eat carbohydrates before training and protein after.

He also insists that, after training, everyone leaves wrapped up in a coat and hat as injuries and illness can be picked up by exposure to the extreme weather.

MP for Monmouth David Davies is another who enjoys the sport as an alternative way to keep fit alongside running and the gym and has been training for nine years.

“I think it is a great sport to take up,” he said.

“The cardiovascular fitness is incredible and it is one of the best ways to keep fit.

“I have trained at St Joseph’s and at Mo’s Boxing Academy in Newport as well as in London.

“I have always been into fitness and I have done a lot of running.

“I have noticed that people who tend to do more running seem to do better than people who do more weights as it is more cardiovascular.

“My fitness has really improved. I am able to run a mile in five minutes, 30 seconds and can run 5k in 19 minutes.”

Recently the Argus reported that Gwent-based author and former criminal barrister, Matthew Hall, 46, from Monmouthshire, was inspired by Monmouth MP David Davies to start boxing training himself to raise money for Abergavenny’s Nevill Hall Hospital’s children’s ward.

He has signed up along with 30 others for an intensive 10-week programme which started last month

This will eventually culminate in a full-blown three-round bout in front of a 2,500-strong live audience in April.

Speaking to the Argus last week he said: "I was doing a talk and David Davies came along and I remembered reading about his boxing and we got talking and he told me about ’white collar boxing’ and how it was becoming a really big thing. "

St Joseph’s gym runs beginners classes from Monday to Wednesday from 4.45pm onwards, childrens sessions on Sunday mornings in one hour blocks from 10am to 1pm and the gym is also open to both the public and professional boxers.