Some people are wary of boxing and perceive it as being dangerous and crude. However this combat sport, which dates back to ancient Greeks, is more than just a sequence of punches. We interviewed Roland Sammut, a young trainer who spends his days nurturing aspiring boxers and fitness enthusiasts, and asked him about his personal experience and dreams as an advocate of pugilism.
What helped you develop a keen interest in boxing?
I developed an interest in this sport from a very young age and would wake up at night to watch the renowned “Iron” Mike Tyson take on one opponent after another in Las Vegas. Boxing turned into an even bigger passion at the age of 16 when I decided to lose weight and improve my fitness levels. My mother introduced me to a boxing coach who could provide some much-needed guidance and expertise. After following a strict training regime for some months, I got my first taste of amateur boxing and competed in some boxing bouts that were held sporadically either in Malta or in England.
My love for the sport kept growing with the passage of time and a move to Australia in 2012 helped me gain a huge amount of knowledge on boxing in general. I was exposed to a more serious and advanced fighting culture and immediately realized that the technical and physical level of the fighters was much higher than what one could find back home.
How does boxing compare to other sports? What makes it so appealing?
Boxing is the quintessential individual sport. It is not like most team sports – there are no teammates who can cover your back or share the burden when the going gets tough. Apart from being physically and mentally demanding, athletes participating in this contact sport must reach specific weight categories for them to compete. That means strict dieting and discipline. Whoever wants to become a boxer must put in a lot of hard work and patience, which often translates into less time with family and loved ones.
Nowadays you are a well-known trainer at Good Vibes Boxing & Fitness, a gym that you founded. How did this venture start?
Those who know me are well aware that I am obsessed with this sport and that I follow with great attention all that happens within the boxing world. Unfortunately, I never made it as a boxer for a number of reasons and when I returned to Malta from Australia I was obviously upset. I felt completely lost and downhearted. I then started helping out friends during training sessions and it was thanks to these instances that I acknowledged my potential as a dedicated trainer who had, and still has, a lot of knowledge to share. Money was scarce but the desire to open my own gym kept lingering at the back of mind. Through perseverance and determination I managed to open my boxing and fitness club and everyday I wake up with the desire to help others in their careers and lives.
What about the current crop of young boxers? Are there any local athletes who have the will and talent to make it on the big stage?
I believe that in Malta there is a considerable amount of promising youngsters who can compete at an international level if they focus on developing their technique and increase their strength. At the same time, there are coaches who are diligent and genuinely in love with the sport. As stated earlier, boxing is an individual sport but if we want to improve our current crop of boxers, coaches need to work as a team and share ideas. Collaboration, sweat, and sacrifices will provide our boxers with the right platform to qualify for international competitions and hopefully represent Malta at the Olympic games