Thirty-four years ago on the streets of Middlesbrough a man pulled out a boy from a fight.
“I know you. You’re John Carr,” he said.
“Don’t tell my dad I was fighting,” said the boy.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do. If you come to the boxing club on Monday night I won’t tell him,” the man said.
On that Monday the 11-year-old boy went to the Grangetown Amateur Boxing club, run by Martin Turner, and never looked back. John Carr as a little boy loved the gym and training as a boxer. As an amateur, he lost only nine matches out of 38, eventually finding himself at the age of 17 in the finals of the ABA‘s – the largest amateur boxing competition in the UK. His opponent was Rod Douglas, an Olympic medalist and superstar of the England squad. “Douglas just nicked it in the finals,” he said. Carr blames his inexperience and the fact that he was too young for such a distinguished competition.
Despite the outcome, that competition was a life-changing moment for Carr which opened the door for him to become a professional boxer. He signed up with the promoter Frank Warren, moved to London and changed his name to Cornelius Carr. Out of 39 professional matches he lost 4. He conquered the British title and the world title.
“I was able to defend the world title once but after that I damaged my hand,” he said. He then gave up his gloves and retired from the ring, after 13 years as a professional boxer training three times a day, five days a week. “It consumes our life,” Carr said.
“It consumes our life”
Carr added that he would like to have remained an amateur boxer for a bit longer before turning into professional. “I would like to have had someone like me to talk to me when I was 17-years-old and say don’t turn professional just yet, wait another three or four years and gain more experience,” he said.
Fourteen years after leaving the world of professional boxing, Carr is back to doing what he loves. He teaches boxing in several gyms in Bournemouth, he has launched an online tool called Sneak Punch and he is developing an eight-week programme called Fight Yourself Fit that will be available to people next year, in January.
But his path back into boxing hasn’t been straighforward. Initially, he went into a labouring job but he always wanted to do something related with his past career. He decided to take a personal training course that he did not finish. “I didn’t think that I could make a living out of it which was silly, but it was what I thought at the time,” Carr said.
Moving from London to Bournemouth he added one more job to the big list that did not satisfy him, being a chauffer. One day, his boss told him: “why are you not a personal trainer? You’re wasting yourself in this job”. It was what he needed to hear. “That gave me the push I needed and then I started with my training course,” he said.
The training course was the first step to going back into boxing and teaching people the “art of boxing”. Carr said “95% of people that I train want to be fit and boxing is a good way of doing that. Women feel more confident when they start to train because it enables them to defend themselves if needed,” he said. He is teaching boxing at gyms like Bulldog Boxing club.
Carr wasn’t satisfied with just teaching people face to face. He wanted to share his knowledge with anyone with an interest in boxing. Inspired by the programme Insanity, he started to film videos showing the “technique of boxing”. “Anyone can hit a bag, but if you don’t know how to do it properly you can hurt yourself and you are not going to be better, you will only be a little bit fitter,” he said. That is when the idea of Sneak Punch came into place.
“95% of people that I train want to be fit and boxing is a good way of doing that”
The website is a way of offering people the opportunity to be taught by a former world boxing champion without leaving their homes. He does the videos himself showing the moves and techniques and they are posted online. “It has been well received by China, India, and USA but not so much by England,” Carr said.
“I am training people that will never become boxers. You don’t need to be a boxer to train like one”, he said. An ordinary person can learn all different aspects of boxing: hitting the bag, skipping, doing light weights and throwing punches.
The eight-week course named Fight Yourself Fit it is going to be launched in January 2015. “You will train five days a week for half an hour each time learning all different aspects of boxing. My saying is from zero to hero,” said Carr.