Come Out Swinging

Fitness boxing grows in popularity


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In the past few years, boxing has become one of the heavyweight champions of the fitness world, and women, even more than men, are taking up the sport and its sister – fitness boxing – to get and stay in shape.

There are solid reasons for boxing’s popularity among women, says RASHEED DIAAB, owner of Cape Fear Boxing.

“With boxing, you get in shape fast,” he says. “Boxing is intense, so your metabolism goes up faster and you burn body fat. There’s also a sense of empowerment that comes from a sport like boxing. It does wonders for women physically and mentally.”

Wilma 0121 Healthimg2While some women choose to compete in the ring or spar with an opponent, many opt for no-contact fitness boxing. These classes combine high-intensity circuit training with boxing and punching drills and techniques. For example, after a short warm-up, students do a series of weight and strength training exercises. Next comes the boxing circuit, which includes shadow boxing, punching the bags, and practicing boxing combinations.

The result is a high-intensity workout that targets the entire body and provides an outstanding cardio workout as well. Along the way, the boxers also improve their balance, stamina, and eye-hand coordination.

“Each day you get better and better at it (boxing),” Diaab says. “Before you know it, you are in great shape.”

Some fitness boxing classes, such as Diaab’s last only 30 minutes, but because the classes are so intense, that’s enough time to get the job done, he says. Other classes, especially for those who want to compete, last an hour or 90 minutes.

JESSICA HARRISON, who has been fitness boxing for two years, is proof of boxing effectiveness.

She lost 22 pounds and over half her body fat while gaining muscle, and she’s maintained those results.

“I didn’t have a lot of upper body strength or hand-eye coordination when I started,” she says. “Now my abs feel strong, and I’m leaner. … I’ve seen incredible results from boxing. Ladies lose 20-40 pounds. The program is challenging but doable.”

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TEE FRAZIER is also more than pleased with the results she’s gotten from fitness boxing. Frazier, a self-proclaimed girly girl who loves high heels, cute outfits, and her long, painted nails, says through boxing she has trimmed down and gained muscle tone without bulking up or losing her feminine side.

As much as women like the physical gains they get from boxing, they value the sport’s mental aspects just as much. In addition to making workouts interesting, boxing serves as an excellent stress reliever, helps women increase their mental focus, and instills discipline. It also breeds confidence, according to Diaab.

“In boxing, you don’t depend on anyone except yourself,” he says. “Women learn they can handle whatever comes their way.”

Frazier concurs, saying her confidence is now at an “all-time high,” and that impacts other areas, from work to home.

Harrison, too, says the confidence she’s gained from boxing extends to other aspects of her life.

“I constantly challenge myself and set new goals,” she says. “I’ve learned I can do anything I set my mind to.”

Throwing all those punches has still another benefit: helping women develop the strength, skill, and ability to protect themselves.

“If I needed to defend myself, I know how to punch, I can dodge punches, and I’m quicker,” Harrison says. “These are great skills for every woman to know.”

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But, boxing isn’t just about being tough. It also gives the women a unique sense of camaraderie and support. Though the women train as a group, each one moves at her own pace. And, if someone is struggling with a set of exercises, the other women help her, according to Frazier.

“We get it done together,” she explains.

The relationships don’t end at the gym. Harrison says she has formed friendships with the women she boxes with.

In Wilmington, as elsewhere in the U.S., the number of boutique boxing studios is growing, and women make up the majority of the students. Diaab attributes boxing’s popularity among women to the personal power they gain from it as well as its effective workouts.

Harrison agrees.

“Women are understanding that boxing is such a challenging sport and offers so many positive outcomes,” she says. “We do all these really cool things that help us be stronger and better versions of ourselves.”

In The Ring:

Here are some area boxing gyms

To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to

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Categories: Health