Printed in the Bath Chronicle on Thursday, September 23
The link between amateur boxing and fashion shows may seem pretty unlikely – but stick with me on this.
What these two very different forms of entertainment have got in common is that they both require (and then instil) confidence in all those who take part in them. And it can be inspiring to see.
A few years ago when I was a sports reporter in the Midlands, I used to enjoy going to watch my local amateur boxing club (the splendid Tamworth Amateur Boxing Club) have their regular dinner shows. Professional boxing, for various reasons, illicits wildly different reactions from people about its value and its morality but the amateur game is a million miles away from all of that.
When I used to watch the amateur game in full flow, you would see relatively young kids (of all shapes and sizes) battling it out in the ring safe in the knowledge that they were well protected in terms of their head gear and safe in the certainty that they were signed up to the amateur boxing ethos of sportsmanship and discipline.
Instead of bruised faces and bodies, I saw kids exhibiting pride, courage and bravery and, crucially, saw youngsters that may not have much weight on them or much physical presence, grow enormously as they stood in the ring. At the end of each bout I would look at the two lads that had been in action and think that tomorrow they could walk into their school with their heads held high for they had shown a spirit which did them great credit.
And so we fast- forward to last Saturday night here in the city of Bath to a catwalk – yes, light years away from that boxing ring at Drayton Manor Park.
These well-groomed ‘fighters’ were battling it out in the final of the Face of Bath competition to find a male and female to represent our city – and I was on the judging panel. Two weeks ago I had helped to select the finalists at a semi-final where each of the 40 people were required to walk on a makeshift catwalk. Some looked the part but the vast majority looked totally out of place – and quite a few looked simply embarrassed. They couldn’t possibly be turned into would-be models overnight, I thought.
Last Saturday, however, disproved that theory. Just a few hours in the very capable hands of choreographer Wayne Palmer had turned many from casual and often shy individuals into people who had the supreme confidence to parade up and down on a very, very long catwalk.
The transformation was remarkable and some people who looked in the semi-finals as if they could barely put one foot in front of the other, now glided down the catwalk in expensive, unfamiliar outfits and looked a million dollars.
Of course, like our boxers, not everybody could win but what those people showed on Saturday, as did those young fighters from so many years ago, was just how much confidence people can get if they believe in themselves and are willing to put themselves on the line in public. It also showed that you can’t buy confidence – but, hey, you sure can train it and instil it.