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Simon Allford: 'I'm addicted to boxing'

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AHMM director Simon Allford on his return to a childhood fascination with boxing

At the Cricklewood comprehensive I went to, you were either sporting or academic. I sought to be both.

My academic side was stymied, as my father enjoyed pointing out, because I had no Latin. It was not on the curriculum, so my rejoinder was that I struggled because he, the grammar school boy, was forcing me to live out his socialist principles.

My sporting side was challenged by a 1970s educational trend against competitive sport. This, of course, inspired us. Before school, in our lunch hour and afterwards, we played table tennis, cricket, basketball and particularly football. Football taught me a great life lesson, for the further I progressed, the more I realised my own limitations.

My psychological welfare is dependent on my twice-weekly 7am sessions

By the time I was studying architecture and playing centre forward for Sheffield University First XI I knew I had peaked.  

Thereafter, my all-consuming focus was on architecture. In my forties, however, I returned to sport as diversionary activity, partly prompted by the discovery of a congenital heart condition, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. This excuses nothing, but gives me competitive focus. So now I exercise in Regent’s Park with a personal trainer, and I run a half marathon most Sundays, at least one official marathon a year and am in training for a duathlon.

Boxing newspaper clipping

I have also returned full circle to my childhood fascination with what I believe is the ‘Latin’ of sports: boxing. An architect friend gave me the book Boxiana, and introduced me to her trainer. I discovered that my oldest clients’ father put on the second Ali-Cooper fight at Highbury in 1966. And of course I now learn a great deal of what is going on in the boxing world from the drivers of black cabs.

It is only eight years since I added boxing to my crowded schedule, but I am addicted. Indeed, I believe my psychological welfare is dependent on my twice-weekly 7am sessions. Three-minute rounds are liberally interspersed by a harsh regime of skipping and press-ups. I resent the punishment but never the extraordinary focus of the ‘ring’, which provides me with the great escape from architecture.

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