Fran Reali’s New Knockout Sport
“Best night of my life, hands down.” From boxing for fun to stepping into the ring for her first competitive fight, Fran Reali tells us about her amazing boxing journey
It all started with a free punch bag that was advertised on Facebook Marketplace. Fran Reali, from London, and her boyfriend Ed spotted it during lockdown while they were looking around for fun, sporty activities and thought, well, why not! Barely a year later and the 21-year old ecommerce coordinator has found a love of boxing and she’s now taking it a whole lot more seriously. We spoke to Fran pre and post her first fight night to find out how boxing has made an impact on her life
Glorious: What’s the story behind you first getting into boxing and why are you so captivated by the sport?
Fran Reali: I first got into boxing in June 2021. There were a few reasons for it – firstly I always loved it as a kid but didn’t ever think it was something I’d want to try out as it seemed like too much of a ‘man’s sport’. My boyfriend Ed and I went away for my 21st and he pointed out Ramla Ali to me; she’s a female boxer and model, a Syrian refugee who grew up in London whose husband was part of her boxing team. She made the sport seem attractive and not too ‘manly’. So I thought, why not try out one-on-one training.
Glorious: Have you always been sporty? What other sports do you enjoy playing or watching?
Fran Reali: I had a sports scholarship at school and it was pretty much all I was good at. I just loved the competition, both team sports and individual sports. It’s the one thing I’ve been very passionate about. I was the only girl in our local rugby team at 11 years old – I loved it.
Glorious: Have you ever competed in another sport or got to a high level?
Fran Reali: Not really, to be honest. I should have taken my hockey or netball to a higher level but I don’t think I had the motivation to when I was younger.
Glorious: Was it always your aim to fight and compete, or did you take up boxing for fun or fitness?
Fran Reali: My boyfriend Ed and I bought some pads, wraps and gloves in lockdown and we were just doing it for fun most of the time but I never thought I’d actually enjoy it. I remember one day someone put a boxing bag on Facebook Marketplace in my boyfriend’s village and said if you want to come and collect you can have it for free, so we did just that! We tied the bag to a tree out in his garden and spent the afternoon punching and kicking it in the sun.
Glorious: You’re taking part in your first fight very soon. How did this come about?
Fran Reali: It was my trainer, Billy, who found the link for me and encouraged me to sign up. It’s quite a well known and established White Collar Boxing company.
Glorious: Tell us about your training schedule. How difficult is it to balance working full time while you follow a strict training regime?
Fran Reali: It’s been quite tiring. I work at a regular 9-5 job so I’ve been doing boxing training after work three times a week and I get home at about 10pm. The other days I’d do my best to train before work to get my fitness training in. That way, I’d get myself two free evenings after work each week.
Glorious: Can you tell us about your diet? And what do you eat if you have a fight approaching, do you become even stricter about what you eat?
Fran Reali: I focus on what I’m eating and try to eat relatively clean but if I let myself have a brownie or something when I have a craving, I go for it. Otherwise my mind runs away with me and I end up getting anxious about every other aspect of training. I just try to have a balance of everything rather than cut anything out, to be honest. I did cut down on alcohol, which was pretty tough. Going out clubbing stone cold sober was definitely a new experience for me.
Glorious: Do you do any other exercise, like yoga or running – something that helps to improve your condition for the ring?
Fran Reali: Oh yes, 100%. I love my running and try to incorporate some CrossFit type exercises into my gym training.
Glorious: How are you feeling fitness-wise, now we’re so close to the fight?
Fran Reali: I’m now two weeks from the fight and I’ve managed to roll my ankle while running home from work. It’s extremely swollen and black at the moment! I’m struggling to walk so it’s defo going to be a challenge to keep my mind focused for the fight.
Glorious: What are your must-have items when working out? Which fitness brands can you not live without?
Fran Reali: My must haves are a water bottle and my Apple watch. I love tracking everything I do, it motivates me to beat myself when I next work out. I love my Pulse Roll and trying the sauna/cold shower alternations in the morning after the gym gives me a great feeling.
Glorious: As you’ve got more involved in the world of boxing, you’ve been taking it more seriously. Have you learnt or seen anything that surprises you about it?
Fran Reali: Hmm… it’s definitely more of an art than I ever thought. I think people may think it’s just two angry people swinging their arms for a few minutes. It is so not the case, there’s footwork and head movement and so many different types of punches, it’s amazing. I also realised just how fit you have to be. I thought I was fit but as soon as I stepped foot in the ring for the first time in June, I realised that wasn’t the case.
Glorious: Who is in your team and what roles do they play?
Fran Reali: It’s just me and my coach, Billy. I haven’t joined an amateur club yet as I wanted to have my first fight, so I could see if it was something I wanted to carry on with.
Glorious: How do you stay motivated and how does your team motivate you?
Fran Reali: I’ve always been competitive with myself and the people around me. I stay motivated because I really want to prove to myself I can get better. I enjoy looking back at videos of when I first started and seeing myself making slow improvements. I also love using my strength! I’m tall and strong and it’s cool being able to put that to good use. You need a coach to motivate you while showing discipline. I would never have been forced out of my comfort zone otherwise in training and Billy has pushed me to achieve targets I didn’t think I’d reach.
Glorious: Are you friends with other female boxers?
Fran Reali: So far I don’t know many to be honest, although I have made friends with one boxer called Patricia. She’s part of Finchley and District ABC and she’s definitely an inspiration to me. She will be a big deal in boxing one day, watch out for the name! She started by being involved in a charity fight at the same place I just had mine and now she lives and breathes boxing!
Glorious: Do you have any other female boxing idols? What is it about them that inspires you?
Fran Reali: Ramla Ali because of her story and the challenges she has been through and also the way she made boxing seem attractive to me. Katie Taylor too because without her, female boxing wouldn’t be what it is today. She’s an animal!
Glorious: Who are you fighting? Do you know your opponent and have you studied her form/technique?
Fran Reali: I do know her. It’s tricky to study her technique because I’m not allowed to train with her. And when she is training, I am too! So we can’t study each other very well.
Glorious: When is the fight and what emotions are you going through at the moment? How are you managing to combat your nerves?
Fran Reali: The fight is on the 19th March and I’m feeling very nervous. I’m confident in my own ability but it’s difficult when you don’t know what you are in for. In order to combat nerves, I just blast music very loud in my earphones. I do a lot of shadow boxing in the mirror to imagine I am fighting my opponent and how I would move/punch
Glorious: Do you expect you’re going to win?
Fran Reali: I hope so! I’ve got loads of my family and friends and family coming and I can’t disappoint them.
The morning after the fight at Troxy in East London, we catch up with Fran to find out the result, and how she’s feeling
Glorious: It’s all over! Can you describe the experience of your first competitive fight, the emotions you felt and did it live up to your expectations?
Fran Reali: Best night of my life, hands down. It was unreal, the venue was bigger than I expected and my family and friends lit up the whole place. They were the loudest there by far, standing on the tables, haha!
Glorious: Were you super nervous, as you anticipated?
Fran Reali: I was even more nervous than I expected – more than when I took exams at school. Probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life.
Glorious: Give us a rundown of how you both fought and what gave you/her the winning edge?
Fran Reali: It was a draw. I knocked her down in the first round, which felt pretty cool. She was a strong opponent and in the end we were given a draw. If I can take any positive from a draw, it’s that it’s made me hungrier to win the next time.
Glorious: And how did you celebrate afterwards?
Fran Reali: I went out for a few drinks with my friends and family.
Glorious: What did you learn from this experience to take into your next fight? Looking back, would you prepare any differently?
Fran Reali: Eat more food on the day, nerves meant that I probably didn’t eat as much as I should have. To be honest, just the experience itself from this fight will help me in the next one. Because I know I can do it now. I’ve done it once so it should be easier next time.
Glorious: Are you already planning your next fight?
Fran Reali: I was using this charity event in aid of Cancer Research UK to see if I wanted to carry on. I will be having another charity event in June and after that I’ll decide whether it’s something I really want to throw myself into properly and join an amateur club.
Glorious: What advice would you give to other young women who want to take up boxing?
Fran Reali: Do it. At least just try out a charity event, it makes you feel so powerful and you get extremely fit in the process. And if it’s not something you want to carry on with after, you don’t have to but you’ll have an achievement and memory for life.