Alan Hubbard

Suddenly, the dedicated followers of fashion have become fascinated by the fight game - and I'm not talking about it just as a sport competing with football, cricket and rugby as one of the nation's favourite activities to take part in and watch.

Walk into any gymnasium or fitness centre and you will see young lads and lasses - and some not so young - punching bags, hitting the speed ball, skipping, sparring and doing all the physical elements that help boxers attain peak fitness.

And it is not just this gym work which has exploded onto the scene and put boxing at the top of the sporting agenda. How many times do you open the newspaper to find personalities wearing boxing gloves as they punch away at the pads worn by a trainer?

Just a few weeks ago, on the back page of the Daily Mail was a shot of two of England's star rugby players, George Ford and Owen Farrell, sparring in the Twickenham gym as if they were Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua going at it hell for leather. The headline read "Bring on the box" (referring to the World Cup final and the Boks of South Africa).

Talking of being dedicated followers of fashion, just last Sunday, You Magazine carried a full-page colour advertisement for a slimming feature with a female model in a tight red leotard and matching boxing gloves with the caption: "Do you want to punch above your weight this year?"

Even Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson entered the ring last month, showing how mainstream boxing has become ©Getty Images
Even Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson entered the ring last month, showing how mainstream boxing has become ©Getty Images

These are just a couple of the dozens of examples how boxing is being used to promote the fashion business and demonstrate that the sort of training it provides can keep you fit and healthy. Just as long as no one gets hurt by a whack on the whiskers.

Top London boxing and fitness coach Rob Lynch describes the fistic fashion boom as "massive". He tells us: "Boxing apparel is in super fashion at the moment. 

"I think it is Gianni Versace featuring boxing shorts as a fashion item for ladies this season. And if you look into Louis Vuitton's main store on Oxford Street, you will see them displaying designer boxing gloves. These are also in fashion at the moment - not so much among competitive boxers, but for those who go into gyms for boxing training and want to be seen as fashionable."

Apparently, large, boxer-style dressing gowns with hoods and wide sleeves are also a popular item for the beach, would you believe?

Lynch, 42, who originally taught boxing on the Stonebridge Estate in Willesden and works with underprivileged youngsters, now moves among the top echelons of fight aficionados as a coach to elite clientele at West End fitness and leisure centres, including those at the Lanesborough and Café Royal hotels.

"Most gyms now have a boxing programme and there are boxercise classes all over the place," he said. "One of the reasons is the number of women interested in boxing has escalated since the London Olympics in 2012, when Nicola Adams became the first female boxing gold medallist. She became something of an icon.

"I think also the fitness industry itself has revolutionised recently. Pubs are closing left, right and centre, and a generation of young people with Instagram and other social media no longer go for a drink after work. And veganism is in fashion, too.

"Many young people now want to live a good, holistic life and get involved in healthy living. It is trendy to be part of this scene and you can find it in your local gym and in boxing training.

"In fact, it is interesting that instead of going clubbing and drinking, they use apps to arrange to meet up in the gym. The number of people who go out for a date after a boxing class is unreal."

Boxing always relied on good matchmaking, of course…

Nicola Adams, pictured here alongside Sir Chris Hoy, has had a huge effect on the popularity of female boxing in the UK ©Getty Images
Nicola Adams, pictured here alongside Sir Chris Hoy, has had a huge effect on the popularity of female boxing in the UK ©Getty Images

What makes boxing training such an attraction is a combination of things, including the use of good footwork, shadow-boxing and sharpening the reflexes.

Lynch adds: "It is a probably the most popular way of getting fit these days. You don't know how much fitness work you have done. You spend so much time learning and concentrating on not getting hit that the time passes. The treadmill, it seems to go on forever.

"Frankly, the treadmill is boring.

"I remember an interview with the great American trainer Emanuel Steward some years ago, when he talked about boxing training being something you can spend a lifetime refining. He said there is always something new to learn from coaching and watching."

"Generally speaking, the pursuit of building big bodies was the thing of the 80s and 90s. Now the accent is on being lean and healthy."

Naturally it helps that certain fight figures are also role models themselves, in every sense. Champions like Josh Warrington, Anthony Joshua, Daniel and Caroline Dubois, Katy Taylor, Natasha Jonas, David Haye, Anthony Yarde, Joe Joyce, Carl Frampton, Callum Smith - and, of course, Tyson Fury, a veritable model of weight loss and redemption.

It is also good to know that politically the sport is in safe hands now that biffing Boris is in charge at Westminster… we know he likes the sport and that his Government would ward off any attempts from the snowflakes among certain parliamentarians to put a stop to it.

Anyway, who would want to be so unfashionable these days?

Punchline: it is estimated that more than a dozen clubs from each of the Premier Leagues in football and rugby no employ a form of boxing training to assist in sharpening things up on the field and instilling an aggressive instinct. AFC Bournemouth were the latest to bring in a couple of boxing coaches to help prepare their team for last weekend's relegation's tussle with fellow stragglers Waterford. Alas, Watford won 3-0 - which only goes to show that footballers, like fighters, need to learn to take one on the chin!