From boxing beginner to international coach: WO2 Baz Philpott’s Army boxing journey

WO2 Philpott joined Zambia boxing as a technical coach (Credit: Garry Fox/Crown Copyright)

Warrant Officer (Class 2) Baz Philpott, of the Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC), was selected by the Zambian National Olympic committee to help develop their national boxing team ahead of this year’s Commonwealth Games.

Before he joined the British Army, he’d never boxed before. He explains how the service’s support of sport took him from amateur fighter to international coaching.

I started boxing when I first joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Green Jackets, because the regiment was big on boxing.

In the years since, Army Boxing has undergone a huge transformation. There wasn’t nearly the same level of institutional support for Army sport as there is now, when it’s possible to set up an AGC boxing team and receive special paid leave to coach Zambia.

“I discovered just how popular boxing is in Zambia, where there are competitions happening every other weekend” — WO2 Philpott (Credit: Garry Fox/Crown copyright)

The fact that a full time boxing programme exists is unbelievable — not even Team England are full-time athletes.

Read more: The British Army soldiers fighting for Ghana and Scotland at the Commonwealth Games

There’s funding for good equipment and investment in coach development, which is what’s needed to get the best athletes coming through, while the Army-run boxing tournaments are worlds apart from the civilian competitions they’d ordinarily have access to. They’re larger, more disciplined and with more funding behind them.

It was an honour to join Team Zambia as a technical coach at a pivotal point in their training for the Commonwealth Games, and to deliver every coaching session, three times a day, for the men’s and women’s boxing teams over the last 11 weeks.

I spent a week assessing them so I could identify what they were in need of, and then focussed on these to give them the best chance of success. I have no doubt that they will fare well. They’re certainly fitter, more skilled and more technical than they were before, putting them in a great place to represent a boxing-mad nation.

WO2 Philpott coaching in Zambia (Credit: WO2 Baz Philpott)

Read more: “I can’t believe it’s turned out the way it has” How RAF sport led AS1 Luke Pollard to the Commonwealth Games

I discovered just how popular boxing is in Zambia, where there are competitions happening every other weekend and it’s common to see rings pop up in the middle of nowhere. You don’t need much money to play — you just need a pair of gloves and a mouth guard — so it’s very accessible for people at every level of society.

The Army has given me opportunities I’d never have had otherwise. I’d never skied before the AGC Alpine Championships, where I learnt to ski in week one and competed in week two. I’d never boxed, and now I’m helping others in my corps get into the sport. And I’d certainly never coached an international team, but that’s how we do business in the Army; it’s about taking people out of their comfort zone.

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