Almanac Boxing: Thommo’s gym



The pink gloves!



I was six years old when I first set foot in my boxing gym. My mum was working late and there was nobody to look after me at home, so my dad had to take me to his boxing session. The gym was set up in the garage of ex-boxing trainer, John Thompson (Thommo), who my dad knew from around town. He would’ve been in his sixties. Balding, grey hair with glasses, he was always sporting a pair of trackies in that parachute-like material that makes noise when you walk. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear anything other than a wife-beater singlet. He looked like a stereotypical retired boxing coach, beer belly and all.


He opened his gym up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for anyone in the area, for $5 a session. My dad, his brother and many other guys went just to stay in shape, but there were a few who Thommo trained professionally.


I don’t remember much from my first experience in the gym, but going off of my shy and meek personality as a young girl, I can imagine I would have felt rather out of place. One thing I do remember is sitting on the bench in the corner of the gym, watching my dad on the punching bag. Thommo called out to me across the room and told me to have a go on one of the free bags. At first, I shook my head and stayed in my seat. It was only when my uncle held one of the bags for me that I stood up and had a go at punching.


Naturally, I had an atrocious punch. I remember my uncle telling me never to tuck my thumb under my fingers, and to move my body with every hit. However, no matter how much I hit that bag that night, I could not seem to do it as well as all the older boys around me.


I’m not sure if that was the motivation that had me begging my dad every week to go with him to the gym, but I assume it was a major factor. Soon after the first time, I was tagging along with Dad every week.


For the first few visits, Thommo taught me the basics of most of the gym equipment. I would use the treadmill and skipping ropes for most of the time I was there, punching on the bags only when they weren’t being used. It wasn’t until a little later on that Thommo encouraged me to have a go on the bags among all the other guys. I was the only girl at the gym, and by far the youngest, so it always intimidated me to train alongside all the others.


When punching on the bags or in the ring, everybody would wear boxing gloves, whether they were from Thommo’s collection or gloves they had bought themselves. I was always the odd one out in these instances, as all the gloves at the gym were way too big for my six-year-old hands. Instead of wearing gloves, my dad would wrap my hands in the hand wrap that goes on before the gloves. I remember my hands looking like marshmallows because he’d have to wrap the fabric so many times.


This was fine for a while, as I wasn’t utilising the bags all that much. However, when I started to become more involved in the gym and showing a greater interest in boxing, it was clear that I would need a pair of my own gloves.


A moment of my childhood that I think I’ll always remember is when my dad bought me my first ever pair of Sting boxing gloves. They were pink and they fitted perfectly. I had come home from school one afternoon to find them sitting on our kitchen table. I could not wait to go to the gym and show them off. I remember Thommo and some of my dad’s mates from the gym cheering and spurring me on now that I had gloves, and I felt so cool.


There’s actually a photo somewhere of my dad, my uncle and I in the boxing ring at the gym. I’m standing in the middle of them both with my fists up and my gloves on. Thommo took the photo and kept it on his photo wall for the whole time that I trained there, and beyond. After I left, some of my friends from school started going. They mentioned to me that there was still a photo of me as a child on the wall. Now that the gym has closed, I sadly haven’t been able to get a copy of the photo, much to my mum’s dismay. It still holds a special place in the back of my memory, though.


My friends were all quite surprised I boxed. I don’t think it was really something I mentioned to many of them. I was also involved with dancing at the time, as were many of my girlfriends, so I would normally only talk about that. I suppose I didn’t think it was something they could relate to, and secretly I have a feeling younger me was worried some of them would join and I wouldn’t be so special anymore.


Once I had my own pair of gloves, I delved into boxing a lot more. I started to love going on the bags with the other guys. I even started to try my hand at the double-end balls that help with consistency and stamina. I will admit that I was terrible at it, and still am to this day, but I loved it.


My favourite part of going to boxing every week, though, was when I got to go in the ring with Thommo. Every week he would alternate between each of us to have a go on the pads with him in the ring. I absolutely loved it. Even now, I can still remember the specific sequence Thommo would call out for each punch. I believe it helped me a lot in feeling more comfortable with the fact that I was the only girl, and a lot younger than everyone else. All the encouragement I received from the older boys actually made me appreciate my uniqueness at the gym and helped a lot with my confidence.


Thommo and some of the guys used to say I was “the next Susie”, referring to Susie Ramadan, who at the time was an up-and-coming Australian female boxer who debuted in 2007. She went on to hold the IBF women’s bantamweight title in 2011 and the WBC women’s title from 2012 to 2014. I was a little too young to do my research on her at the time, but the comparisons to a professional boxer played a big part in my love for the sport. It was those types of compliments that made me want to go further in competitive boxing.






I went on to continue boxing training until I was around 15. Unfortunately, I decided to quit once I started a part-time job. At that point, it was clear that I was only training to stay in shape, as my dad and uncle did. When some of my male friends started the gym a couple years later and taking it seriously, I found myself missing it quite a bit, and feeling jealous of them. Boxing competitively was something that I had wanted to do, but found it difficult to get into given the environment I was training in.


While everyone in my gym was encouraging and supportive of me and each other, there were no real opportunities for me to progress. Looking back on it now that I’m older, I can recognise that it may have been because of my uniqueness. There was nobody my size or gender for me to practise with, spar with or train alongside, and around the time I decided to quit, that had become a little frustrating for me.


Of course, I could have found another gym that catered to my aspirations, but the experiences I had at Thommo’s gym have become a lot more valuable to me. I loved the bonding experience it created between my dad and I, and the lessons I had learned that have now carried into my adult life.


And I know that if I ever get into a street fight, to keep my thumbs outside of my fingers at all times.




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  1. Good stuff, Paris! An enjoyable story of a girl doing it differently and growing as a person in an atypical setting. There can be a lot more to boxing than just ‘the biff’. Do you think you’ll go back to it at some stage?

  2. Great read Paris. Wonderful reading about your experiences and the pleasure you derived from it.

    I sparred on, and off, in my teenage years, then again in my mid to late 30’s. Never very good, however it’s the best way to get/stay fit. After 4 rounds you know you’ve been working! You definitely stay in shape.

    I’m an old man now, but still happy with my hands. The rest of my body ???

    All the best with the studies. Keep up the writing. You do it well.


  3. Daryl Schramm says

    Thanks for posting Paris. A very enjoyable read. What became of Thommo? Also wondering whereabouts the gym was (city? suburb?). I hope the photo turns up.

  4. Nice story.

    A solid session on the pads is a great workout and can be good for the ego at the same time.
    I would slog and gasp my way through 30 minutes but feel like I was as ‘hard’ as Mike Tyson after.

  5. Excellent story, Paris.
    I really hope you find that photo one day.

  6. Paris Emini says

    Hi Daryl, thanks for reading! Thommo closed his gym around 4 years ago now to look after his sick wife. He was located in Kyabram, Victoria – a small town I grew up in.

  7. Paris Emini says

    Hi Ian, glad you enjoyed the story! I’ve always wanted to get back into boxing, but it feels a little daunting to have a to find a whole new gym. Maybe after I graduate uni and have some spare time.

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