Christian Schembri is a local boxer whose career has been on the rise for the past 2 years, we asked him to kick start our interview by telling us a little bit about himself:
I am a very energetic person and I have been involved in sports and martial arts since the young age of five. I first started out learning Shotokan Karate, and practised it until I was 11 years old. At that time, my attention turned to football, and I stopped karate and started practising it instead. However, my love for combat sports never died, and I still watched boxing and kick boxing on TV with my Dad.
Once I turned 17, I wanted to start practising combat sports again, and started to attend some boxing and kick boxing sessions, along with my football training. This eventually led me to drop football and take up the sports of both boxing and kick boxing on a competitive level instead, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever taken in my life.
Boxing and kick boxing are mostly seen as aggressive sports, can you tell us about the discipline they truly involve?
Boxing is an aggressive sport, however, it is a sport that allows you to take out all the frustration that you have inside you in a one hour workout, leaving you feeling calm and relaxed in your everyday life. However, that is only the beginning.
Once you start taking boxing seriously and start competing, the positive changes it makes in your life are big. It starts with your physical well-being. You start working out every day to make sure you are in top condition come fight night, as well as implementing a very healthy diet to make sure you are on target with the weight specified beforehand.
This leads to sacrificing many social activities which involves bucket loads of alcohol and junk food, because, as you might expect, you cannot drink half a bottle of vodka and staying up until 5 in the morning, eating three slices of pizza to settle your stomach, and be able to go for a run. Let alone going through 8 or 10 hard rounds of sparring or a high intensity punch bag workout. This will, in turn, improve your mental well-being, leaving you with a clear mind to face your everyday challenges. It will also improve your self-discipline and determination, a great deal.
How does it feel to have long weeks of training which lead to one match every few months? Is it rewarding enough?
Eventually, the long weeks of training become a staple of your lifestyle and you start looking forward to the training sessions after a day’s work. You also get in the mindset of training camp, where you and your coach set targets that you have to reach through the six weeks of training leading up to the fight, and you set about achieving them, no matter what. The hardest part of camp is, in fact, not the training, but the diet, where you have to hold back from stopping by your favourite fast food joint on your way home to get that burger you are craving or those nofs tuzzana pastizzi!
However, the moment you step into the ring to a 1000 strong crowd’s cheers, the moment, you come face to face with your opponent, go through the fight and hear the MC calling your name and the referee holding your hand up in victory to the cheers of the support, make the hours spent in the gym and eating tuna and egg salads very well worth it.
What would you say are the advantages of an individual versus a team sport?
The first thing that comes to mind is that you reap what you sow. So if you put in your 100% in training, you will be the one who benefits from it, come competition day. Furthermore, your results are dependant only on your technical and physical abilities, unlike team sports where you can be let down by your team mates or your coach’s tactics.
Another advantage is that you are assured that you are going to compete, where as in team sports, you might have the unpleasant surprise of being benched for the whole match, even though you would have been training for the event for ages.
Who is your role model and who has inspired you to keep succeeding in this sport?
There are various sports men and boxers who inspire me to continue working hard for success, such as Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and Roy Jones Jr. However, the biggest influence and role models that I have in my life are my parents. My dad instilled in me a hard work ethic and always encouraged me by saying that I can achieve anything I want through hard work, staying humble and keeping my feet on the ground. This was complimented by seeing him wake up to go to work at 5 o’clock in the morning every day, come rain or shine, to make sure that my sister and I never lacked anything.
On the other hand, my mum has always been the proverbial back bone of the family, always putting our needs before hers, making sure that we were always looked after when we were younger and taking care of every single thing that we needed.
Do you think sports and martial arts can help individuals, especially children and teenagers, gain more self confidence?
Sports and martial arts can definitely help individuals of all ages gain more self-confidence. If a person, for example, does not feel confident because of his physical appearance, sports and martial arts will help because the person can get in shape through physical activity.
Sports and martial arts will also give a person daily feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment every time he or she does a drill right in practice, or starts performing a particular skill better than his team mates.
Winning a competition, be it in training or in a competitive meeting, will also work wonders on a person’s self-confidence. Furthermore, participating in sport or martial arts leads you to meet a lot of new people, and sharing experiences with them and getting involved in new social circles would also help in improving a person’s self confidence.
Before we say goodbye is there anything else you wish to tell us?
Boxing and kick boxing are growing very fast in Malta, with at least 15 shows being booked for this year already, not including amateur events, and this is all due to the great work of the promoters who are organising great shows. The professional work carried out by the Malta Boxing Commission in organising the sport of boxing is another plus point.
I would like to see this growth curve continue onwards and upwards, and to encourage promoters, fighters and coaches alike to work hand in hand so that we can improve our sport and go on to achieve bigger and better things.
As for myself, I am taking each fight as it comes and trying to move up the ranking ladder as quickly as I can. If, in the future, an opportunity comes along for me to compete on a professional level, I would definitely grab it with both hands.
Lastly, I would like to thank my coach Super Steve Martin from Fight Factory Home of Champions and Sensei Silvio Camilleri from Wu Shu Ky, and my family for the continuous support they give me, because without them nothing that I have achieved so far would have been possible.
Photography: Matthew Camilleri – All rights reserved.