The youth team are seven games undefeated in their Under-18 Premier League campaign so far this season and were in the blue corner for their visit to the 12x3 Boxing Gym for a session with former middleweight world champion Darren Barker.
Hailing from north London and nicknamed Dazzling, Barker boasts an impressive record of 26 wins (16 by knockout) and two losses from 28 fights. Known for his unorthodox stance, he put the team through their boxing paces as they swapped their boots for gloves and Under-18s assistant coach James Simmonds explained to the official Chelsea website the reasoning why from ringside.
‘Firstly, going off-site is a different environment for the boys,' said Simmonds. 'The boxing is a physical challenge - instead of doing a normal gym session at Cobham, we had to think of something different to test the boys in ways they might be a little less comfortable with.'
Barker held multiple titles at middleweight including the International Boxing Federation title in 2013, the Commonwealth title from 2007 to 2009, the British title in 2009 and the European title from 2010 to 2011 so there was plenty of experience for our young players to learn from.
‘Darren is a friend of Jody Morris and a former world champion at middleweight with his own gym in Paddington,’ Simmonds, a former Blues Academy player explained. 'He’s a big Chelsea fan as well so he was very happy to put on a session for us.
‘We wanted him to push the boys to their limits to see who could keep up and sustain the standard - it was a good test of character.
‘The session benefited them massively. It was also a team-bonding exercise as none of us had been there before and everyone was out of their comfort zone so it brought us together as a team in terms of morale.'
Goalkeeper Ethan Wady took part in the exercise and acknowledged the benefits of other sports for footballers.
‘It’s about getting an appreciation for other types of sports,’ he explained. ‘I think every player would agree with me in saying boxers are unbelievably fit after the training we have done.’
Despite enjoying the boxing session, Wady says he won’t be swapping gloves anytime soon.
‘I think I’ll stick with the goalkeeping gloves - they're a bit more comfortable for me!' he said with a grin.
The Under-18s are back in action this weekend with a home game against Norwich City on Saturday, kick-off 12noon.