Train like the Green Machine

World champ Danny Green on the coward’s punch, the benefits of boxing and the art of channelled aggression. By Tom van Leeuwen

Danny Green is proud to say he’s never started a fight, but we all know he can finish them. The four-time world champion boxer has a record of 36 professional wins and has been fighting for belts, pride, purses, family and country for nearly 20 years.

Living up to the hard man image inside the ring, Green has weighed in on public conversations commonly associated with the sport, particularly when it comes to young male aggression and senseless violence. How? By putting money where his mouth is and funding the Coward’s Punch campaign that has since changed the vernacular on street violence, boiling down the impact of striking someone unaware to its base level – a coward’s act.

But Green’s streetwise nature means he knows that violence and conflict in society will never be eradicated completely. Here, he says, is where the art of boxing can empower people to defend themselves and take back confidence.

To be a champion boxer takes fitness, aggression and focus. It’s a combination that Green has clearly mastered and is now putting this expertise to good use with 12RND Fitness – a mix of boxing, strength and functional training that’s based on Green’s own pre-fight routine.

MF caught up with the Green Machine on the causes he fights for outside the ring, why boxing is a skill everyone should learn and how 12RND Fitness packs a punch.

MH: You’ve just received government funding to support the Coward’s Punch campaign for another three years. Why did you feel this message should come from you?

DG: My initial reason was that young blokes see me boxing in the ring and they might listen to what I’m trying to say. In 2012 we changed the vernacular in society, now we see magistrates and judges handing down sentences referencing the “coward’s punch” and all the newspapers and TV channels used it in lead stories countless times.

It’s been very powerful and it’s really resonated because the terms “king hit” and ‘one punch” were glorifying the action. If someone’s down at the pub and they’ve done a six-month stretch for assaulting some bloke, they’re going to brag about it. But if they’ve been sentenced because of a coward’s punch they’re going to be ashamed to say it. The Coward’s Punch campaign is about shaming and belittling someone who does it and using that label to say “hey, if you do this you’ll be branded for life”.

MH: Fighting seems like a rite of passage for many young men. Were you picking fights when you were younger?

DG: Not really. I’ve always been pretty happy and open. I got into conflicts when I was younger and that’s life, but I’m proud to say I’ve never picked a fight. My old man taught me not to pick a fight and to walk away if you can, but if you’ve gotta fight you’ve gotta fight. I don’t want someone to take advantage of me or get on top of me for no reason or do me harm.

Every person has the right to defend themselves and there’s always going to be violence out there; there’s always going to be confrontation. But the unnecessary, senseless violence for no reason – like walking up behind someone, or to the side, and attacking them when they’re absolutely unaware it’s about to happen or can’t defend themselves – that’s the coward’s punch. We want people to start thinking, “You know what? I can probably just walk away from this situation”. The campaign is not about putting an end to [violence] because it’s never going away, but it’s trying to decrease these instances happening and the number of lives lost.

MF: Why is boxing a skill people should learn?

DG: I’m teaching my son how to box and how to defend himself, because one day he’s going to need that skill. He’ll be in some form of confrontation and he’s going to need to be able to defend himself. As a father it’s something I feel like I need to pass on to my little fella. It’s a skill for him to use only when necessary – to defend yourself, your family and your friends. That’s it.

I think the art of boxing and understanding how to defend yourself can give you confidence and help you feel more secure in public. Not only do you learn how to throw a few punches, you learn defence, how to move, evade and counterattack.

Physically it’s a great way to improve balance, hand-eye coordination, cardio fitness and strength training. In boxing you really have to push your body, and the only way to push your body to its absolute limits is through the mind – so it’s really good at building mental strength as well.

MF: You’re a big part of 12RND Fitness. Tell us about it and how it differs to any other fitness franchise?

DG: Boxing is a sport that’s been around forever but it’s having a renaissance with the general public of late in Australia. 12RND has been a big part of that – there are 64 clubs around the country now, where people get to improve themselves physically while learning the art of boxing along the way. The longer they train at 12RND the more skilled they become.

The sport of boxing has been always been around. AFL and NRL teams use the sport in their pre-season for fitness and preparation. In the last decade the general public has started using boxing more as well. I wanted to create something where everyone can have access to boxing, where they can feel like a fighter, without actually getting hit.

MF: Be honest – is everything done in the gym how you prepared for your own professional fights?

DG: 12RND is designed totally around what I used to do before a fight, mixing strength and conditioning exercises with the skill of boxing – it’s what I’ve always done. The hardest part of boxing is to do it properly and maintain good form and technique when you’re super fatigued. That’s the challenge.

For example, members might start with some swinging kettlebell exercises, chin-ups, TRX exercises, or a sled push. Then for the next 30 seconds you’ve gotta get on the bag and do 1-2 uppercut combinations 10 times, hard and fast. Your heart’s exploding and your lungs are bursting, the lactic acid in your glutes and your legs are burning, yet you’ve just gotta keep pushing and maintaining that form and technique for 12 three-minute rounds. That’s the challenge.

MF: What’s the feedback you’ve got from 12RND members?

DG: I’ve had a lot of feedback from people that whatever they’re dealing with – work, family, personal, leisure, whatever – it’s given them a real improvement on their clarity. Physically they feel a lot better and mentally they feel a lot sharper and more focused.

In today’s world, mental health is such a big issue and 12RND really does help focus the mind and has become a strong tool for people who are suffering. If members want to train adequately at their level, they need to come down and lock-in for their workout and forget about everything else.

People love it – they say, “When I come here the whole world shuts off”. As soon as that first bell goes and you start your first round and you’re locked into 12 rounds and you’re so focused – focused on boxing, focused on strength and conditioning, focused on breathing, focused on technique and getting through the next round.