Chris Concannon’s club offers opportunities for exercise, camaraderie, and self-discipline
Fauquier County is well known for its picturesque landscapes that meander, rise, and fall with gentle submission to grassy hills and valleys. Its residents highly value the rural, relaxed lifestyle over crowded city living. Imagine introducing an unusual, disparate activity that brings a rush of anticipated moves, gets the heart rate active, the adrenaline pumping, and teaches you how to spar cooperatively. That is exactly what Warrenton resident Chris Concannon did with the Fauquier County Boxing Club he accidentally created.
Meeting in warm-weather months on Saturdays at Eva Walker Park in Old Town Warrenton, this family-friendly boxing club offers mild exercise options for boxers of all levels and actively encourages participation from men, women, and children. It is a far cry from Hollywood tales such as Million Dollar Baby or Raging Bull with its most extreme aspect being Concannon’s undivided dedication to the group which he demonstrates each week through preparation of a formidable, structured plan that incorporates lessons and drills with the same discipline as a school curriculum.
The boxing club is in its infancy, but even in its short existence, it has already motivated its members to learn basic boxing moves, practice skills, and get in better overall physical shape. Interestingly, the creation of the club was unintentional. Concannon mentioned that he posted a simple message in a Facebook community group inviting Fauquier County residents to spar with him to help him get better in boxing. The people who responded told Concannon that they wanted to help him, but had no previous training in boxing.
Without skipping a beat, Concannon organized his thoughts and decided to alter his original one-on-one sparring plan by creating a public experience to benefit the community. Approximately two weeks after Concannon’s original Facebook post, the Fauquier County Boxing Club held its first session in early August last year. Each session includes warm-up exercises, progressive lessons in boxing moves, opportunities for drills, and a final burnout session that had everyone practicing drills in rapid-fire movements. The club averages 10 – 12 people per session, though sometimes fewer people participate.
“I was nervous about people showing up. I went through a lot of peaks and valleys [in administering the club; however] I learned so much about building a healthy community from scratch, especially a boxing one [because] the county wasn’t familiar with this,” he reflected on his experiences so far. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Concannon moved to Warrenton in September 2018. A deeply religious man, he was inspired to move to the area to found an independent church with his friends as a reformed Presbyterian, creating a sense of unity and belonging through humble means in each other’s homes.
So how does the mild-mannered, level-headed Concannon reconcile his devotion to spiritual beliefs with a seemingly dangerous sport that sanctions physical knockouts when opponents alternate through a series of strong blows to the face and quick-thinking defenses? Easy. Concannon is polite, but firm when it comes to the concept of sparring. At no point does he encourage hardcore bloodied fights like the ones professionals do. In fact, he wants the opposite; he chose to set up the boxing club as an educational vehicle that helps people get physically fit while enjoying camaraderie and friendship-building.
We saw Concannon in action last October, right before the club was set to finish its inaugural summer – fall season. The first thing the attendees did was a series of basic warmups around the basketball court for about 10 minutes. Next came the progression in Concannon’s boxing lessons, which had been building steadily since August. Concannon asked each attendee to practice what he taught with a partner. All partnered up, everyone wore boxing gloves and took turns practicing offensive cuts and defensive maneuvers such as ducking or moving away. Each drill lasted roughly three minutes with a meticulous Concannon and his stopwatch overseeing attendees’ movements with the same care and attention as any teacher.
At every moment of the intense 1.5-hour session, Concannon’s frame was unwittingly poised for a photo, whether in elegant fighter stance or in his trademark rhythmic rocking motion, signaling to others how they should be moving. “Pivot on that foot. Be light on your feet. It should almost look like you’re dancing, like a centrifugal motion,” explained Concannon to the attendees.
That day, Martin Tobarga attended with his 10-year-old son Randy. Tobarga began boxing when the club first began; Randy, already an active athlete in multiple sports, chose to attend because “it’s fun.” Another attendee, Nicole Quiroz, had met Concannon a year earlier when she started working with boxing. Quiroz says she was impressed with his style because “he puts correct form over speed … better form equals less injury,” she explained.
Quiroz brought along her friend, Ashley Gray, who was excited to join the club because she liked the idea of exercising with a group and getting encouragement. While the partnering drills were taking place, attendee Emanuel Gebremeskel was quiet and driven, focusing on perfecting the skills he had learned previously from Concannon during private boxing sessions.
Concannon began boxing in his freshman year of college in 2012, keeping at it until he eventually led a boxing group during his junior year. Although he never competed in amateur boxing matches, he felt a strong attraction to the notion of training others and coaching them. “I feel like a missionary,” explained Concannon as he laughed at the oddity of bringing the sport to slow-paced Fauquier County, “people don’t normally do boxing in an agricultural community.”
The Fauquier County Boxing Club is currently on hiatus until the spring. However, Concannon anxiously awaits the day when he can resume because he feels the community has embraced him and his boxing lessons, and he’s enthusiastic about keeping the momentum going. Please visit their Facebook group for more updates: facebook.com/groups/666107137591872.