Real Boxing Only: How one fight changed the course of Michelle Kuehn's life

Nick Watkins - Writer 11:12 17/11/2019
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Real Boxing Only Managing Director Michelle Kuehn

Last weekend DAZN produced their most watched live fight so far when YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul stepped into the ring for their much-anticipated rematch.

The fight broke the mould of traditional pay-per-view events, as the two novice fighters managed to draw more buys than any other fight in the UK – including Anthony Joshua’s American debut against Andy Ruiz.

If there’s anything to be learned from the two YouTubers, who could happily retire off their earnings for their night’s work, it’s that with hard work, dedication and a dream, anything is possible.

Logan Paul has since suggested a full-time boxing career is something he’s looking to pursue, and KSI has been called out by professional fighters looking to cash in on the vlogger’s success.

Someone else who changed her career path through boxing is Managing Director of Dubai’s Real Boxing Only gym Michelle Kuehn.

“I felt that I was just average at everything I was doing, I hadn’t found my ‘why’, so I took up boxing,” she tells Sport360.

“For someone who had never been athletic, or done any sport, that first class was really tough. I couldn’t even manage one minute on a treadmill. It made me realise how unfit and weak I was, both mentally and physically.

“After a few sessions, I made it to 15 minutes on the treadmill and because of that improvement I saw, I got the bug for boxing. It was the first time I felt that I could be better than average at something.”

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Kuehn, who has been a UAE resident since 1995, had lost her direction in life before boxing ignited a fire in her, which led to the creation of her very own gym.

Tired of spending her days sat in an office, she knew something had to change.

“I was in events and marketing, then moved into PR and in 2015 I was in a tough spot in my life. I kind of lost myself, I gained weight and I wasn’t healthy or happy,” she recalls. “Despite having my own company at that time, I didn’t feel like it was for me anymore. I was losing friends and didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself.”

Little did she know, less than a year later she’d be having her hand raised in victory in the middle of the squared-circle.

“Someone suggested I try boxing and I ended up having my first fight in 2016, which wasn’t really the plan but I was in shape and I wanted to test myself so I did it – and I won. I didn’t really know what I was doing, I remember after the first minute I was exhausted.

“The girl wanted to kill me, she was just pushing me around and somehow I knocked her down, even though I was really scared.

“Unfortunately she got up and I had to fight two more rounds, but from there I don’t even remember much of the fight, I just had such an adrenaline rush. I was hooked.”

Her first win was a welcome one, having felt mediocre her whole life, boxing suddenly brought out an inner-confidence she never knew she had.

“I finally felt like I was better than average at something, even though I didn’t know much about getting in shape, I hadn’t done any strength training, boxing gave me a drive and determination which I was previously lacking.”

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Having now found something to get her blood pumping Kuehn began making a living from boxing, by opening her own gym in 2017.

“I just couldn’t wait to get started,” she says enthusiastically.

“Two months after signing our lease the gym was open. Like any new business, the first few months were difficult, we had to build a reputation and develop our classes.

“This was all new to me, but I worked my butt off, and I still haven’t really stopped. In the beginning, I spent hours and hours inviting people to the gym, and connecting with a bunch of coaches to get the ball rolling. People began coming and inviting their friends and word spread eventually.

“We’ve now had to rearrange the gym and move the ring because there wasn’t enough floor space a few months ago, that’s when I knew we’d turned the corner.”

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Two years on from the ribbon cutting and plans are afoot for the expansion of Real Boxing Only’s gym with plans to open a second branch in Dubai within the next twelve months.

“The target is next September 2020, which is creeping up on me. I’ve found a good location already,” states Kuehn. “I want to change hundreds of thousands of lives daily, with 16 branches over the next six years. In the Middle East and North Africa. The goal is to help people who want to find a place where they can come and learn about themselves and grow from the experience.”

Kuehn hopes her own experience going from spending hours staring at a computer screen to now spending her life in the gym, will show others that there’s an inner strength in all of us.

“We’re not developing boxers per say, we’re helping people find their inner fighter, so they can go back into real life and win. Boxing helps you get up when you’re down, you learn to take a punch, there’s nowhere to hide, and I think it relates well to real life.”

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