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emily   –   November 22, 2020

Jack spoke with Men’s Journal about his new movie, Jungleland, boxing, working out, and more. Read it below!

MEN’S JOUNRAL – Jack O’Connell has been boxing since his early teens, and he largely credits the sport for molding him into the man he is today. So it’s no surprise he was enthusiastic about the opportunity to play a bareknuckle brawler in the indie drama Jungleland. The story centers on two roughneck brothers who road trip cross-country for an underground no-holds-barred competition. When it came time to prepare for the film’s shoot in Boston, O’Connell decided his best way to get into character would be to treat his pre-production time like a training camp.

“I trained like I was preparing for a real boxing fight,” O’Connell tells Men’s Journal. The work started at his home gym, Westside Boxing in West London, then moved to Brighton’s Boston Boxing and Fitness. “I was working out next to Golden Gloves competitors, and really connected with some of these guys, we even brought some of them into the movie.”

The results of O’Connell’s work can be seen onscreen, showcasing his lean physique in the film’s pivotal fight scenes. We spoke with the Derby-born actor about getting in the ring for Jungleland, training with his co-star Charlie Hunnam, and his favorite fighters.

Men’s Journal: What excited you about the Jungleland script?

Jack O’Connell: Jungleland was an opportunity to bring stories and lessons from the gym—from boxing. The script centers around bareknuckle fighting, which is its own whole universe. There’s a scene out here where I’m from, too, so it was interesting for me to try to present a story about two brothers within this subculture. The story itself stands on its own legs, but the fact it was in the world of bareknuckle boxing is what really drew me to it.

How long have you been boxing?

I started kickboxing when I was 11 years old, which I feel like is a good age to start. It may be a little late if you want to compete, but you’re still flexible and moldable. The movements can come a little easier when you have that youth on your side. From there, I started focusing more on boxing and striking quickly. I really believe in the science of boxing. I don’t find it to be a brutal sport. There are brutal consequences, sure, but at its core it’s the purest of contests between two individuals. It all starts in that gym, and that’s where a lot of those fights are won. That fascinates me. What I learn from boxing is much more than just what I learn in the ring.

What other elements of boxing do you find constructive?

There’s so much more that comes with studying boxing besides learning how to throw a punch. So much more. Getting punched in the face can be a great lesson. I just think it’s a very humbling experience, and it comes as the result of learning your limits, like you do in the ring. You can feel the consequence of not putting yourself into something 100 percent.

What do you look for in a boxing gym experience?

I’m drawn to the attitude of people that I hang out with in the boxing gym. The places I go are the opposite of aggressive and the opposite of macho. I don’t want to hang out in a gym that’s too macho. A good share of my role models, and people I look up to, are people I’ve met in the boxing gym.

What gym do you work out at now?

I usually train at Westside Boxing in West London. They have some great talent coming through there. They’re pretty well known in the amateur boxing scene. There’s a guy called John Holland, who’s old school and traditional. I’ve learned so much from him. He’s a paternal figure in my life, no question. I am usually there three or four times a week, and I try to spare twice a week.

What do you like about boxing as a workout?

I can’t really get down with traditional workouts, like a lot of weightlifting. I have to be punching something or kicking a football. Otherwise, it can just feel a little pointless. Perhaps that’s more of a mindset thing on my end, but I just don’t see the point of it. I find the combination of boxing and playing football, or soccer as you call it, is a great combination for me. It keeps my mind fit. It keeps my body fit. I fucking hate cardio, so I need to have it disguised. The physique I ended up with by the time we started filming was the one I had after focusing purely on my boxing. After a proper training period. I wasn’t going in there trying to look particularly pumped or busting out of my shirt. I was going into this movie wanting to look like a fighter.
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