A 19-year-old Esterhazy, Sask., martial artist has fought his way to a world record, after sparring for 150 rounds over 10 straight hours in the boxing ring.
Zach Gehl's epic Aug. 29 feat breaks the previous world record, of 143 rounds, set in 2019 by Daniel P. Lewis in Liverpool.
Gehl set the goal of breaking the world record not only to keep himself motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to raise money for martial arts classes for kids who deal with bullying.
"I started martial arts when I was 13 years old because I was bullied at school and I needed to have some possible self-defence if it came to that," Gehl said.
Gehl said he raised just under $2,500, which is enough to provide 155 classes for bullied kids.
"I know how much the martial arts helped me," Gehl said. "It helps with self-confidence immensely, because not only are you getting physically stronger and faster, but it also lets you know that you might be able to defend yourself."
Gehl said when the pandemic hit, he decided to set a goal for himself to keep busy and maintain his training.
"I usually compete, like, once a month minimum, so I'm kind of a goal-oriented person," Gehl said. "I did many rounds on the [punching] bag and hundreds of miles running to have a goal."
Gehl said he received an email recently that the world record had been accepted, and the certificate is in the mail.
"The world record was just a means for me to keep a goal and to help a good cause," Gehl said.
What 150 rounds feels like
Gehl said he knew he needed to be in "extremely good shape" in order to execute 150 rounds but just had to keep his "eye on the prize."
"In the first round, you don't know what to expect, so it was pretty nerve-racking," he said. "The first three or four rounds you kinda are getting in the zone almost, and up until round 100, I was just in a zen state."
He said after round 100, which was a big milestone for him, sparring became extremely difficult.
"All my cardio was gone by then, so just from then on, it was just all heart," Gehl said. "After round 130, my body was sort of breaking down, my legs were fully spasming almost, and my vision was getting kind of weird."
From then on, Gehl says he began counting down the rounds until his goal of 150.
"One round at a time you have to take it," Gehl said. "You have to keep focused."
He says he got hit "thousands of times" during the 10 hours.
"Getting hit in the face, it's not fun."