Within weeks of me joining this boxing gym, I was being asked by everyone if I was going to do the sparring competition within the gym that was coming up in a month. I did not think I was in good enough shape and my skills weren’t as sharp as I would have liked them to be since I had taken some time off from training, but hell why not, I like competition so I agreed to participate. I found out who my opponent was going to be and found his match from the previous year and began studying it. Learning what his habits were, which combos he liked to throw, how fast he snapped out his jab, what his footwork and head movement were like, what side he liked to circle to, what openings were there after he threw certain punches. I wanted to know everything about how he liked to box.
During sparring, I took into account everything he was likely to do, and I began to take mental notes of my tendencies, and what he could possibly do to exploit my habits or counter my favorite techniques. I worked on my footwork and head movement, hoping that if I froze up or begin thinking too much, my feet and head would save me from getting pounded on. I began to feel nervous about the match, even though it was touted as a friendly match, once one gets hit, shit can get real in a second. Besides thinking about the actual fight, I began thinking about all the people that would be watching. It wasn’t anticipated to have a huge amount of people, but regardless it was a crowd, sitting, judging, waiting for a mistake or something embarrassing to happen. To add to this, my sister and brother-in-law were flying in to hang out and watch the fight as well. It was difficult enough with strangers watching, but the ante was lifted with people I loved and admired in the crowd. The night before the match, my nerves were up there, but they were silenced with alcohol and good company. The morning of the fight however, was a completely different story.
All I could think of was what was going to happen in that ring. Would he turn it up on me and would we have an all out war? Would he put me on my ass and make me look silly in front of everyone? Was I going to get out-boxed and look like it was my first day stepping in to a ring? He was the crowd favorite, how would that affect my psyche? It was tough to eat anything all day, but after a quick snack and nap, I woke up and headed to the gym to warm up. I get there and I see my opponent, we hug and make friendly talk to lighten up the mood. I’m talking to the other competitors to try and soothe my anxiousness, but nothing helps. The event starts and I’m watching the first few matches and hearing the crowd’s reactions and analyzing how the other boxers perform. Then it was time, I hear my name announced, and I head towards the ring with my stomach in knots and my heart on fire. I step into the ring to face him opposite of me, the ref states his rules and standards, instructs us to touch gloves…and here we go.
I’m dying for that opening bell to ring so I can stop thinking and just react, and it feels like hours for it to finally sound. We come out and touch gloves again, and I am determined to take the center of the ring and set the pace. Normally I’m a counter puncher, but this 1st round I want to be the aggressor and let my jab control what happens in the ring. I’m focusing on him, but hear constant cheers for him from the crowd, and it does something to me that I didn’t expect. It made me mad. It made me want to silence them. I wanted to show them who the better boxer was tonight. My focus on head movement and footwork paid off. He missed many shots, and I was able to time his jab and begin countering with my own, and let me get into a rhythm. We dance around feeling each other out, landing respective shots, but nothing to really stand out. He seems however any time he landed a glancing blow, the crowd would take to him again and make it seem as if he were getting the better of the exchanges. I was not going to allow that, so I land a solid jab that snaps his head back and gets a nice “whoa” from the crowd. We finish the round and I go to my corner to get some much needed air and to clear my head.
I figure out that he can’t beat me to the jab, so I’m going to let loose with some other lead punches and try to get creative. My corner isn’t helping too much, only advice is to keep your hands up, which I dismiss since my head movement is feeling good. We step out for round 2, and I discover he has also made adjustments, and he figured out a little of my timing. He’s learned to be more patient with his jab, knowing I look to counter and he begins setting up his right cross and left hook. He does a better job of controlling the center of the ring, but I don’t allow him to corner me or cut me off, drilling footwork is my savior right now. Once again I hear the crowd giving him advice, instructing him to work my right side, or to cut me off, or more body shots. I hear his corner and my corner, but soon everything becomes blurred and it’s like being underwater, everything slows down and I hear nothing. My jab is my bread and butter, so if it’s not broken, why fix it? I start throwing feints and following with a cross or a left hook. I also work double jabs and body shots to disrupt his timing and see if he opens up anymore. I try to keep in mind not to square up with him and to keep my feet moving, and before I know it I’m gasping and welcome the sound of the bell.
“One more round, one more round and we can have a beer!” is all I’m thinking while I’m resting. I want to start quickly for the first 30 seconds, and then pace myself, and then throw everything I have in the last 20 or so seconds. We begin, and thank goodness he can’t figure out my timing or head movement, so I get in a lot of clean shots and avoid any real damage. Strange thing though, is when I do get hit, I like it, makes me remember I’m in a fight, makes me remember I’m alive and doing something I love. Several times when we clock each other, we smile and nod to acknowledge that it was a good shot. I’m tiring quickly, but adrenaline is taking over as the crowd is cheering us both on. I sense that the round is ending soon, and I begin to pick it up. He begins to pick it up as well, and we start to throw sloppy punches, but hell why not, time for some fun. I hear the clap indicating the last 10 seconds, and we both smile and nod and swing for the fences. I make him miss a lot, I land some nice jabs and hooks, the crowd is cheering and the blood is pumping, and then I hear the bell. It’s all over. All I can do is look tiredly at my buddy with admiration, and give him a hug to say, “Thanks man, that was awesome!” Never felt such a high in my life after I took off my headgear and gloves. I was an exhausted, sweaty mess, but I’ve never felt more alive or happy. I can’t wait to do it again, and I strongly encourage everyone to try it once, just for the hell of saying you tried. Thanks for reading guys and gals!
Well I'm feeling brave, here's the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtaBN3V5R2g&feature=relmfu
P.S. This actually took place well over a year ago, but have been meaning to get it out there for awhile.