Sunday, June 1, 2008

Off and running

I feel bad for not posting the results of my fight in a more timely manner, but, well, you see the rate at which I update this. My hectic life aside, not only did it feel good (correction: great) to get back into the ring, but it felt...normal. And real.

I must admit, I'm a bit surprised that I don't have the motivation to write some elegant prose about my bout experience back on the big stage (fine, maybe not that big, but it was legitimately a packed house) but I feel like that would just be a bit too melodramatic. The bout really went that well, and it really did feel that normal.

I arrived at the gym about 6:30 on Fight Night, thinking I'd be the last one there since all the fighters were supposed to report by 6:00. (Work, again, getting in the way of boxing time, but I knew I was not fighting until late and I'd be OK.) Like any good boxing event, the first fight started about 45 minutes later than it was supposed to. I settled in with my Sports Illustrated, fruit and Powerbars, and tried to pass the time in as relaxed of a state as possible before it was my time to get loose.

I went through my normal pre-workout warm-up routine, wrapped my hands, shadowboxed, and worked 2 rounds of focus mitts with Hector during the last 2 rounds of the fight immediately before mine. I didn't particularly like how fast, hard and active he had me working to get ready (he seemed more pumped than I did) but I walked to the ring loose, in the zone, and well-prepared to crush some skulls.

After noticing that the kid was about 3-4 inches shorter than me but was built sturdy and thick, I decided that it would definitely be a good idea to use the 1st round as the proverbial "feel 'em out" round. I spent the duration of the 2 rounds moving, circling away from his right hand and peppering him with 1-2's after his lumbering power punches careened off of my arms. Besides a couple of cheap shots (and they were cheap, damn it) breaking from the clinch (kid wouldn't stay off of me!) I don't think he hit me cleanly the entire round.

I went back to my corner feeling confident. A guy who I had never seen before (nor have seen since) was in my corner, with a kid named Joe from the gym helping (pamper me) with the chair, towel and water. Suddenly, my old buddy James (remember him from my 1st good workout when I started training again?) hopped up on the apron and spouted some advice between F-bombs. The strategy was simple: abandon the jab, quit dancing so much, throw lead right hands, and take it to this kid.

And take it to him I did.

The 2nd round was an absolute slugfest, with me doing the slugging and the poor kid throwing an occasional straight right to push me off of him. Leaping in with a lead right, I would string 4,5,6,8,12, Lord knows how many power punches together before hopping back out of range. Somewhere along the way I caught a stiff right hand across my nose (kid hadn't hit me much at this point, but when he did, damn it was hard) and began bleeding out of it. But then again, I've had people fart in my general direction from a block away and my nose has started bleeding, so I wasn't worried.

After picking my opponent apart for 2 minutes, the bell sounded and I turned back towards my corner smiling (ear-to-ear, baby). It was as perfect of a round as anyone could ever ask for without knocking their opponent out.

The 2nd break went very similar to the 1st: lots of swearing, Irish accents, squirts of water, and a towel shoved up my nose to stop the bleeding.

The kid was slow to come out of his corner at the start of the 3rd round, but when he did, he threw a curveball that I never recovered from: he switched up and boxed southpaw.

And I HATE southpaws.

Between a little fatigue and a lot of hesitation/overanalyzing my opponent's newfound left-hand, I spent the 3rd round standing in front of the kid far too much and throwing far too few punches. A couple buddies in attendance would later swear that I still won the 3rd round ("you easily took the first 2 rounds, and you at least got a draw if not won the 3rd") but as I went back to my corner after the final bell - my nose an open spigot of blood - I was nothing short of pissed. A dominant performance squandered by a sub-par final round. After dropping a few F-bombs of my own, my cornerman stuck the blood towel in my face and laughed "wipe this off, you won that fight. You won that fight!"

And I did.

While I was far from perfect throughout the entire match, I truly could not have asked for a better performance in my first bout "back." I put on the fight of the night (ask the gym owner - who hugged me and told me "fight of the night!" - or the dozens of gym members and spectators who told me likewise) with a technical, well-rounded win. Perhaps most importantly, I also discovered a number of areas that I need to correct before I compete again, namely making sure I don't square up so much, I prepare to throw non-stop for 3 rounds (rather than box for 3 rounds, and there IS a difference) and make sure that I rig the draw so my opponent is NOT a friggen lefty.

I'm truly off and running now with my competitive boxing career. I was back in the gym the next day, and while work and Celtics/Red Sox games have impeded my immediate training schedule, as of this weekend I am back on track and already have a couple of prospective bouts lined up for the end of this month. But more on that later. Right now I'm going to go revisit my last bout again - warming at the memories of my mind and body working as one as I landed combinations and the crowd roared, basking in the mountains of post-fight praise, and most importantly, taking notes on what I need to do to elevate my game to where I know it can be.

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