Friday, June 27, 2008

Friend or Foe?

My bout Saturday went very well. I bussed out to my gym at 11 a.m. and carpooled to the host gym with my cornerman (a kid named Dante I had just met, but he knew his stuff) and a couple other training partners from my gym who were fighting. I don't know whether it was the smaller, more laid-back crowd and atmosphere or the fact that it felt like just another lazy Saturday afternoon at the gym, but my preparation immediately before my fight was much more relaxed and smooth than in my previous fight. Perhaps the most interesting pre-fight experience was talking with my opponent for over an hour immediately before we squared off.

I was scheduled to fight fairly late on the card, so I made myself comfortable in the auditorium and watched some of the early fights. It didn't take much small talk before I learned that the kid sitting next to me was my opponent. With the circumstances of our meeting out in the open, I knew that our conversation could go two radically different directions. So what do I do? I laughed at the irony and continued to chat with my fellow combatant. From recalling past bouts to commentating the fights in front of us to subtly scouting each other (I made sure he wasn't a friggen southpaw) we discussed each other's boxing careers and preferences as if we were old acquaintances. The only reason our conversation ended was because I had to leave to go get ready to, well, kick his ass.

Odd? I don't know, you tell me. A great way to stay relaxed (being nervous before a fight is, hands-down, the easiest way to needlessly waste a ton of energy before a fight) and pass the time before my bout? You betcha.

Learning from my mistakes in my previous fight, I intentionally shortened my warm-up, essentially cutting it in half. 2 rounds of jump rope, thorough stretching, 3 rounds of shadow boxing and 2 rounds of light mitt work was all I needed to have my blood pumping and muscles loose and enter the squared circle in my fightin' state-of-mind.

I doubled-up the fist-pounding with my opponent (friend?) in the center of the ring, once when we received the ref's instructions, and a second time during the opening seconds of the 1st round. The opening minutes went as expected - feeling each other out with prodding jabs and diving in and out for quick exchanges, but never completely committing or loading up on one punch. The kid moved very well though, and definitely had an advantage over me in terms of raw hand speed. Or at least, that's what it seemed like before I realized in the 2nd round that it was a matter of timing - he had figured me out between rounds and now wouldn't let me get any closer than jabbing distance without sticking a 1-2 in my face.

Despite losing round 2 on points (my corner confirmed my gut feeling by greeting me with "he didn't like you getting inside, so he didn't let you that round - you need to fix that" as soon as I was on the stool) I had landed enough clean power shots that I still felt good. I entered the 3rd round with my confidence up, plenty of gas in the tank and the assurance that I, too, was figuring my opponent out.

The 3rd round started with another touching of the gloves (love fest!) and passed quickly, a long cycle of circling in the middle -> quick exchange -> working into the corner -> big exchange -> off the ropes and back in the middle of the ring. I felt like I definitely caught up on points in the 3rd round, but the fight was an exhibition so there wasn't a decision. My corner man and teammates all said I looked really good, and I felt the same way. I fought a smart fight, picked my spots, didn't eat any big shots, wasn't marked up, and, had it been scored, kept it very, very close. In all likelihood my opponent might have eeked out the win by amateur scoring, but I truly believe that I would have won comfortably had it been scored like a pro bout - which, against a very experienced opponent in just my 2nd fight in over a year, is fine by me. It was an exhibition, and I exhibited skill, ability and athletic prowess. More importantly, I learned from the experience, so it's all good in my book.

In retrospect, I really think I lacked killer instinct in that bout. I don't think this can be attributed to me becoming acquainted with my opponent immediately before the fight (though that definitely didn't help) so much as the setting - the small crowd, rundown gym and afternoon event just put me in too much of a sparring session state of mind. Regardless, it was great experience, and I've piggybacked off the positives to have a phenomenal week of training. It's now embedded in my mind to stay hungry - train for the kill and don't hesitate to move in for it when you see the opportunity.

Momentum is building. Good things are happening and great things are on the horizon.

More to come soon.

Go Royals. God bless.

No comments: