Monday, December 21, 2009

Billerica Elks

Man, bad timing to get uber-busy and neglect updating this - especially since these past two weeks have had a lot going on in the squared circle. Funny how that works...

So to backtrack to my last post... I fought a sanctioned bout at the Billerica Elks Lodge (don't laugh! It was a legit venue with a solid crowd) a few Saturdays ago. Per usual since my move up to 152 lbs., I made weight with ease, stepping off the scale at 148. Mind you, up to the 5 p.m. weigh-in the only food/water I had up to that point was a Powerbar and banana for breakfast, but like all same day weigh-ins, I'm adamant about clearing the weight limit with ease so I can spend the hours leading up to the fight re-hydrating rather than further de-hydrating and wasting energy cutting the last few pounds.

As I was munching on some wheat pasta, my trainer informed me that my opponent was pulling out because I was "too old." (He was 18, I'm 24.) When I asked if it was a mismatch by record or weight (how amateur fights are made) my trainer said no - it was solely about the age difference. As he confirmed and re-confirmed with the USA Boxing officials that I wasn't fighting, we debated the idiocy of my "opponent's" decision to show but not fight (from the drive out to the boonies in a blizzard, to the question of "if this was a tournament would this clown bow out of that because of age too?") and came to the conclusion...that no matter how you looked at it, this was lame.

Just as I had come to peace with the fact that I wasn't fighting that night and started to cool my heels, my trainer came back and said they found a fight...and I was up second.

Mentally I went from a slow ramp-up to slamming on the brakes to revving the engine again within the same hour - you can't underestimate the mental disadvantage that can put you at.

Regardless, when it's go-time you go, and I was rearing and ready for the opening bell.

My opponent was a strong, block-shaped (in an endearing way) kid from Lowell that seemed to throw nothing but jabs and uppercuts - quite effectively at first - and had a tendency to hold. A lot. Unfortunately, I didn't find any of this out until about 2/3 of the way through the 1st round. It was already a fairly ugly fight, but I knew I had the speed, strength and strategy advantage, so I made sure to out-ugly him and ended the round up on points.

At this point, I forget exactly what my trainer said between the 1st and 2nd rounds, but I know the gist of it was to quit fighting ugly and make the kid box me in the center of the ring, where I was doing nothing short of schooling him.

But alas, the 2nd round was the same as the 1st, where just as I found my range and landed some flush shots, the kid got on his horse and backpedaled, I chased, and we ended up being tied up on the ropes until the ref broke us up. While my opponent did land a few strong uppercuts in close quarters, I really started pulling away on points by staying busy as he backpedaled, throwing pitter-patter shots at a high rate. While I know all of my shots weren't hurting him, I knew I was scoring points in bunches. And that's really all that matters.

You had to have seen it - it was so ugly, it was beautiful.

Seriously.

Between rounds, my trainer again yelled at me for getting in so close all the time and letting him 'rassle around with me, but said that when I did get tied up to keep doing what I was doing - which was stay busy, keep throwing and score points regardless of distance/arm angle/anything worth writing home about.

In the 3rd round my opponent came out of his corner completely flat. I don't know how he gassed so badly, but I'm glad he did and I'm happy to take credit for it. Tired, his jab slowed and uppercuts widened, which allowed me to beat him to the punch, parry and consistently land some flush jabs and hooks. This also resulted in him skipping the whole in-fighting thing and go straight for tie-ups whenever possible...as well as throw an errant body shot that landed low.

Now for those of you who have never been hit low in the ring, I gotta tell ya, it's a..."unique" experience, to say the least. Yes, we've all been hit low before, and yes, hurts like hell, and yes, I was wearing a cup. And while it sucks something awful, I must admit that I underestimated the numbing power of adrenaline, as well as the surreal sensation you get when you realize that you're the subject of a few hundred people's groans and cringes.

After the low blow, the ref led me to a neutral corner and sheepishly told me "I didn't see it, but take your time." Bent over with a glove awkwardly on my crotch, I looked up and exclaimed "didn't see it?! Did you hear the crowd?! They saw it..." He laughed and said "Yeah, I heard 'em, that's why I'm giving it to you."

Nice guy, that ref.

As I kneeled there waiting for the electricity in my trunks to subside, I looked across the ring and saw my opponent sucking wind. And it was at that point that I knew I needed to suck it up and finish the fight that instant - every second I spent recovering was wasted, as my opponent somehow was needing the time more than me.

We touched gloves, my opponent nodded apologetically, and I went back to work. I finished the fight strong, working my way in with an increasingly effective jab and pouncing with flurries, sticking to my strategy of shortening my arms and just landing short, "torquey" punches in bunches. Think the Calzaghe/Manfredo stoppage.

The bell rang, we congratulated one another and our respective corners, my trainer pointed out how "if you lose this decision, I'm going to be really pissed," and I went to the middle of the ring...to have "Jonathan Moreland" called over the PA and my hand raised.

But the best part? The ref handed me this bad boy:



And they ended up sticking this on my gym's homepage (why, oh why does no one get my name right?)



So the lessons learned:
- if you want to fight at a certain distance, keep it at all times - your opponent might easily not let you "get out" and keep re-establishing that distance naturally (without a tie-up and the ref breaking and restarting the action first)
- there is a time and place to stop what you're doing and let your nuts quit hurting - when your opponent is gassed in the final round of a fight is not one of them
- if your opponent is going to fight ugly, make sure you have the composure to "out-ugly" him
- it's all about the points, baby. And the W.
- it's more fun to when you get hardware and an online shout out

So while the celebration was on, I only had a few days to rest, recover and (re-) prepare for my next bout, which was that upcoming Friday for the filming of the season finale of my gym's NESN reality TV series.

No rest for the weary...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pre-fight Bullets

Some random thoughts as I cool my heels before my bout tonight:


- My least favorite time to fight is Saturday night. This might seem a bit counter-intuitive since Saturday evening events usually are much more high-profile and have bigger draws, but it's miserable sitting around waiting to weigh-in, let alone keep my (hungry, dehydrated) self occupied in my apartment. Regardless, I love boxing and competing on a big, amateur stage. Just in the meanwhile, I'm a little uncomfortable and restless.

By the way, the alternative "good" times are Friday nights (leave straight from the office where I've been busy and had my mind elsewhere all day) or Saturday afternoons, when I can end my fasting immediately after a mid-day weigh-in.

A Powerbar, ziplock of wheat pasta and banana (my bounty after tonight's weigh-in) never looked so good...

- I tried the Roberto Duran approach and ate a huge steak last night. Usually I'm much more of a chicken or tuna type of person for my pre-fight meal, but the old school greats stuck with cow, so I figured I'd give it a whirl. Anyone know the pros/cons of different proteins before a fight? Meat's meat to me, and I always eat it with whole grains, veggies and all sorts of good complex carbs, so as far as I'm concerned I'm still getting the nutrients I need.

- There's no worse feeling than taking work home from the office on a weekend - namely due to having a scheduled day off on a Friday. So between counting every calorie or drop of liquid that enters my body, I've also had to spend a bit more time than I'd like on my laptop on said staycation/long weekend. But such is life...and the nature of this blog.

New nickname idea: the punching PR pro. It's only fitting, since life's been more than equal parts lately.

- I'm disappointed I'm going to miss the Williams/Martinez fight tonight, but hopefully can avoid spoilers by browsing online carefully until Monday. It should be a great fight. Anyone watching? Well you shouldn't, the big fight tonight is in Billerica, MA...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trying to keep up - pt 2 of 2

Aside from consistency, the major thing missing from my training regimen the past few months has been getting different looks sparring. There are quite a few bodies in my gym, but too many of them are cut from the same mold, whether it be size, style or a lack of experience (or just flat out skill - let’s be honest.)

Now while this can be easily remedied by, say, going to a different gym to spar for a day, increasing rounds but slowing the pace with a “newbie” to fine-tune technique and try new stuff, or making sure you’ve mastered an attack plan for a particular style through repetition, there are some molds/types/styles that you just can’t get used to unless you see it early and often.

Southpaws often need “approached” like this. There aren’t a ton of them out there and they give lots of people problems in the ring from, well, squaring up “backwards.” If you don’t have a lot of experience with them, they’re bound to give you problems or - best case - take you out of your element and force you to fight differently than you would against an orthodox fighter, even if it’s an adjustment as simple as the direction you circle.

Having said that, over time I’ve learned not to completely hate lefties. Rounds and rounds of sparring and countless (thudding) left hands have made me quit thinking “oops, I need to quit doing that” after the fact and be able to step into the ring knowing how to best counter and attack a lefty.

Where’s this leading? Well it ties into last post’s question about tall, rangy fighters.

Because last week I learned that I haven’t spent nearly enough rounds with taller fighters lately.

And I still am not even close to figuring them out.

Tall fighters are not tough automatically because of their height - they're tough when they use that height and create an advantage. And this isn't just purely by reach, but also defensively through shoulder rolls, slips, leans and just good all-around, defensive upper body movement.

My recent experience was with a super slick, lanky 152-lber from another gym who came in for some work. While I had some early success getting inside, neutralizing his height and banging with him, he moved well enough and fired off enough jabs that I (stupidly, out of frustration) tried to start jabbing with him and fighting at a distance.

Which is not smart when you're facing a finesse fighter with a 4-5" height advantage.

In the end, we moved around 4 rounds, with me kicking his tail on the inside for the first 60 seconds...and then him picking me apart for the last 120 of each round.

Lesson learned. Get inside early and get comfy there - his arms don't seem so long close-up.

This sparring, of course, was part of my training for my sanctioned bout this Saturday, 12/5, which is still confirmed. While I don't feel like (rather, I know I'm not) in the immaculate condition I was before my hiatus in October, I've upped my sparring and drills (4-punch drills/exchanges, jab drills, the partner stuff I'm not usually a regular with) and have done what I can with the time and energy allotted. Aside from some big-time trouble breathing because of my crooked shnozz, I think the only think needed now is to keep ramping up my mental preparation and sharpening the chip on my shoulder. And even then, with mental prep comes confidence and relaxation, which will only help my energy and stamina in the ring.

It's all connected, it's all catching up, and it'll all come together beautifully Saturday. It will. Like it always does. For serious.

So long as my opponent's not tall.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trying to keep up - pt 1 of 2

What a whirlwind week. While I've been feeling relatively good in the ring with some encouraging results to boot, I can't help but feel a little anxious that I'm just doing enough to get by and I won't be able to keep savvy-ing my way to wins forever. (Who would have thunk we'd see the day where I ease off the gas, stop being so quick to brawl, use my head and dominate with "savvy?")

Speaking of which, the short-notice bouts continue to roll in. I was notified last Friday that I'd be fighting on December 4 and in our reality show season finale on December 11. Seeing how that's not even two weeks away, I'm officially behind and borderline desperate to get things "clicking" again - but tell that to the Dr.'s appointments, dentist drilling for oil in my gums, client projects and breakneck pace at the office. Oy. Just got to make it happen...

But to backtrack:

Last Friday I had a bout at an event hosted by my gym. Ironically, my opponent didn't show, so I was matched against a stablemate in a similar situation. I had never moved around with him before, but he's had some amateur success and is graced with - without a doubt, far and away - the fastest hands in the gym. Unfortunately, until I can post the video (and there will be video - this was recorded by a trainer as well as the TV crew) I'm stuck giving you the Reader's Digest version.

Round 1 was very much a feeling out round, with me gauging just how much faster he was than me (a lot) and figuring out what it will take to pin him in a corner, lower his work rate, slow down...anything to get him to keep his hands still and by his chin. Fortunately (for my face as well as my strategy) he wasn't one to push the tempo, engaging me at a pace that was borderline lazy. Noticing this early, I made sure to flurry the last 30 seconds to steal some points and the round.

Whether he got tired, lazy, comfortable or intimidated by my pop (the ham-muh was singing!) his work rate decreased further in Round 2 and I was able to consistently throw first. And since he was letting me get off first, I made sure to get off often, keeping distance with my lead right, sticking a healthy diet of jabs in his face, and pouncing in and out with 5-, 6- and 38- (if only) punch combinations.

Round 3 was a repeat of Round 2, only more lopsided in my favor. I kept my defense tight and feet moving to make sure we only engaged when I wanted to - we either traded individual punches at a distance or I was able to open him up, flurry in close and then quickly escape back out behind my jab. After the final bell, my corner and random spectators alike were telling me I "beat him up" - which, when going against a speedster, means a lot and is an indication of just how well I was able to neutralize his speed and fight my fight.

Another interesting comment I kept hearing was that I "looked so relaxed." I think that explains why I surprised myself with how much I had left in the gas tank. I also think it's a completely overlooked aspect of amateur boxing. There's no better way to tire yourself out, start lunging and getting sloppy than tensing up in the ring. It used to be a problem of mine, but I think time, experience and mental as much as physical preparation can help anyone stay calm, loose and composed in a bout, with far-reaching benefits.

Anyway, that brings us to a little over a week ago. Both a lot (sparring a nationally-ranked boxer on camera, learning about my two bouts early next month) and surprising little (um, not nearly enough time in the gym) has happened since then, but I want to leave that for another post this week. After all, with the holidays I'll definitely have time to crank out some more content, as well as (finally) tweak some visual stuff on this sorry-looking site.

You have to catch up with yourself before you can keep up (and move ahead) of the pack...

Until then, allow me to pose a question for the comments section: how would you fight a much taller opponent? And don't Google it - I'm much more interested in your experience, whether it be an in-ring lesson or outside observation. My answer (and rude awakening) coming later this week...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Preparation is key

I'm a creature of habit when it comes to the 36 hours immediately leading up to a fight. Last night, however, I had no choice but to break my rituals.

After swinging into CVS to buy a protein bar, banana, sugar free Red Bull and my other pre-fight necessities, I walked home and went to unlock my back door...when I couldn't find my apartment key. Key chain? Check. My apartment key? Nowhere to be found.

Thank you, Murphy's Law...

I call my roommate and of course, she isn't answering. I have someone let me into the building itself, drop my goodies off at my apartment door and do what any decent, patient man would do: walk to my favorite neighborhood bar.

So instead of a home cooked dinner of chicken parm, I had a (delicious) grilled cheese with fried pickles. And a mug of Octoberfest, because I was in that sort of mood. (Pre-fight rules be damned!)

A buddy was in the area, so we met up and one mug turned into two. It's been three hours and my roommate is still not answering or replying. And that's when the spelling bee started.

Yes, a spelling bee. Like on TV with the little, uber-geeky kids. Just at a bar. And it was awesome, albeit of no help getting me in my apartment and my bed.

10:30 p.m. rolls around and I'm still - for all intents and purposes - homeless. I line up a couch to sleep on, a ride to work in the a.m. and a washing machine to wash my clothes since I'll be wearing them two days in a row. I trek out into the night to hop on the train...

...when my roommate calls.

30 minutes later, I'm in my apartment, spare key in hand. I won't even tell you where my key was, but, well, it was in the most obvious place outside of staying on my key chain.

So in short: while I'm in good shape and have had good results the past two weeks in the ring, I am far from being peaked and truly "ring ready." I've worked a long week in the office (hell, I'm still at my desk now, just 3 hours before my bout), didn't get much sleep last night and have done nothing other than eat well today and hydrate to prepare for my bout.

But ya know what?

I'm still savvy, hungry and have more than enough to work with.

And I'mma whup this dude something fierce tonight.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

...And back on the upswing

Despite battling a nasty head cold that sent me to the doctor for the first time in years, this past week I've been able to fully regain, well, whatever it is I lost during my inactivity last month. I can't put my finger on whatever it was (Strength? Cardio? A little swagger?) but it's probably best labeled as ring rust and I don't think it will be around much longer.

In a way, this week has been a classic example of the proverbial leap "out of the frying pan and into the fire" - namely, I've already had an aggressive sparring session with one of the other, better competitive boxers from my gym. The quasi-bout was scored for the gym's ongoing team training competition, of which I'm sort of a hired gun since I really only come in to spar on behalf of the red team on Saturdays and do my own the thing the rest of the week. Regardless of my role, the competition is being filmed for a local network as a reality TV show, so it's exciting to have some intense sparring that's a little more high-stakes than just an ordinary workout or inter-gym competition.

Having said that, this is my 2nd "televised" bout and my 2nd victory. The dude I moved around with usually has an uber-high work rate and is constantly coming forward. Where that can give anyone trouble on the right (wrong?) days, I made sure to punch first, doubling and tripling my jab and throwing lots of lead right hands to keep him honest and at a good distance. With my range and power shots established, I was able to pick my spots to cut off the ring, angle in and flurry effectively.

So while I didn't feel as energized and strong as I did just a few weeks ago, I was able to outbox, outwork and out-land my opponent all 3 rounds. It was a borderline clinic...and I have the broadcast to prove it. (No big deal...)

At the end of my workout, my trainer said he wants me to fight in a big exhibition this Friday to stay active. Not only am I chomping at the bit to box, box and box, but I've found that having a hard date to work towards helps me push my limits within individual workouts leading up to it. It's not that I need the help getting to the gym or working hard, so much as this provides the sense of desperation and purpose that helps me keep the pedal to the floor even when fatigue starts setting in. After all, a bout's not an exam - you can't cram for it. A scheduled, confirmed date keeps me honest.

I had a few random notes that I wanted to touch on, but this post is getting long and I know y'all have other boxing news to catch up on. (Anyone else agree that we're in the beginning weeks of a pretty good stretch of boxing match-ups?) Definitely stay tuned though - with the upswing of action in the gym, I'm also planning on injecting some life into this blog and changing...stuff. No set plans yet, but this place needs a face-lift.

On the up and up...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Escaping the doldrums

There's an old training adage that says "the hardest step of a workout is the first one out your front door." I've never had this problem in the literal sense, but fresh off my mini-hiatus, I'm learning that the hardest part of climbing a mountain again is standing at the base and remembering that you've been to the top before.

My workouts this week haven't been bad, but they haven't been "right." Cross-training has kept me in great physical condition, but I'm no longer in top boxing shape (yes, there is a difference and yes, you can lose it in just a few weeks.) It's almost a sort of foreign feeling - my mind is still sharp, but my body's lagging just a half millisecond behind. There's a wee bit less snap on my jab, not quite as much thud on my right cross and my footwork (or rather everything from my shoulders down) feels a little clunky. I think this is as much a testament to how "peaked" I was last month moreso than how far and how quickly I've fallen. There's no reason I won't get it back - it's just an issue of making sure the ball's rolling again sooner rather than later.

On the flipside, I think the break did me good - namely, the aches and pains bothering me last fight have yet to resurface. The degenerative disc in my back still flares a little (hopefully just due to the gnarly New England weather) and the cartilage in my nose is still mangled, but neither of these things were going to heal on their own anyway and I'm used to rehabbing/working through the troubles they present. Mentally, I didn't really have any issues to take care of. My last lost was bogus, but I know how prepared (and quite frankly better) I was, so I'm all the more motivated to get back at it. That's one spark that won't go away until I get back in the win column...aka my next bout.

So there's no momentum yet, but I'm definitely off my haunches and back in the saddle. I really couldn't be gearing up again at a better time - my gym has a few new sponsors and apparently the TV crews that have been floating around are filming a mini-series for NESN, so the gym itself has some extra buzz to help me along.

The wind's at my back and the first step's been (re)taken - time to build some momentum and get moving again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No news is not good news. At all.

So can it still be called an update if you have nothing new to report? Or nothing good at least...

It's been mighty quiet on the boxing front as of late. As I've eased my way back into "full-time" training, my job also has transitioned back into "full-time overdrive super busy agency" mode, leaving me a bit short on time and energy the past week. A few days I've had to abandon my original plans to hit the boxing gym hard and instead resorted to just cross-training on my own. I don't know whether or not being so busy contributed to me getting sick this past weekend, but I was a few germs short of death for a few days and the only boxing I wanted to be a part of was on the "Latin Fury" card I was fortunate to attend live in New York. Speaking of which, did any of you all catch it on PPV? Lopez/Mtagawa has my early vote for Fight of the Year and Yuriorkis Gamboa still never ceases to amaze me. Even the most casual fight fans would enjoy these two bouts, so check them out if you can.

But anyway, work, a long weekend in NYC and a horrific, 72-hour variation of the 24-hour flu bug slowed my in-ring escapades to a near halt since last Saturday - which, fittingly was a great sparring session.

Which, unfortunately, might have been one of my final sparring sessions for awhile...

Because earlier today I visited a doctor about my recurring sinus problems and learned that I have a severely deviated septum. The doctor's descriptions ranged from comparing it to "an accordian," "a pretzel" and "a true boxer's septum," which I for some reason found to be a bit flattering. (Hey, you'd be trying to find something positive about it too...) The only treatment for a deviated septum is surgery, which then requires a recovery period involving 2 weeks with no strenuous activity and at least 4 weeks of no boxing.

In a way, I'm a little lucky that this is the extent of my first legit boxing-related injury in 8+ years, seeing how I've been living with the symptoms and can choose when I put boxing on hold and have the surgery...but man this sucks.

I'm now deciding whether I want to have the surgery ASAP(the doctor said the earliest he can schedule it would be early November) or just...sort of wait a bit and see. This whole breathing through one nostril thing is a super inconvenience and all, but, well, I want to box. (This much we know.) I still have goals I want to accomplish in the short-term, and I'm just three weeks removed from being a regional semifinalist in a tournament. I should be continuing to move forward, not taking a giant hiatus and leap backwards. It will be hard to step away not just from the ring but the gym altogether for a full month.

So until I decide when I'm going to suck it up and go under the knife, I'm working out at a feverish pace - enjoying it while I can, I guess - and trying to convince myself that I'm breathing just fine. Which I am, of course. Just...through a nostril that randomly starts whistling. And plugs up when the wind blows. But aside from that, nothing but clear breathing for this guy.

Here's to this next week being more productive in the ring than the last - or at the least, not confirming another unforeseen but unavoidable setback.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Onwards

This is long overdue, so I'm just going to hop right into it - here's the recap of my bout last Saturday in the regional finals of the Rocky Marciano tournament:

I woke up early, as thirsty and hungry as expected, but in great spirits. Between the trip in my trainer's car and getting settled at the venue's locker room, I spent the hours before weigh-in channeling my inner Buddha - at peace, relaxed and just treating it like any other Saturday in the gym. When the scalemaster finally showed up, I hopped in line and weighed a whopping 147. (I guess I should have fried some wings the night before instead of nibbling on a grilled chicken breast...) Needless to say, I got right to work putting that weight back on had my first Powerbar unwrapped before I even put my shirt back on.

I went back to the locker room and relaxed, reading my book (fittingly, a bio on Roberto Duran) and munching on bananas, cold spaghetti and another protein bar. Surprisingly, I wasn't anxious in the least. On the contrary, I was doing what I loved and I knew with certainty that I was ready, so I truly had nothing to fear.

I warmed up, stretched out, had one of my cornermen wrap my hands (everyone should have their hands wrapped by someone else at least once - the light, airy snugness on your knuckles, using gauze instead of linen... it's pugilistic pampering) and before I knew it, my name was being called.

After weeks of training, sacrifice and preparation, it was finally time to put it all together and win some hardware.

My opponent came out at the opening bell with guns blazing, winding up on his toes and lunging at me with power punches in bunches. He was a strong kid and landed a few solid shots, but never hurt me and set a pace I knew was unmaintainable. He clinched a lot and rough-housed, but was only the 2nd toughest fighter in the ring. The bell rang and I went back to my corner knowing I was behind on points, but held a huge advantage in skill, strategy and stamina.

As expected, the 2nd round swayed drastically in my favor and at times was nothing short of a clinic. My opponent wanted to brawl, throw bombs and tie up, but I kept my hands high and a steady diet of 1-2's in his face, and was never in range by the time he was ready to wind up and fire back. As the round progressed and his work (and success/land) rate decreased, he began clinching and holding more and more. He was trying to slow the fight down and keep it ugly, but it wasn't because that was his style - he was just that tired.

I came out for the 3rd round as fresh as I was in the 1st - not just because of adrenaline, but because I was in that good of shape and confident that I was going to blow my fatigued opponent away on the scorecards in the final 3 minutes. Unfortunately, he countered with his own secret weapon: more holding.

A lot more.

While the first half of the round was practically flawless for me, the 2nd half might as well have been a foxtrot lesson - my opponent wouldn't quit bear-hugging me and the ref pulled a vanishing act, never stepping it in to break us up and get him off me. While I still landed a few stiff, short uppercuts and squeezed in a few hooks and right hands, I was literally tied up for the entire 2nd half of the round.

When the final bell rang, my opponent didn't need to step in to embrace me - he already had me wrapped up, so he just relaxed, dropped his guard and said "great fight." I couldn't help but respond with a smirk "great fight dude...now quit holding me after the fight too."

I went back to my corner and took my gloves off, thoroughly satisfied with my performance and ready to have my hand raised in the middle of the ring.

But the end result? A split-decision victory for the bad guy.

And the margin on the deciding judge's scorecard? One point.

You can't make this up.

One point. I needed one more point for a draw, two for a victory. If the ref would have ran the fight differently (aka done his job at all and kept us boxing rather than sumo wrestling...) I know I would have erased that margin in seconds. So while I'm honestly not crying foul or conspiracy (how can I? all the holding affected my opponent too) I can't help but feel frustrated. The praise and assurances that I "should" have won are no consolation for not actually getting the W.

I could not have been more prepared for this fight. I could not have fought any smarter or stronger. I was in control. Strangers at ringside approached me and told me I won. If I had that minute+ of boxing (rather than snuggle time) during the final round, I have no doubts that it would have resulted in me being awarded a unanimous decision win.

Everything went right...except having the win on my record.

So I've spent the past week+ resting and clearing my head. My body needed the break, but for once my mind needed a little R&R outside the ring too. After all, you can't think about your next fight until you've moved on from your last. And while this was far from a negative experience, it admittedly took me a few days to look at it as a semi-positive bump in my boxing career.

So onwards I go. My batteries are re-charged and I've started to ease back into my full training routine. Tomorrow is my first sparring session since the bout and I feel like it will be the final step in burying my disappointment.

I posted it right before my fight and I'm sticking with it now: "Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you're going to do now and do it."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Regional Finals

So I guess I should have posted this earlier, but in the same sitting as my last blog post I learned that the tournament organizers had adjusted the bout sheet and I was seeded to where I had a 1st round bye. So despite being as physically and mentally prepared as possible - including cutting my weight down - I did not fight last Saturday and will be fighting this coming Saturday, 9/19 in the regional finals in Pawtucket, RI.

While it's always nice to be given a shorter, more direct path to a championship, I must say that I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't fight last week. As mentioned above, I was truly peaked and ready to go. Instead, this week I feel a little banged up and sluggish. I feel like I'm having to rally my way to being fully prepared for Saturday, rather than simply riding a strong upswing like last week.

Don't get me wrong, I will be ready to fight and win Saturday. But, well, the extra week is proving to be as much of a nuisance as a convenience or blessing.

I did get to watch my opponent fight last week, and he is a strong kid and very talented boxer. I know what I need to do and am confident that if (when) I fight my fight and get him uncomfortable I can win this. Being able to strategize and visualize a victorious fight all week has been great.

So this week has been more of the same as last - tapering in the gym with shorter, more intense workouts, sharpening my mind, and dieting to keep my weight at the level I need. Tomorrow will be a vicious workout, and then Thursday and Friday will be (very) much-needed rest days.

Tomorrow also is my birthday. And I don't mind at all that I'll be spending it at the gym, wearing myself out with my training partners and chanting this mantra:

"Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you're going to do now and do it." - William Durant

And it's as simple as that. Let's do it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Closing Camp

So last night was my last big workout before the bout Saturday - "camp" is officially closed and I need to switch gears and have my mental preparation catch up with my physical readiness.

Some doubts have started to set in, but I think it's more jitters than legit concerns. After all, I feel great, have been having a lot of success in the ring, and got a vote of confidence from the gym owner tonight that all I need to do now is relax, have fun, and replicate all this when it counts Saturday.

My only regret, actually, is moving around with a kid last night that's notorious for cranking up the intensity randomly in the laziest of sparring sessions. He's a pretty decent boxer though, so I decided to change it up and work 4 rounds with him. As expected, he sprinkled some bombs into his flurries throughout our "light," final workout - including 3 well after the final bell that earned groans from a few onlookers - catching me off guard a few times and marking me up a little. I'm not worried about the cosmetics so much as a little swelling and bleeding from my nose. Some wear and tear is nothing new, but I just hate not being 100000001% going into a fight, especially when it's the result of some shenanigans 96 hours before. Such is life in the ring I guess and I doubt I'm the only boxer sporting some pre-existing war wounds at the weigh-in. Besides, I definitely would have won on the scorecards if it was "official" last night, so the underlying message is that I'm ready to dish it as well as receive. But in the meanwhile, here's to clear airways and not looking any more of a mess leaving the ring Saturday as I do going into it.

Randoms:

- I keep thinking of a quote from Manny Pacquiao on an episode of Hatton-Pacquio 24/7 that was along the lines of: "Training is the hard part. If you train hard, then the fight is easy." Now obviously there are a million variations to this quote, like "The harder you train, the luckier you get" and "The more you sweat, the less you bleed." While all are valid (albeit a bit cliche) there was something about how Pac-Man said this that stuck out as being genuine and profound. Just something that's crossed my mind a few times the past few weeks...

- I weighed in at 153 before my workouts each of the last two days, and well under 150 after each. At the risk of jinxing myself, I don't think I'm going to have to gas myself too much to make weight Saturday at 9 a.m. Early dinner, no water, lots of sleep, no breakfast or fluids until I step off the scale...should be all set.

- Speaking of weight, my roommate made cookies last night. I made her hide them.

This is what it's all about. I put in my time, paid my dues, now I just need to piece it all together, clear my head and go win some hardware.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

1 Week Out

So in exactly 1 week I'll be fighting in the Rocky Marciano Tournament of Champions and I can honestly say that I have done everything possible - both effort, mindset and results - to win this thing.

I sparred today with a kid who normally gives me a fair amount of problems - or rather, when I don't fight smart, he makes me eat some leather. He's pretty slick, all his punches are straight, and he seems to always be moving backwards, so the last thing I ever want to do is just go plodding in on a straight line. The past few months we've had some pretty competitive rounds, establishing a very noticeable trend that climaxed today.

And that trend, of course, is me being more boxer/less brawler and in the best shape of my life. Because today, after the 2nd round, my trainer called off the clinic I was putting on to spare the kid from the lopsided hurtin' I was going to continue to put on him in the 3rd.

I feel fast, strong and smart. I'm beating people to the punch, counterpunching with pop and just flat out-working, out-hustling, out-thinking and plain old out-boxing everyone I've moved around with lately. Bag work, mitts, plyos, everything just feels good. And this isn't me blowing my own horn so much as finally seeing the signs (feeling) that I'm peaking at the exact right time.

Since I only got in 2 rounds of sparring today, I immediately hit the bag circuit hard, rotating between the heavy, hook and uppercut bags for 8 rounds. I finished the day with 3 rounds of mitts, 20 minutes of plyos for my legs, 3 rounds of shadowboxing and abs. And my weight at the end of it all? 150.

Life in the ring is good.

Some random notes:

- Just clicked on a thread titled "It's International Bacon Day!" on the message board I always visit. The pics in it made me want to cry. I'm already itching for a burrito and now bacon...just...I need to stop writing about it and think about something other than food.

- Tomorrow will be my last day lifting before the fight. I plan on doing my "usual" upper body weight routine, but tacking on some additional miles to my road work. I intend on running every morning before work between now and fight night, regardless of the workout planned for that night. I want to keep my weight where it is now so I don't have to kill myself cutting down Friday night.

- Juan Manuel Marquez just drank his own pee on the 2nd episode of 24/7. PBF is acting strangely humble and has just gone a full hour without getting on my nerves. This makes no sense. Anyone else witnessing this madness?

- Cutting weight is hell. Don't know if I've mentioned that yet...

This is what it's all about, folks. Eyes on the prize...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

10 days out

So I'm 10 days out from the big fight and everything still seems to be hitting on all cylinders. I feel great - my stamina's up, my gloves are popping, I'm fighting smart and I just feel fresh and ready. To bullet out some random musings...

- Samson had his hair, I have my high socks. Honest to goodness, I don't box as well wearing normal socks as I do when I wear my long ones pulled mid-way up my shins. Fashionable AND functional...somehow.

- I went 8 rounds total between 3 different sparring partners this Saturday and felt fantastic throughout. What's more, I stopped a kid with a body shot for the first time ever. (Ever meaning I've never done that before in all my days and rounds.) This is a definite indicator that things are progressing. I'd be a bit more impressed with myself if it was in an actual bout and against someone other than a rotating sparring partner from my gym, but, well, this is good stuff. So here's to repeating the kayo when it counts on the 12th.

- Confession: the best part about my marathon sparring session Saturday is the fact that I went out Friday night and admittedly partied entirely too hard. But rather than having a sluggish, frustrating-to-the-point-I'm-sick (hungover) workout, I had one of my best in recent memories. That's how I know I'm ready for this bout. And yes, I realize that Saturday was me using my "get out of jail free card" and I don't plan on boozing between now and fight night.

- My two favorite combos this month:

First, is a lead hook-2. I show the lead hook, tipping the punch a shade with my shoulder and throwing it a little wide. Whether it connects for points or not (ideally it does, but it's a set-up) I get my opponent to commit to it and step in with my back foot, blasting a straight right (my ham-muh) through the shoot. This has been working incredibly effectively as of late, especially after a series of jabs that gets them cheating on the straight, peppering punches.

My other favorite is a 1-2-step-through/step-over that leads to, well, whatever punches I want - usually a big right hand, but sometimes I'll wind-up and come through with a hook to the body. I've gotten really good at hiding this movement behind my right hand, stepping through (almost hopping) and pivoting quickly, staying tight so I can get my final punch/combo off quickly and trapping my opponent behind behind my trail leg. Why I didn't toy with my footwork months (hell, years) ago, I'll never know.

- I have to renew my fight passport before the 12th and just mailed off my application today. My trainer's not worried that it'll get there, be processed and returned all in time for the tourney, but I can't help but be anxious. It'd be just my luck to find out during weigh-in that my paperwork's not in order and I can't compete. Aw hell, did I just jinx myself?

- Not having to cut huge amounts of weight is sweet. And that's all I have to say about that.

More updates as they happen in the coming days. Getting pumped...

Monday, August 24, 2009

The beat goes on

I didn't mean for it to be 2 weeks (yet again) before another update, but luckily it's been business as usual inside the ring and out.

As of today I'm officially registered for the Rocky Marciano tournament. I'll be fighting at 152 lbs. and my first bout is Saturday, September 12. The tournament is huge and the 1st round is going to be scattered across four different venues, so I'm still waiting to see my exact draw. Regardless, my trainer likes my chances to really make some noise and maybe take the whole thing (for serious) and I'm excited to fight for some hardware for the first time in 2009.

Speaking of bouts, my last one is almost an afterthought at this point, which isn't downplaying its size or outcome. For once in my life the other guy started off as the aggressor, constantly coming forward and throwing nothing but loopy power punches. And, for the first time in my life, I didn't immediately toe the line and bang with him, choosing instead to counterpunch, keep my jab in his face, build some distance with lead right hands and work some angles to outbox him until the 3rd round. By the last 2 minutes of the bout, he was tired and moving backwards, dropping his hands and allowing me to let my hands go, brawl a bit and score enough points to steal the fight. So I boxed a brawler. And it worked. Imagine that.

Since then I've been getting regular sparring in, which has been going equally well. I've been getting a lot of different looks from the wide array of skilled/sized boxers we have in the gym, so while my sparring partners aren't all tough S.O.B.'s like my last opponent, they're giving me the opportunity to continue to work on all aspects of my game. What's more, my trainer has continued working the focus mitts with me early and often, and then screaming while I'm sparring for some of the step-throughs, angles and combos we've been working on to really ingrain them in my muscle memory and make them second nature. I'm truly re-creating myself in the ring, and it's thanks to my work ethic finally getting the rounds and expert attention it's needed.

With the long workouts and increased sparring has come some aches and injuries, namely my nagging back acting up again and some soreness in my right hand. While my "ham-muh" hurting is new, my old-man's back is something I've learned to deal with, so I'll just have to listen to my body and keep on keepin' on as much as possible.

I'm going to be updating this more frequently the next 2 weeks as I gear up for this tourney. Big things ahead, people. Onwards I go...

Monday, August 10, 2009

On Track

Yeesh, just as I build some serious momentum in the ring I run off and forget this thing. Or not - I've just been devoting all my inner-Pacquiao into the gym, the road, the weights, the plyos, my opponent's dome... and, well, some stuff falls through the cracks.

But that's not to say there haven't been some good - scratch that, great - things going on though.

I had another absolute war of a sparring session last week with one of the gym's better competitive boxers. We got 6 long, aggressive rounds in (wore them on my face to work the next day too) and grabbed the attention of everyone working out in the building, including our defending national champ and the gym owner. Not only was there praise for our energy, but a lot of great feedback and pointers too.

This unsanctioned/unofficial/unplanned bout ended up snowballing into the owner and head trainer wanting to set-up regular 1-on-1's with me to wear me out on the focus mitts, yell at me ("instruct") during some bag work and just really fine-tune my game. Thus far it's been incredible and feels like the true missing link between me peaking and plateauing. So see, all I needed was a little attention and TLC to really start hitting on all cylinders...

And peaking I am. The momentum just keeps building and building and I just feel... awesome. I feel fast and strong and have some sort of reactor fueling me through some grueling workouts that, on paper, I don't get how I finish on the same tank of gas. But I do, and I do it with fervor and aggression, pushing myself at all times, wringing the sweat out of my shirts and feeling confident that my opponent can't possibly be working any harder than me. And with that comes a mental edge. And when physical prowess meets smarts and mental toughness, you have yourself one hard to manage 152 lb. farm boy.

And yes, you saw that right. Those who really know me might be aware that I've spent the majority of my amateur career fighting at 140 lbs. Well, no more. I'm too big, strong and active (read: bullish) in the ring to keep exhausting myself before the bell even rings. I've never, ever, ever EVER had issues gassing during fights, but I've been having a ridiculous amount of success lately embracing the bull rush and just outhustling, outworking and strong-arming my opponents, so we're going to shake things up and let keep some of this newly found/grown/built mass on my body. That, and my right hand is friggen' dynamite. Or as my trainer like to say in his sweet South Boston accent - it's a "ham-muh." So hooray beach muscles and food and decapitating straight rights and flurries in the corner and - most importantly - wins.

...of which I hope to tack on another tomorrow. I have a bout vs. an unknown opponent at a big show in Newton, MA tomorrow night and I'm ready for another training camp checkpoint. So for now, I need to eat a little more sushi and catch some shut-eye - I need to be well-rested to keep this freight train on track and rumbling along.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My version of summer camp

Not a lot to report on. I had a great vacation in MO, summer finally arrived (yesterday) in Boston, and I'm still cross-training my brains out. Unfortunately, that's it - not a lot of in-ring activity to recap. I have been getting to the boxing gym more frequently the past few days though, and I've felt strong through some intense bag and mitt workouts. The foundation is definitely finished - now I just need to finish the house. And throw a party by its pool, of course.

No fights looming this month, but I'm penciled-in for a bout in late August and confirmed on a card in mid-September. I'll be more than ready for both and am already chomping at the bit. It's encouraging to already feel in this good of shape with almost a month before these next opportunities to fight.

Could it be? I can have a legit "camp" before competing?

I'm currently battling an internal health issue, but nothing that's keeping me out of the gym. Or rather, I just won't let it. Just keepin' on keepin' on, and good things ahead. Not pulling any punches, not leaving anything behind - this is where circumstance and perseverance come together, the results flourish and the excuses end.

Speaking of the spirit I hope to embody, RIP Arturo "Thunder" Gatti - one of my favorite boxers and an inspiration to the boxing community. For those who - for whatever strange reason - haven't ever seen Gatti/Ward I, you've missed out on 3 of the most (dare I say it?) beautiful minutes in sports history in Round 9.

"That's not thunder, that's heart." RIP, champ.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Home is where the heart (and SUN) is

I've been home in Kansas City for a few days, but wanted to make sure to drop a quick blog post before I go down to the Ozarks and don't have access to modern technology over the 4th. (Can't wait...)

I've continued my torrid workout regimen despite the gnarly Boston weather and no upcoming bouts on the calendar. Between my "usual" scheduling shenanigans and this vacation to MO, I've only been in the boxing gym once since the lengthy sparring session I blogged about in my last post almost 2 weeks ago. While I haven't been able to glove up, I've been the farthest thing from inactive.

I can't remember a time where I've cross-trained as hard and as consistently as I have the past few months. I'm working out twice most days and am maintaining an aggressive pace in everything I do - wind sprints instead of casual jogs, grueling circuits rather than just plodding around the weight room, burning out on the simplest, smallest plyos. Despite no foreseeable bouts (which obviously can change in a second) I'm training with a purpose - with desperation despite, well, nothing to be desperate about.

But this is a good thing.

My physique is carving itself out again, my lungs feel fresh and strong, and my weight - despite my vices - is reaching a very good, maintainable level. Two weeks ago this was translating to success in the ring, and I don't see why it won't keep moving me forward when I resume my "traditional" routine when I'm back from vacation.

Hell, I've been working out 2x/day during my vacation - working the heavy bag in the basement, running in the gorgeous (sweltering) Midwestern sun, improvising with some plyos and body weight exercises, taking my ninja pooch (my Beagle) for runs up and down the hill before catching a Royals game or sitting on my buddy's dock and fishing the rest of the afternoon. Maybe I'm weird, but the workouts are just as relaxing to me as the whole R&R thing. At the same time, who knows whether or not my next opponent's on vacation (doubt it) and what's to say I won't get swamped with work or an injury (nooo, did I jinx myself?!) when I get back to Beantown.

Always. Keep. Your saw. Sharp.

In sum, I haven't been thinking or complaining - just doing. And while I'm re-connecting with friends, family and my Ozarks roots, I'm also continuing to tap into a deep, healthy drive that's been all too hard to pin down the past year. I've been riding it for awhile and don't plan on letting it go anytime soon...assuming I've still "got it" after a lazy afternoon on the boat.

Enjoy the 4th, y'all. Go Royals!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Heating up

Earlier this week I went 6 great, aggressive rounds with another experienced boxer from my gym. We absolutely killed each other. It was fantastic.

The lengthy sparring session was the culmination of what has been a phenomenal couple of weeks of training for me. I've trained everyday the past 2 weeks, mixing a heavier load of weights and road work into my usual regimen. In addition to increased reps and miles, I've taken a much more aggressive approach to every workout, finishing strong and truly burning out on every final set, drill or straightaway to the finish line. It's certainly paid off - after 6 rounds I still felt strong and fast, finishing the last round with as much wind in my lungs and snap on my punches as I began it.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that I was outboxed for the first 3 rounds. My opponent moved back and angled away well, baiting me into chasing him a bit too much and picking me apart as a result. Luckily I had the brains and legs to adapt late and turn the session into the proverbial "tale of two fights" by angling better and wearing him down with combinations in close. Compliments and constructive pointers abound afterward. The only thing that made this not the "ideal" sparring session was the huge mouse that flared up above my left eye. It had a bit of blood seeping through, which makes me think it was just a jab/poke/sneeze away from blowing up and needing stitches. Whatever, war wound.

There is no bigger confidence boost than knowing that I have the physical tools and in-ring know-how to not only fight aggressively for 6+ rounds, but successfully adapt and adjust as I go. (Otherwise, this wouldn't have been a productive 6 rounds. And I'd need stitches.)

So while there's no bout on my schedule, I've achieved a victory of sorts by hitting this aggressive, productive, self-motivated stride. Now all I need to do is break a few bad habits - don't get wide with my straight right in the later rounds, be more like Clottey (or an armadillo) and less like Rocky with my guard (makes sense in my head) - and fine-tune my technique.

It's a breath of fresh air to be able to concentrate on repetitions and "nits" rather than my schedule or when the next time I'll be able to move around will be. Similarly, it's nice to have a day of rest because it's scheduled, rather than being forced by my schedule. (That would be today. And I still ran 4 interval miles this a.m. because I felt uppity.)

Is it because of the warmer weather? Naw, I get the whole seasonal blues thing, but it's still pretty grey and dank here in Boston.

Summer love? No, nobody and nothing's coming to mind.

I have no explanation for it. It's just a feeling, no, a focus, an energy that I haven't felt in the ring since college. Now if only I can get my body to keep following suit...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'm Invigorated...How?

I had high expectations for my vacation and the Redneck Riviera didn't disappoint. I can't remember a week where I've laughed, drank, fished and danced as much I did in Florida. It was the most amazingly relaxed, low-key, boozy man-cation imaginable.

But the best part?

Coming back to Boston restored, renewed and ready to take on the world. Physically, mentally, in the office, in the ring - bring it.

And I couldn't be more surprised by this rejuvenation. Maybe it was just such an overdue vacation that I forgot what it was like to not work and just sit by the ocean for a week and re-charge my batteries? Maybe I had some deep-seeded psychological issues that needed...relaxed away? Or maybe I finally killed enough brain cells that I crossed the threshold and am no longer just "laid-back" but have become a completely undisturbed go-getter. Whatever the case, there's been a corresponding energy spike that everyone - friends, clients, co-worker, training partners, my alarm clock - has noticed.

The zeal, the drive - my goodness - I can't remember ever training harder and keeping my boxer's/lifter's/runner's high as the burn sets in.

And this isn't a gushy, cuddly, skip-don't-walk sort of state. This has sharpened my approach, focused my mindset and just completely supplemented every tool and ounce of determination I have to enable me to "make it happen."

I've worked out every day since I came back, twice a handful of times, and have been pushing my limits at a frenzied (but successful) rate. Sparring has been smooth and for the first time in recent memory I feel sharp, fast and strong... with a bottomless gas tank, to boot.

I'll recap my recent workouts soon - I've been tracking the new milestones I've been hitting and think they deserve their own post. For now, I'm going to ride this wave as long as I can, traveling as far as it will take me and hoping it never ends. Because based on how great training has gone the past 2 weeks, if I can maintain this pace, stay healthy and put everything together with bad intentions...look out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Man-cation

Tonight I'm flying to the "Redneck Riviera" of Panama City, FL for a man-cation with some of my Boston buddies. They know the owner of a mom n' pop hotel and go down for a long Memorial Day weekend every year and take the place over. I'm super excited.

But.

I have the strange feeling that I won't be doing wind-sprints and shadow boxing on the beach. (On second thought, montage, anyone?!) A week on the beach is, well, a week on the beach and I have no complaints or reluctance to sit in a hammock and booze up and go deep sea fishing and play shuffleboard and... whatever else you do in Panama City.

But at the same time, I'm coming off one of the best fights of my amateur career and have been frustrated by my on-again/off-again training schedules the past 4+ months. I want to keep competing often and at a high level, and the missing link isn't a lack of physical ability or savvy or heart or dedication - it's consistency.

I have a saw. I just haven't been able to keep it sharp.

And sand and booze are only going to dull it a little more - albeit happily. Which, ironically, will make it all the more frustrating when I step back into the ring next week and get back into attack mode.

But I'll worry about that when I return. Until then, I have some fish to catch...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Beautiful Cycle

My bout could not have gone any better. No, that doesn't do it any justice.

My bout could not have been any more perfect.

Seriously.

I entered the ring Saturday and completely dismantled my opponent, sniping him with stiff jabs, snapping his head back with straight rights and demoralizing him with body shots and hooks. I did whatever I wanted, controlling the pace, keeping my defense tight and eluding entire combinations with my head and upper body movement.

In all honesty, I don’t know where this boxer (me) came from. I’ve won more than my share of fights, but never before have things clicked like this to where I just controlled and dominated it from bell to bell. My opponent was bloodied and disheartened (I didn’t think he was going to come out for the 3rd) and my corner literally had nothing to say between the 2nd and 3rd rounds aside from “good job, keep it up...yeah...that’s about it...you’re killing him...where we drinking after this?”

Even the gym owner was surprised, commenting how “you’re a great boxer, but sometimes you trade a bit too much – tonight you picked your shots and just put on a boxing clinic.”

Psh, who needs momentum? I just need a pair of gloves, a good night’s sleep and a clear head, and I can save the world, one jab and counter-right at a time.

On the topic of momentum: since the bout, I’ve only been able to sneak into the gym four times this week (I guess that's not so bad) and I have a week-long vacation in Florida rapidly approaching, so I won’t be able to truly build off this experience. Despite this, time and time again I feel like momentum doesn’t matter – my training and success is just a hilly, beautiful cycle that keeps me head-down and on my toes, rewarding me along the way for my hard work, perseverance and love for the sport.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pre-fight Musings

I always talk about how the most important thing for me is to peak rather than plateau before a fight, but my preparation for this bout has definitely flattened out.

My last great workout was Sunday when I built my routine around 8 aggressive rounds of mitts with my buddy wearing the chest protector. It was better than sparring, giving me a great cardio and in-ring strength workout while letting me focus on my technique and combinations. Since then, I’ve felt like I’ve been boxing in sand, with my legs being fatigued and sore to the point that I even had to skip a workout on Wednesday.

Not ideal, but come 8 hours before my fight, I feel OK. Far from peaked, definitely not flat, but certainly not ideal. The biggest reason I worry about quantifying my preparation is because I can’t help but have it affect my confidence and mental preparation. I have the utmost confidence in my abilities, smarts and ring savvy, but right now I don’t have that “edge” – that certain completeness that lets me know with certainty that my opponent can’t touch me. How can you not fight a little conservative when you don’t know with 100% certainty that your legs will be there, your punches will be crisp and the gas tank is full?

I by no means have myself mentally defeated – I’m prepared for this fight and looking forward to it, but I’m not “up” and chomping at the bit. Perhaps it’s because of my short preparation, or maybe my attitude’s leaving a little to be desired, or it just might be the fact that this is yet another exhibition and I can’t help but look at it like an open sparring session rather than a higher-stakes, official bout.

What’s most likely is that I’m holding myself to an unfairly high standard, especially after just over two full weeks of training since my work-induced hiatus. Whenever I step in that ring I represent myself, my work ethic and my abilities, so I feel it's only human to take pride in my showing. At the same time, I need to just take deep breaths and Hulk-up - my brain and body have never let me down and, as always, I'll just have to improvise and adapt tonight to put it all together in the ring.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Recap - 2 weeks out

So my short “camp” leading up to my next fight has turned out to be as frenzied as I thought it’d be. The air of desperation has thus far been extremely beneficial – there’s no room for a lackadaisical workout or unplanned day off, so I’ve made sure neither happens. Maybe this is how I’ll have to find my stride – accept that training won't ever be a paced trot and just embrace the sprint to fight night. Besides, I’ve always prided myself in the fact that I never “let myself go” and am just a few weeks of fine-tuning away from being fight-ready, and, well, we’re entering week 2 and I feel as good as I usually do...

So here's a quick recap of my training since scheduling the fight. Everything starts with 12-minute jump rope, 3 rounds shadow boxing:

  • Saturday: Sparred with Tommy Duquette, one of the best amateur 140 lbers in the country. (Yes, the country - he's got the belts to prove it.) Needless to say, he had the advantage over me across the board, but when our 3 rounds were done he and his trainer had nothing but praise for my showing. I love sparring with Tommy because, despite outclassing me, he works with this certain style and pace that we both still get great work, no matter how lopsided the theoretical scorecard would be. If a national champ says I have a tight defense and good counterpunches (obviously I didn't need to say the same to him - I just laughed and said "wow" as I checked to make sure I was still in one piece) I know I'm more than capable of handling whatever shmuck I face next week. I finished up with a 10-round bag circuit and abs, then went for a 5-mile run. Fantastic workout.
  • Sunday: Upper body weight circuit (chest, bi's, tri's, back, neck) and abs, plus a 6-mile run. Before my run, I walked backwards on the treadmill at the gym for 15 minutes, shadowboxing and keeping my weight low. Thanks, Ann Wolfe!
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Declined some sparring to work on some things I learned from my rounds with Tommy. Had a nice, long, paced session on the heavy bag (12 rounds) and tried to focus on my balance and footwork. Finished with a 3-round burnout on the hook bag. Abs, plyos.
  • Wednesday: Speed day. 4 rounds double-end bag, 4 rounds heavy bag, 4 rounds focus mitts. Had my 16 oz. gloves (rather than my 20 oz. "lobster claws") and really let them fly. Gassed quick - not early, but quick, from throwing cattle-cars full of leather in a short amount of time. Abs, plyos.
  • Thursday: 4-mile run, sit-ups, push-ups, core exercises. Felt gross and unmotivated, but was glad to get in what I did.
  • Friday: Sat in a suite at the Bruins game. Love me some Stanley Cup playoffs. Good times.
  • Saturday: Detoxed with a grueling workout in the heat. 4 rounds focus mitts, 4 rounds hook bag, 4 rounds heavy bag, 3 round burn-out changing levels on the huge jumbo bag duct-taped to one of the ring poles. That thing owns me. Broke out the rope ladder and truck tire for some hardcore plyos and drills. Finished with abs and a 4-mile run. Watched the Royals beat the Twins and Celtics beat the Bulls instead of forking over $55 for the Hatton/Pacquiao fight. Watched "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" as I drifted to sleep and fell in love with Mila Kunis' character. Ah, what a Saturday.
  • Sunday: Today. Feel-good sore. Going to go for a run, stretch out real well, and do 8 rounds of mitts with the body pads. I figure I'll get my strength in today by leaning/pushing on my buddy as I move around in the ring and tee off on him rather than just lifting per my usual Sunday routine. Was tempted to double-up the workouts, but figure this will be better work if I'm fresh. Besides, I'll never bench-press or curl my opponent, but I'm sure the situation will arise when I'll need to nudge him off me to make some space and rip into his rib cage. So the ring work wins. Sorry, beach muscles.
So good stuff going on this week in the ring and out. I have a busy week at work, some softball games to juggle (or skip this week...) and the usual life/schedule shenanigans, but I have zero complaints or worries about how I feel 2 weeks out. Just few more hard workouts and then I'll start tapering. And then it's go time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

...And Back on the Up and Up

So I guess all I had to do was write a whiny post on here about my loss of momentum and, voila, the tides turn and everything gets re-directed back on the up and up.

First things first: I was recently promoted at my job. Yes, it was a proud day – I, Jonathan Moreland, am no longer an entry-level peon. It was actually a somewhat unexpected bump given my tenure at SHIFT, but I’m extremely humbled and all the more motivated to have received the recognition for my hard work. Funny note: whenever there is big personnel move, the manager involved sends around an all-office email. When my boss sent mine around, she had the subject read “and in this corner….” and tied in a bunch of boxing metaphors as well as a link to this blog. (So glad I’ve been neglecting it….) Anyway, made me proud that I'm officially the punchin' PR pro.

Another big development at work is my colleague/partner-in-crime/direct co-worker is leaving, so I’ve had a ton (wait, it’s always a ton – so make that two tons) of work handling the transition as well as the normal in-office craziness. Big point being: as usual, it’s all good at work. Extremely busy, but a good busy…especially when it doesn’t get in the way of the gym.

Which, luckily, it hasn’t as of late.

While I’ve been cross-training my tail off and staying in phenomenal (is that bragging? sorry, it's true...) shape, I’ve just started working out at the boxing gym again the past 10 days. So far, I don’t feel like I’m that rusty – I feel more fresh than stiff, strong than slow. It’s been a great start to camp, including a sparring session where I absolutely picked a kid apart with counterpunches, so my thought process and timing aren’t too far off either. I certainly feel comfortable with the tools I have to work with and build on in the coming weeks.

I think I got goaded into fighting on a card on May 8. It’s only a few weeks away, but, hell, why not? I’ve been antsy to get back in the ring and what better way to do it than train for a hard, rapidly-approaching deadline? I figure I can chronicle my blitzkrieg training on here too – I've always meant to write shorter, more boxing-focused posts.

The past few months have truly been a roller coaster – no melodramatics about it, there’s no other way to explain it. My career has finally broken through, and I’ve gone from 3 weeks off to 2 great weeks of “on” at the gym, with my health, motivation and counter-rights all focused upwards towards May 8. Now it's just an issue of riding this upswing as far as I can take it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

So Much for Momentum...

I haven't written since a few days after my last bout because I (unfortunately) don't have anything to report. At all. I haven't been to the boxing gym in almost two full weeks, I haven't even watched boxing in just as long, and I don't have working Internet at my apartment to be able to post random musings on here in the meanwhile. So to my few faithful readers, I apologize. My lack of activity has been frustrating to the point of heartbreak, especially after such a great bout to start the month.

This isn't to say that I don't even know a guy named Gym anymore (hardy har) - I've been cross-training my tail off and am in as good of shape in the weight room/on the track as I've been since high school, back when I was a full-time athlete, part-time delinquent, er, student. So I haven't lost all my momentum...but the following has certainly slowed me down:
  • Rest. Necessary for any athlete. I took a whopping 0 days off after my bout and after training hard for another week, I was hurting. I was sore and achy, with something clicking in a knuckle on my right hand, my back acting up and far too many consecutive days of those icky, "bad" workouts. You know, the ones where you go through the motions, your arms get heavy earlier than usual, you cut a corner or two for the sake of finishing the workout because you're just...spent. Before you even began. Sick of the trend, I rested. Like any athlete could/should/does after a bout when his body's "check engine sign" is flashing. But my few days of rest quickly turned to a few weeks because of...
  • Work. Yes, most everyone lucky enough to be employed right now has a demanding, full-time job these days, but I've learned the past 1.5 years that PR is far from the most conducive industry for competitive sport. Long work weeks are not only time-consuming (duh) but can devour a workout schedule and leave it in shambles starting on Monday. Sometimes the hours simply don't align - meaning I'm not going to start a workout at 9 p.m., be too amped to sleep until 1 a.m. and expect to wake up at 6:30 a.m. all warm and fuzzy inside to repeat 4 more times before the weekend. All work (and work OUTs) and no sleep make Jonathan cranky. And not function, in the office as well as the ring. So hats off to a superstar like Juan Diaz, balancing school and a world-class pro career. I don't know he does it. Maybe I should find out. Aside from his studies though, like me, I don't see what he'd be able to avoid...
  • Death and taxes. And laundry. And grocery shopping. And sweeping up the dust bunnies. You know, the things you have to do. They suck, but seem to reer their head once/week this month and forced me to skimp a workout for the sake of not living in squalor. Speaking of living...
  • Life. I like mine to be well-rounded. From March Madness to a long-time friend in town, my social life has hindered my training lately. No complaints here...aside from not training, that is. As such, in the struggle to carve out a few more hours a few more nights a week, this bullet is definitely going to be the first to go...
So I feel like I'm stating the obvious, but the past few weeks have been a crappy reminder of how difficult it is to find the time to commute out to the boxing gym and keep on keeping on. I feel like it's all backwards - I want to sweat, I want to bleed, I want to work myself to exhaustion, I want to put in my ring equity and do what I love. There's no lack of heart (insanity) or capable muscle mass here. It's just an issue of truly pulling out all the stops and making it "click," even during chaotic stretches like the past few weeks.

On the same note, it's good to be reminded what "this" is - my struggle to balance all these things with my love for the ring. There have been highs and lows the past eight years. Right now I've slipped from my climb to the top (whatever my peak may be) but I haven't fallen far. I'm still hungry, I'm still primed and as determined as ever. I just need to regain my footing and start my upward ascent all over again, with or without momentum.

First step's always the hardest. Luckily, this one's going to be up.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Overdue recap

A write-up of my bout last Friday is more than overdue, but has been delayed by, well, life. My hectic schedule outside of the gym has continued - part play, mostly work - and kept me from putting together a colorful post about fight night.

But, long story short, my bout could not have gone better.

Seriously.

The biggest problem with trying to give a first-person narration of a boxing match is that, in the heat of battle, you're a little (way) too preoccupied to take detailed mental notes and outline your blog post in real-time. Each and every step, bend, punch and fluid movement gives way to the next so quickly that each is instantaneously forgotten - melding into the gelatinous mess of adrenaline-laden memories, while setting the stage for each of its successors.

As such, I remember flashes of each round - the satisfying pop of a counter right down the shoot, "knowing" a hook was coming next and beating it with one of my own - but am nowhere near able to piece together a semblance of a play-by-play.

I don't know why I keep thinking I ever will be...

So Reader's Digest version: Round 1 was very much the typical "feel-out" round. I've come to learn that I'm very good at these rounds - more often than not my opponent is more wound up than I am, so I'm able to dictate the pace by just keeping my guard high and jab in his face, conserving some energy, not showing all my cards and only throwing power punches when they're absolutely appropriate. I used this efficient - but effective - approach to win the first round, taking some detailed notes (do's and don'ts) back to my corner.

Round 2 didn't go as planned, as my opponent made some adjustments of his own and, rather than cooperating and keeping his head on a tee, busted out some lateral movement that made by punches hook and loop a little too wildly. Luckily, this was more me missing big (and wild) than me missing badly - the difference being that missing badly gets you rocked, while missing big just makes you look like a jackass for finishing every combination with an errant haymaker.

My cornermen scolded me between rounds - as if I didn't know I had gotten ahead of myself throwing bombs - and told me to go back to keeping my jab in his face and let the right hands come to me - shorten them, quit loading up, and throw them when there's an opening rather than, well, when there's not.

Round 3 was mine. Mine mine mine. Controlling both the ring as well as the tempo with a healthy diet of 1-2's, I figured out my opponent's shenanigans and kept catching him with rights as he tried to dance away. I caught him with an especially hard cross as the 30-second bell rang, so, smelling blood (as if I didn't already need the motivation - the 30-second bell in the 3rd round unleashes something alien and angry in me) I was all over the kid in a heartbeat, ripping hooks and body shots as he leaned against the ropes. Knowing how much trouble he was in, I stepped back and nodded, spitting out a "let's finish strong, baby!" through my double-end mouthpiece to make sure he was still with me. He nodded, we touched gloves, and he took his beating like a man.

Which isn't me talking trash - he was a classy kid, got gassed, caught, and whupped in the final round. It's hard to explain - it was part warrior's code, part exhibition-mentality, part me just wanting to make a point rather than leave a mark.

Whatever the case, the sum result was that I simultaneously put on a hell of an exhibition while getting some very quality rounds in. When I got sloppy, he made me pay. When I kept it tight and fought my game, I took over. And most importantly, when I had to dig deep in the final seconds, I found a huge reservoir of energy that let me finish the fight with a resounding, dominating sequence. It was a competitive bout that gave me some more direction and experience, but all in all I could not be any happier with how I prepared and performed.

While my training didn't reflect it this week, I plan on taking all the steps necessary to be able to build off this fight and repeat it. However good it's felt basking in a strong performance, my work has only just begun.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pre-fight Shivvers

So it's the night before my first bout in months (far too long) and I can't help but be anxious. I usually don't get uppity the day/night/moment before a bout, but I can't help but feel like this week has seriously hindered my fight prep.

In my last post I mentioned that, since my bout was postponed from its original date, I was going to taper this "extra" week - ease off the gas, rest my body and fine-tune my game to make everything "click" at the right time. What's happened instead is that I've fought the flu and been swamped at work, so instead of tapering and peaking, I've shut boxing off altogether to sniffle my way through a 50-hour work week. Such is life, but, well, let's go back to the start of this "bonus" week...

After some great weekend workouts, I set-up a sparring session for Monday. What was planned as a light "walk-through" of sorts turned into a three-man, alternating battle royale that lasted 12 rounds. While ordinarily this would have been a great workout that got me valuable in-ring experience as well as a top-notch cardio workout, doing it 96 hours before my bout resulted in me getting way too banged up and worn down - especially by "tapering" standards. What's more, I wore my 20 oz. gloves (my lobster claws) so, in addition to punishing my back and shoulders with the added weight, I took a few shots that I ordinarily would parry in 14 or 16 oz. gloves. Immediately after the fact, I figured this "unplanned" strain could be slept off the next few days. Little did I know, the flu was lurking...

I woke up with a cold on Tuesday that I still haven't quite gotten over. Given my physical state and ever-growing to-do list at work, I haven't had the time or energy to work out since Monday - it's been three days of work --> home --> cold medicine --> bed.

I remember my high school track and cross country coaches always emphasizing how the workouts the days immediately before a big race - while light - were critical for your body to continue to build and capitalize on the training up to that point. Here's to hoping that the same rules don't apply for boxing...

I'm not worried about my preparation the past weeks and months. I know I've trained my tail off, pushed myself as hard as I could and improved leaps and bounds physically and technically since opening "camp." My anxiety stems from the other end of the spectrum - that, by squandering (through no fault of my own) the days leading up to my fight, I won't be able to fully cash-in and peak at 101% capacity.

That, and there's a fairly large crew of first-time spectators who have committed to attend and watch me throw down. I know it's an exhibition. I know I fight for me and my love for the sport and nothing else. But at the same time, this is just an exhibition - how can you not consider the impression you'll make on others as you take inventory the night before a fight? I want to be 101% ready and throw 1001 punches in 12 minutes and make an impression on people that I am a boxer and I trained like hell to kick some kid from Brockton's ass.

I've been thrown for a loop, but life never proceeds on a straight path. Nor is it ever easy. Nor particularly kind to me. But while I'm off-kilter now, I know exactly how I'll feel this time tomorrow when the bell rings and I step out of my corner.

I'll feel at home. I'll be ready to box. And I'll know that - regardless of who's in the hundreds watching or what I did the night before or what my work rate or punch count is - that I did everything possible to overcome all obstacles, train hard, and get myself ready to put it all together and make it happen in the ring.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What the Hell?

This week has, all things considered, been great. This week has also - looking back at the major events - left me wondering/muttering/exclaiming "what the hell?" far too often.

What. The hell.

What the hell?!

It's universal. Let's explore...

WTH #1: My bout was postponed
So I've been training my butt of for a bout originally scheduled for this Saturday, 2/21. I was informed Monday that, thanks to President's Day, this week is a "holiday week" for the branch of Boston City Council that issues alcohol permits. As such, they wouldn't issue any new permits this week. At all. None. The whole week. Because of President's Day. What the hell.

Given that the gym makes it's money from the bar and caterer on Fight Nights (admission goes to charity) the owner decided to postpone the card for one week. So I now have a bout next Friday, 2/27. As far as preparation goes, I'm actually a little better off. (I can peak now instead of "plateauing" - I'm more than ready for the bout, but now I can get a few more sparring sessions in, taper and rest up, and really peak peak. Not just your usual peak. It makes sense in my head, don't worry.) As far as scheduling goes, I'm peeved. I've mentally prepared for weeks to fight on the 21st, I've had to send multiple mass texts and emails to friends and colleagues who wanted to attend, and now I have to fight on a weekday. While this is (obviously) doable, it's definitely not ideal to work all day Friday and lug my crap (gym bag is extra heavy for a bout) to the gym and then cool my heels until the bell rings. But such is the life of an 8-5er (scratch that, let's be honest, I've been a 7-7er in the office lately.)

Verdict: What the hell?!?! And an extra shame on you to the Boston selectmen who refused to meet and keep the booze flowing. I swear, this is the most backasswards state ever.

Note: Thank you for all the well-wishes in anticipation of my originally scheduled bout. I appreciate the gesture, apologize for any inconvenience (sorry, only can update the blog once/week) and ask that you please keep me in your thoughts for just a little longer. Make sure to send the puncher's luck my way again next week!

WTH #2: Sparring with an ignoramus
Spent Preisdent's Day moving around with a guy I've never met that one of the trainer's connected me with. It was supposed to be just a light, long, "feel-out" sort of session, but it quickly turned into me aggressively defending his bullrushes and adding a little pop on my counterpunches to encourage him to simmer down. (I can't be the only boxer out there that finds it unbelivably irritating to set paramaters before sparring and then have them broken, especially when there's a talent discrepancy.) Unfortunately, me snapping his head back repeatedly didn't get him to mellow out. The haymakers quit flying only when he tired himself out...and then quit in the middle of the 3rd round.

Verdict: What the hell...is wrong with people?! Still had a great workout, but nobody benefits from one dude (me) beating the hell out of another (him) because someone (him) can't keep their feistiness at a minimum once they get in the ring. Whatever.

WTH #3: Sparring with a salty veteran
Moved around with a buddy from the gym who I've never sparred with before. He's in there all the time, competes regularly, and it's kind of beyond reason that I've never worked with him before. (By day he's a sales rep for a beer company - maybe us day-shifters subconsciously respect each other too much to pummel each other.)

But yeah, salty veteran, he was good. No matter how much I channeled my inner-Pacquiao, I couldn't - for the life of me - land more than one punch at a time or get him off-balance. He seemed to always always always have his legs under him so no matter what he was doing, he was doing it with authority. Apparently I was tipping my lead right too. After getting hit with multiple lead hooks (on my ear, right behind my glove, despite me looking for the same punch over and over) in round 4, I literally dropped my gloves and asked "what the hell am I doing for you to land that same punch?" He told me, and I quit doing it. Lesson learned, and 6 rounds well spent.

Verdict: What the hell...am I doing wrong?! Some lessons have to be learned in the ring, and this is exactly why quality (but controlled) sparring is essential for any amateur boxer. Or so they say. I know I won't be tipping my right and getting caught with any hooks next Saturday...

WTH #4: The bruise along my brow line
I woke up the morning after sparring with the vet with a purple bruise streaking across more than half of the top fold in my brow. Luckily my hair covered it a little (and it has since healed and faded surprisingly quickly) so I didn't have to explain to too many co-workers "I borrowed a friend's headgear, it was a size too small...so I got this weird, odd-shaped bruise." It looked like I took a purple pen and connected the dots across the right side of my forehead. It was absurd. I hate getting marked up, I hate explaining what happened, I hate the color purple and...bleh! Thank goodness new (proper-fitting) gear is in the mail and shame on me for using sub-par equipment. My first and last random, horizontal forehead bruise...

Verdict: What the hell? Haha...just...what the hell... (Why me?!)

WTH #5: Yuriorkis Gamboa defying the rules of the sweet science.
Keep your hands up? Naw, he doesn't need to, he's too quick. Square up? Sure, why not, he can unload with both hands quicker that way, counterpunches be damned. Break the speed of light? Sure looks like it - them fists be flying. Put athleticism (and arrogance?) over technique? Sure, why not, it's gotten him this far, and a gold medal along the way.

I always look forward to watching Gamboa fight and, while I could technically go out tonight since my bout's pushed back, I'm still going to stay in to watch El Ciclon de Guantánamo. Why? Because he leaves me wondering...

Verdict: What the hell...does it take to move like that? What the hell was he thinking dropping his hand and getting dropped?! What the hell's this guy's ceiling? Gamboa is one of the more entertaining and intriguing prospects out there, and while he leaves some speechless, I'm always left in awe and with plenty to talk about. And if I had that much raw talent, shoot, I wouldn't be earning a nickname, I'd already have one too. After all, we've got tornados in KC too...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Happy Valentine's Day

Had another crazy week at work and missed a few workouts as a result, but sparred today for the first time in weeks and felt good. Felt terrific, actually - fought smart and smooth and went five strong rounds. Definitely got a huge boost of confidence from today's workout and sparring session, especially since I was working with a guy who's a solid amateur fighter and likes to keep the pressure on. Didn't gas, didn't really get caught, and my counterpunches were timed perfectly - all of which are usually concerns when I get back in the ring after a layoff.

In terms of measuring myself for my bout next Saturday, I feel like I'm about an 8 - in great shape, sparring with the best of them, but just don't quite feel over the top yet. The bout is just an exhibition though, so that in itself will be just another measuring stick and stepping stone to bigger accomplishments. And, moving forward, I know that it will all only get easier - I doubt (hope) work can't maintain this breakneck pace, but even if it does, I know that I can maintain a relatively solid training schedule. More on training later though - tonight I'm focusing on spectating.

Going to spend Valentine's Day watching what, in my opinion, is a pretty great solid card on HBO. (What? You think anything comes before boxing training/fandom, even on Valentine's Day? Psh...) I've seen everyone on the card fight before - for some reason I like having scouted fighters a bit before watching them - but am most excited to watch Cintron/Martinez and Angulo/Rivera. I've always been a big fan of Cintron's and felt bad watching him wilt under Margartito's pressure (both in the ring and his breakdown after) twice and now feel worse that those two losses (his only two) might have been due to his opponent loading his wraps. At the same time, I can't help but be more and more of a fan of Martinez. His slick, sound style and ridiculous speed are literally inspiring - after watching him fight a few times, he's become one of a few fighters whose traits and styles I've tried to emulate a little more. The only strike against him is that he's a southpaw - I hate southpaws. Both fighters are looking for that huge, career-bolstering win tonight, and I see Cintron being unable to land his flush kayo punch and Martinez outpointing him for the win in an entertaining bout.

Rivera is a a fringe contender turned journeyman and I anticipate a reasonably lopsided fight where Angulo will simply overwhelm and overpower the salty veteran. Gotta love fighters like Angulo - you know exactly the type of fight you'll get from him everytime he climbs in the ring.

Campbell/Funeka should be a good fight, but I'm pretty unfamiliar with the latter and still new enough to Campbell that I can't quite bring myself to be overly excited for one of his fights. That, and the idiot couldn't make weight which peeves me beyond words. (You're getting six figures for a bout and have months to get down to a set weight. No excuses - get down to that weight or I reserve the right to dislike you for disappointing me.) All in all, it's a well-rounded card with the potential for some serious fireworks.

So here's to Valentine's Day and my love for boxing. I've been working hard and training harder, and I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday than sparring in the a.m. and watching some great fights at night.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Work, Son

Have been training hard and working even harder. Some changes at work have left me with literally double the workload, and while I still love my job and consider myself fortunate to work for SHIFT everyday, I can't help but be a little anxious about how the longer hours will affect my training - not even from an hours standpoint so much as the sheer energy it takes to pull a 10-hour day and then go workout at a breakneck pace for 2-4 more.

Maybe I'm getting old...

I'm at about the midway point of training camp, and in a way I feel like things are going so well I need to make up something to worry about. For the first time since high school, my training is unaffected by my cramped schedule. What's more, said training is going phenomenally. I've worked out each of the last 7 days and 12 of the last 14. My regimen has been more disciplined and consistent that it's been in years, and it's paying off. I feel quick and strong and "put-together" - my body's moving and reacting in sync, and my feet and hands are exploding with a smooth power that almost feels foreign. I had been worried about my feet keeping up with my hands, but now I'm worried about my eyes being able to read and react quick enough to use my physical tools to the fullest.

Long week in the office ahead though. Luckily, I was due for a two-day rest/reset, so assuming I still have my limbs and sanity intact come Friday, all will be well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Speeding Up By Slowing Down

Last week's training started slow due to craziness at work, but I was able to finish strong with great workouts on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I cut back some rounds on my bag circuits to focus a little more on my legs and really try to start generating some more speed and power from my lower half. As I continue to work on my footwork, balance and pivots, I want to make sure that I have the physical tools to support my technique. I've always liked the metaphor that "you can't shoot a cannon out of a canoe," but I'm starting to apply something more along the lines of "you can only shoot as quickly as you can reload."

Similar to the sayings above, I saw someone wearing a t-shirt that has another (cheesy) quote that I like a little too much: "Speed kills, strength punishes."

There's nothing prolific about this quote other than the fact that it fits my new gameplan perfectly. Since seeing it, I can't help but call upon it when I need a second wind in my workouts or devise my training schedule for the day. It’s not quite a mantra, but it's definitely a theme as I train for my next bout on February 21.

Pound-for-pound, I've been one of the strongest fighters at every gym I've ever trained at. At the same time, I've been far from the most successful fighter at all these places.

As I think back to some of the best fights and fighters of 2008, I realize that none of them simply overpowered their opponents like I try to do all too often. While I walk through punches, bully my foes and eagerly stand (flat-footed, grinning like a serial killer – I’ve seen the pictures) in the middle of the ring and exchange power punches, world-class pros are entering the pound-for-pound top ten list with a combination of being stronger, quicker and hungrier than their opponents.

I’m not a sloppy or unsuccessful boxer. I’ve just realized that I’m entirely too eager to turn every bout into a war, and my training shows it. Which one trait exclusively will win you a fight more times than not: power, hustle or speed? And by speed I mean being quicker and consistently able to beat your opponent to the punch. Which, obviously, can win you a fight on it's own. I've been good at the first two and neglecting this far more important third option - speed, speed, speed - far too much.

And ironically, I’ve been increasing my raw in-ring speed by slowing everything down. I’ve been shadowboxing slower and watching my feet, knees, hips and chin in the mirror. I’ve been thinking my movements through as I work the heavy bag, evaluating the “success” of each combination and my end position and balance before unloading again. I’ll spend a few rounds tapping the double-end bag before I’ll start flurrying.

I’ve been treating boxing like a fencing match – I’ll score on you while you can’t penetrate my defense – rather than Sherman’s March to the Sea.

I had my best workout of the New Year tonight and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started it with (after skipping rope and stretching) nine “slow” rounds shadowboxing and working the bags. Working the mitts with one of the trainers later, I was told that my punches felt solid and my technique was tight and sound. My angles were sharp and effective and my feet were keeping up with my hands - and the few times they didn’t, I fixed it in takes two and three. And then did it (correctly) again over and over, with more and more power as I felt comfortable and got the nod of approval from my trainer.

I was boxing instead of brawling my way through the workout.

So here’s to five more “slow” weeks and the speed advantage I’ll have in the ring on the 21st. Because it's going to let me use my God-given power to KO some poor schmuck.