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 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 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 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.