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


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 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."