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."


Anonymous said...

We cannot change the past...but I strongly believe we can change our future.

Disappointment aside, it sounds like a great performance on your side.

Keep up the good work, mate.

Jonathan Moreland said...

Thanks. Not only can we not change our past, but like I mentioned, I wouldn't have changed a thing before or during this fight anyway. It's a weird feeling, but that's why you just keep at and build on this.

Appreciate the comment.

Anonymous said...

You have to be proud of your success even without a Win. You fought your fight and was prepared. Experience will serve you well as you continue your development. I bet you will know how to "beat" a clincher in your next bout.

NerdOfSteel's Boxing Tips said...

Sucks about the decision, but still sounds like a performance to be proud of.

I've heard that USA Boxing has changed their guidelines for amateur ref'ing and they are far less likely to break up a clinch these days. The person who told me this (I forgot who) also said to, "work on your inside game." Unfortunately I have no inside game, but your story was a good reminder to develop one.

Jonathan Moreland said...

There aren't any big holes in my inside game. This is going to sound like an excuse, but it's just to explain - the 2nd round had some inside work, but the 3rd round wasn't dominated by "clinching," it was straight holding. I was barely able to throw arm punches - he just had me bear-hugged and on the ropes, so we just kind of...stood there.

So yes, some USA Boxing refs (clearly) let the clinching go, but this was pretty extreme. I've heard east coast/New England refs let things get a little rougher than elsewhere in the country, but who knows. We'll see how big of adjustments I have to make fight-to-fight.

NerdOfSteel's Boxing Tips said...

Hey, don't get me wrong, I wasn't in any way trying to imply you had shortcomings in your inside game. It sounded more like he opted for the boring route just to reduce your punch output when you started controlling him.

I'm not sure about East/West Coast differences, but what I heard about the ref style change was out here in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Moreland said...

I get ya, I'm just saying that if we were in-fighting that final round I still would have won comfortably. We certainly were in, he just made sure neither of us were fighting. (Like you said, he made sure to completely squash both our punch outputs + ref didn't keep order) I'm definitely becoming more bitter as the days pass...

Yeah, amateur refs everywhere vary. I just know my trainer said some New England guys are completely lost on a national level once the officiating normalizes/reaches a higher level and they're not allowed to hold hold hold hold.