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.


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 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 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.