Smell Your Fingers, Throw Your Hip

There’s a reason why this has taken forever for me to write. I had foolishly assumed that training for a charity boxing match was just going to be added to the list of things I did. When I sat down to write this I couldn’t manage my thoughts well because they were all over the place. I needed to step away from it and gather them. There were so many things to take into account from that night and it has taken me close to a full month to process them. I went from anxiety to frustration to sadness to happy I could eat pizza and drink beer again. I thought often about cucumbers and combos that I should’ve landed during the fight. (As well as Combos the snack. You’ll see why later). I had regrets about my own doubts and kicked myself for not making it to the gym in my off time. Instead of concentrating on the things that I didn’t do, I had to take some time to reflect on what I did accomplish. And, holy crap, how did I actually do any of this?

For those that don’t know, I signed up for the Young Professionals Non Profit listserv at the suggestion of a friend to help me try to gain some focus as to what type of Masters Degree I eventually want to pursue. Naturally I gravitated towards the email entitled “Looking For First Time Boxers.” Boxing was something I had always wanted to try, but couldn’t push myself to invest the time in. As soon as I read that I would be training three times a week (for free!) and raising money it was a match made in heaven. Volunteering and learning a new skill while meeting new people is tops.

And so training began. The first workout was grueling: step up push presses, lunges, what felt like nineteen different types of push-ups – and all of us trying to prove that we deserve to be there. As the weeks went on I got punched in the face more and more. The first time I sparred, I cried for absolutely no reason after the first round. I wasn’t hurt or embarrassed, I had actually done pretty well. The trainer refereeing our match yelled “What are you crying for!? You wanted women’s rights in the 70s!”

Some people went up against Golden Glove winners while others were placed in the ring sparring with a girl nicknamed X, who was super nice and knowledgeable, but very dangerous. She would smack her gloves together and yell “COME ON!” and when I landed a punch she’d say “Yeah! There you go!.” She was awesome, but good luck to anyone that gets in the ring with her. There were days I left feeling confident in my abilities and days when I contemplated never going back. Ultimately, this was about raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and not about me at all. My goals shifted the closer we got to the event from trying to be really good at boxing to wanting to win to just being able to finish the fight to not tripping getting into the ring.

In order to cut weight before the fight I ate a banana for breakfast, a dressing free salad for lunch and a cucumber every two hours. I would bite the end off, spit it in the trash and eat it as is, savoring every bite and making it last as long as possible. I may have been cold all the time, but I lost 11lbs. Due to cucumber diligence, my opponent and weighed in at less than 15lbs apart and we were able to have a USA Boxing sanctioned fight. After the weigh in, eating mouthfuls of plain, wheat protein pasta and a quick medical assessment – where my blood pressure was 170/110 and I was diagnosed as “just really nervous” – I made my way downstairs, gloved up and worked the mitts while I waited for our match, the second of the night, to be announced. I figured we had about ten minutes to prepare since the first match had just started, but 30 seconds in a knock out was declared and I was asked if I was ready.

“Nope,” I replied. And then “Army of Me,” my entrance song, played and I had to figure out where the hell I was supposed to go. I safely made it through the ropes and into the ring. Achievement unlocked. My opponent and I touched gloves, retreated to our corners and were called into fight when the bell rang.

Now, if you’ve ever seen a boxing movie, you’ve noticed that the fight is always a close up of the boxers throwing punches in slow motion against a backdrop of darkness and bright lights. It feels exactly like that when you’re in there. I tried to do everything I was taught: control the center of the ring, go for the body (my opponent was much, much taller and therefore impossible to hit in the head), block punches and not fall into a trap of a flurry of punches from her. I heard people cheering for me specifically or just yelling “Come on, blue!” It was an entirely different change of pace from the energy of the first match. We were slower, far more tired and less experienced. I have no idea how we looked, but I felt great after. None of the punches that she landed on me hurt as bad as I had expected and I didn’t pee as much during the match as I thought I would. There was a hesitation in announcing the winner during which the referee asked us individually if we enjoyed ourselves, if it was our first fight, etc. You know, what we in the business call “boxing small talk*.”

I picked the one picture where it looks like I'm winning (Photo Credit: Lights Out 4 Leukemia)

I picked the one picture where it looks like I’m winning (Photo Credit: Lights Out 4 Leukemia)

My opponent was announced as the winner and I’ll admit to being bummed out, but I met half my goals and was happy overall with my performance. I stopped being bummed out when I went to see my friends and family in the crowd and was greeted with drink tickets, pizza, flowers, pizza,  lots of hugs accompanied with an “I’m so proud of you” and pizza. Training and getting in the ring had never seemed like that big of a deal to me, but everyone’s reactions proved otherwise. I made it a point to run over to the exit after each match and high five or hug everyone while congratulating them on their matches – unless I was eating pizza, but even then I managed to bring the pizza with me.

The rest of the night was so much fun. A friend of mine was the MC and my cousin, the DJ, unknowingly played my favorite jam, “Return of the Mack,” during intermission. The event flowed so smoothly and was practically flawless. To top it off, a bunch of my friends won raffle prizes! Could it seriously get any better!?

Yes! It could!

As we all know, one of my favorite wrestlers ever is Daniel Bryan. He became my favorite in 2012 when he started chanting “Yes!” on his way to the ring as a over the top heel. This phenomenon caught on, created a “Yes Movement” to make him champion and arenas would yell “Yes! Yes! Yes!” while raising their arms and pointing their fingers in the air.

YES! YES! YES! (Credit: Me. I took this!)

YES! YES! YES! (Credit: Me. I took this!)

My friends did this as I walked into the after party. It was amazing that some threw or attended a fundraiser to help me raise money or  that they donated to the cause in addition to purchasing tickets. I was humbled by the number of people that encouraged me throughout the way and showed up to cheer me on. It might be silly, but I was not expecting a “Yes!” chant to happen.

I am so appreciative of everyone’s donations and well wishes. I am so grateful to the trainers, who I can now count among my friends, and to Boston Boxing for giving me an opportunity like this. Likely one that I will never have again. And to everyone that fought that night, you are incredible and I am so lucky to have gone through this experience with you all. Learning, commiserating, flipping tires,  trying to get the courage to sing “I Will Always Love You” as a group to cut down on our workout time. (Only one person did it, the rest of us knew we needed that workout) and making up songs. If you’re going to do this, and I highly recommend that you do, you need someone with a similar sense of humor. Thankfully, I had Chris (who just wrote a BOOK) to help rewrite lyrics to Lil’ Jon songs using ridiculous things the trainers yelled at us during workouts (see title of post.)

So, would I do it again? Maybe. I love the classes I am taking at Boston Boxing right now and the culture there is really great. Everyone is supportive and the emphasis is on the technique and sportsmanship. There is no showboating allowed. If you’re looking to knock someone out so you know how it feels, then it’s not for you. I’m no where near ready to compete again and I want to make sure that I can be in an appropriate weight class for my height.

Lights Out 4 Leukemia is already looking for people to sign up to train for next year’s event. For more information, check out their website.

*No one calls it that.

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