6th Fight — In My Home Gym!

Sometime in October, it was arranged that Buckhead Fight Club (my gym!) would host the 2014 Georgia USA Boxing State Championships! It was a two-day tournament held December 14 & 15, 2013. I signed myself up as soon as the registration form went live and entered the tournament as a female novice in the 119-pound weight class.

For the longest time, I didn’t have a match. Only three or four women entered this tournament, all in different weight classes. Luckily, we found me a match who was even willing to pay the late fee to enter just days before competition. We changed my weight class to 125 lbs to match her weight and make it happen.

I was excited and determined to train well for this tournament, especially because I was going through a rough time personally. I was going through a break-up, starting to catch a cold, and generally felt worn down and spent. For the three-or-so weeks leading right up to the tournament, I had problems both falling asleep and staying asleep at night. I wanted this fight to be a bright spot in a dark period of time—something that I could look forward to positively.

Day One (Saturday)

My opponent and I both showed up early to get our yearly physicals done. The weigh-in was technically much later, but the officials went ahead and weighed both of us to speed things up since we were the only female match. I weighed in at 124.8 lbs; my opponent was 124 on the dot.

After that, I manned a table of boxing memorabilia (t-shirts, mugs, watches, retired competition gloves, etc.) that the president of GABA brought to help raise money to send our open division winners to Nationals. I was getting sleepy while sitting there, but I was mostly hungry! Once someone showed up to relieve me, I took myself to Waffle House for a breakfast of champions. I had an awful waiter, but the food was good!

When I got back to the gym, my job was to sell tickets at the door. I had good company, including one of the kids in my kids’ boxing class. I guess he got bored of watching the fights, because he came up to the front and spent the rest of the night helping us. When the day’s bouts came to an end and people left, I finished up the VIP and Will Call assignments for the following day. After that, I headed home. Terri and some of the boxing chicks invited me to join them for dinner, but I was SO looking forward to bed. I wasn’t worried about my fight—I just needed one good, whole night of sleep to set me straight.

I literally read one page of a book to unwind, and then I crashed. I did finally sleep that night. I fell asleep easily AND stayed asleep until my alarm went off, which was a miracle. I don’t think that had happened since before December!

Day Two (Sunday)

I had set my alarm for 9:30 that morning because my coach and I planned to go to breakfast together. She ended up not being able to, so I tried to go back to sleep for a while, but couldn’t. Oh well! My morning started with a smile when I received a text message picture of a little baby that I babysit. She was holding a boxing glove, with a funny and confused look on her face. It made me smile! :)

Still, I started to feel down that morning and struggled to stay positive. Driving to Waffle House (a better one with friendlier service), I tried to turn my thoughts around. Finally, I told myself: “Screw it! I don’t care. I’ll rip her apart anyway.” It was sort of positive, but it was in an angry and grim way.

After breakfast, I went to the gym and laid down for a long time. I didn’t sleep, but I relaxed and got myself into a really good mood. My heart started pounding anytime I thought about throwing quick combinations, so I decided to mostly think of calmer things.

20140103-213923.jpgOne of my friends handed me a Christmas tree cut from wrapping paper, saying that a boy in my kids’ class sent it to me to inspire me. I LOVE it and I’ll keep it forever! My mom sent me periodic text messages of quotes from the movie Cars, which cracked me up!! That’s one of my favorite movies ever, so I loved the quotes and appreciated the support.

It was finally time for me to get up and re-join the land of the living. I watched Terri wrap another boxer’s hands (she had two of us fighting), and then changed into my boxing jersey and trunks. He was bout #1; I was bout #5.

Boxing started! While I watched the first fight, I started warming up and getting loose. Our guy lost by TKO at the end of the third round, unfortunately, but he fought hard against an opponent much, much bigger than him. After his fight was over, Terri talked him through it some, which made me a little nervous about how much time we had left—even though I know it was important not to leave him hanging after his first fight. Then she wrapped my hands.

The third bout was in progress by the time I started warming up on pads, and then the fourth bout ended by a quick TKO before I was anywhere near warm enough. Terri asked me, “Are you feeling rushed?” I said, “Yes.” We inserted a brief intermission in the show. (The promoter can do that!) I felt pretty good on pads, but didn’t get sweaty or hot. I figured I was ready.

I walked to the ring with my song playing and heard cheers. I’ve never had so many people there for me at a fight before! Between the boxing chicks and the people who regularly come to the gym, a lot of people were wishing me luck and cheering me on. It was a good feeling, for sure! The fight started.

Round 1: Half-way through, I felt like my thighs had turned into jelly. I already felt that it would be hard to stick to the game plan (pressuring her) because I wouldn’t last. I was way too exhausted in the first round. Mentally, too. In the corner, Terri told me that I lost that round and asked if I wanted to win. I said yes, but I didn’t tell her that I already didn’t feel like I would be able to last. (And that, my friends, was the beginning of the end because I’d already decided. I was in despair even when I still had a fighting chance.)

Round 2: The ref gave me a standing 8 count, which was my first. This was also the first time I felt that I was behind. (My other two losses were close, but I knew this one.) Again, in the corner, Terri asked if I wanted to win. I knew I wouldn’t. She told me, in strong terms, to just put my head on her chest and throw punches.

Round 3: Which made for a desperate (and agonizingly long) third round where I think I might’ve thrown more punches than in the rest of the fight. I rallied some pounding body shots inside, but never went back up to the head—which she was open for. I was totally spent at the end!

Never once did I hear Terri’s instructions from the corner during the rounds, which is a bad, bad sign. After the fight, the ring announcer drew out the announcement a crazy-long time, so I took that as a sign that the bout was much closer than it was in my head. In my head, I lost by a long shot. However, after watching a video of the match, I saw that it was pretty close.

I cried some after leaving the ring. Got a lot of hugs from people saying I looked good, it was close, it was an exciting bout to watch, etc. I knew these things were true, which is why I felt like I should’ve won!

More than half of my kids’ boxing class was there. They surrounded me with hugs and excited chatter and questions. I had to pull myself together to be a good example. This helped me because then I could speak with people in a much more respectable, dry-eyed way. A lot of people, friends and strangers alike, came up to me to talk about my fight. I got all kinds of congratulations and compliments. Though they were difficult to accept right after a loss, they were encouraging!

After boxing was over and most people had cleared the venue, I went to be alone. Terri came in and talked with me for a while. A bunch of us went to our favorite Mexican restaurant across the street, and I stayed in good spirits even though I felt like a disappointment among friends. I was glad to have them there with me!

The Day After & Beyond

The morning after the tournament, I woke up with the usual sore muscles. Physically, this was the least painful fight I’ve been in, which I think is funny because the most painful fight I’ve been in so far was one that I won. At any rate, I drew an Epsom salt bath (which I’d never tried before) and soaked for twenty minutes. It sure felt good, and my muscle recovery in the following days was quicker than usual.

Right after this tournament, we looked at the GABA calendar to see what was coming up. Terri got to work finding me an opponent for a club show on February 1st. I had a match lined up, but that opponent back out. We also tried to set up a re-match with the girl that I just lost to, but we couldn’t get them to take it. Now I’m training for the GA Golden Gloves towards the end of March. I can’t wait!

I don’t feel like a disappointment because of this fight anymore. There was no shame in my effort, though I initially felt that there was because I wasn’t “up to snuff.” Of course it would’ve felt fantastic to win on my home field, but there’ll be other opportunities!! This fight taught me an important lesson about staying on top of my mental game, and I’ll gladly accept that as a boost that’s going to help me with every fight here on out. I’m nowhere near finished!

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Evander Holyfield & Boxing Chicks on the first day of the tournament.

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Georgia Games 2013 — Half-way to Open!

The weekend following my fight in Greenville, I entered the 2013 Georgia Games tournament (July 20-21). I barely trained the week in between–one or two runs, some light sparring. After I looked so tired in Greenville, Terri wanted to make sure I was sharp this time. I’m glad she preaches rest before a fight!

Day One

I paid my $25 and entered the female novice 125 division. I got my physical and then weighed in at 123.2 lbs—about the same as the week before. My trainer went back to the gym for the Saturday morning classes, but I got to do my favorite thing… Know what it is, yet?

20131130-190752.jpgBREAKFAST!!! This one was particularly good. There were two of us from my gym in the tournament, so we headed to Cracker Barrel together and pigged out. That was the first thing that we learned we had in common! Loving food. I had three buttered and very syrupy pancakes, two eggs, two sausage patties and a biscuit. (Lord have mercy!) It was fantastic. I also enjoyed the company. We had never really talked much before this, even though he’d been training at the same gym for a month, but we had a great time.

After breakfast, we dropped by the gym to pick up a headgear, then went to my apartment to nap. I slept like a rock and woke up feeling great. Both of us were in high spirits and were excited about boxing. We went to pick up Milana, and then the three of us headed for the venue. This part is memorable because of the downpour of rain that I had to drive through to get there! I had never driven in rain this bad, and it made me nervous. I went super slow and we made it to the venue alive.

It was hard to find parking. We dropped Milana off at the door so she could check the brackets. We were late because of the rain, and didn’t want to miss our potential bouts! As we finally pulled into a parking spot, Milana called to let us know that I wouldn’t fight until tomorrow, but that he would fight today.

We ran through the rain into the venue, to find that the tournament hadn’t started. In fact, the bout sheets hadn’t even been posted. Only the brackets were up on the wall. (Apparently, this Georgia Games received way more entries than usual.) I checked the brackets and saw there were five women in my weight class, including me. Since it was  a two-day tournament, they broke up the most popular classes into groups: three of the girls were in group A, and my opponent and I were in group B.

The chick that I boxed in Greenville the week before (and had sparred previously) was also in this tournament, but she was now in the 132 weight class. There were only two women in the 119 class, and I didn’t see any open women—only novices. I think there might’ve been a couple unopposed open women, but no matches were made.

We waited for the tournament to begin. Waited, and waited… Some folks from the gym came to cheer us on, so we all kept each other company. Boxing finally began around 7:15 pm—over three hours late! The other guy from our gym was scheduled to box in bout #20 (out of 26) in ring 2. The good thing is that he had plenty of time to get ready. The bad thing was that his fight was so late. He seemed calm and collected all the way through. His fight ended around 11pm and he won! And looked good doing it, too. We’d both fight in the finals the next day.

We went to eat to celebrate his win. It was great to celebrate with him, but it was a lousy meal for me. I spent $10 on an over-priced salad, of which I only ate a few bites of lettuce because I didn’t want to exceed my weight the next morning. We sat down to eat at about 11:45 at night and left dinner at 1 in the morning. I got home at 1:30 am and was asleep by 2.

Day Two

Per my instructions, I checked my weight at 6 am after sleeping like a dead rock for 4 hours. I was 123.6 lbs, no problem. I slept for another hour and a half and had some really weird dreams that I forgot immediately. Around 7:40 I rolled out of bed, into my car. When I got to the weigh-in, I joined my friend from the gym in line and he informed me of our bout numbers. Mine was #24 and his was #29, both in ring 1.

To expedite the weigh-ins, the officials had the girls wait off to the side so that they could weigh a bunch of us at the same time. We got tired of watching guy after guy walk in and out, even though they arrived later than we did. One of the girls pitched a little fit and they decided it was time to weigh the girls. I was exactly 123.2 lbs again.

I went to the gym and slept for two more hours. Unfortunately, I’d left my duffel bag of gear at home, so we had to swing by my apartment “on the way” to the venue (in the opposite direction). We also picked up Milana, then got to the venue around 2:30, right at the time we had planned to arrive. (Wow!)

I dawdled around the venue. Sat around for a while, much like the first day. This time I was thinking about my own fight more than what was going on around me.

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Terri wrapped my hands, which is a time I enjoy. I shadowboxed and stretched while being filmed by Fred. (I stuck to my policy: ignore the camera! But still try to look cool.) Later, Fred and Milana took me outside to film a quick interview for Boxing Chicks. I was nervous because I didn’t want to cut close to my fight, but Milana watched the clock to keep us on track. I was my usual eloquent self! (That’s sarcasm.) I cracked myself up when I told him that I didn’t feel like being sad later, so I might as well win.

We went back in, and I warmed up hard on the pads. This part was really fun, and I smiled a lot. I had a blast. Fred filmed, and I got a good sweat worked up. After that, Terri let me cool off some.

Time to glove up! Shortly after that, I got a little headache. I borrowed the gym’s headgear (because the strap on mine broke) and it felt a little too tight… Terri got me warmed up again, to stay warm this time. The headache blossomed into a full-grown, throbbing affair like I’ve never felt before. Headgear definitely too tight! I worried about being able to focus on the fight.

It was finally time to head ringside. The moment I stepped through the ropes, I forgot about the headache. I bowed to the officials, and got inspected by the referee. It was time to go!!!

Round 1: Before the bout, Terri told me that we’d have to wait and see what kind of fighter this girl was. I would either need to pressure her or I’d need to lay back and box her from the outside. She told me to listen for her call during the first round. Within the first minute, I heard the command: “Pressure!!” and I darn did.

Round 2: I got hit a lot, and that’s about all I remember. My own pace was a little slower than in the first round. In the corner after that round, Terri’s words boiled down to: “You lost that one, now go win the next one.”

Round 3: I re-applied more pressure with renewed determination. The ref paused the fight to give my opponent a standing 8 count. At some point, some snot came out of my nose and onto my face and I remember thinking  “Ew, gross!!” (I’m sure you’re glad I included that detail.)

The moment Terri pulled my headgear off, my head was relieved x1000 and the headache disappeared like magic. (Side note: Since my old strap broke, I ordered new headgear. The first 3-4 times I wore it, I got that exact same headache. Now, it doesn’t hurt anymore. I guess there’s a break-in period?)

After the last bell, we knew I’d won the fight, but there’s still that nagging “what-if” feeling until the official announcement is made. The ring announcer drew out the announcement for a long time to make us crazy. I won by decision!

The other guy’s second bout was shortly after mine. His match stressed me out! Both him and his opponent had fought the previous day, and they both looked pretty tired. Our guy won out, though, so we swept Georgia Games 3-0 between the two of us, which made Terri proud. :)

This was a peculiar win for me, emotionally. I was in high spirits immediately after my fight, but within a few minutes I felt bad. Mostly physically: my face (especially the nose) hurt like heck, I had a bellyache, I felt a little light-headed, one of my right knuckles hurt, my muscles were already feeling sore… Further on in the evening, I started feeling down. Part of it (my pride’s about to show) was because I felt over-shadowed by my friend, since he won twice in a row. Yes, I know how silly that is and I’m embarrassed to admit it! I told him about it much later (when we were dating…) and we both laughed about it.

I don’t think that was the only reason I felt down, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. At any rate, we went to dinner again, but I didn’t feel like celebrating and I really wasn’t hungry, either. Looking back at myself that night, I was so petty. If the same thing happened again today, I’m confident I could turn my attitude around.

The next day, I was quite sore! Everywhere. I still felt a little down, with no reason. I’d just fought someone who was more skilled than my previous opponents, and I won. I won conclusively, fighting for the second weekend in a row. I looked, felt and performed better than the previous weekend against a tougher opponent! Why was I down on myself? I shared some of these feelings with Terri and she assured me (multiple times) that I did really good. I felt like a little child wanting attention, but it is what it is. The mind game is so important, and I’m learning to play it better as I progress.

Either way, I couldn’t wait to fight again. (Five more novice bouts left for me, and then I’ll go open!) I was looking forward to the Title tournament at the end of August (where I got my second fight the previous year), but I was hoping for a match before then, too. I also couldn’t wait to get back to training! First, I rested and healed. All fight-related pain was gone by Friday and I was ready to get back to work.


A Little Unrelated Note Stuck on the End: The Next Tournament

I didn’t end up fighting in the Title tournament because no other novice females entered the 125 weight class. Milana entered this tournament, as well as two guys from our gym. They all got matches, which made me happy for them and jealous. :) I spent the weekend driving Milana around and just spending time with her, which was awesome. I took my two favorite pictures of her, which she won’t allow me to show people (haha!). Here’s one of us she took during Georgia Games:

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Milana won her fight! She got a broken nose and two black eyes in the process. She was supposed to advance to the finals the next day, but the doctor gave her a medical disqualification because of the nose.

I’ll end this post with a funny story from the Title tournament. I told a friend about how five girls entered my weight class at Georgia Games… “So where are they now???” She joked that I scared them away. A little boy, eight or nine years old, stopped and asked: “Is it true?!?” He looked up at me with big eyes. I said, “What?” I didn’t realize that he’d heard our conversation. “Is it true that you scared all those girls away??” Hahahaha! I just told him: “No, I don’t think so.”

Greenville, SC

As I mentioned in my last post (circa 4 months ago…), my goal for this summer was to get as many boxing bouts under my belt as I could. In late June, there was the question of whether or not we would make a trip to Florida for the Women’s National Golden Gloves tournament. Terri put it to me this way: “If your heart is set on this particular tournament, we’ll go. But if you just want to fight, we’ll fight you around here.” She hit the nail on the head: I didn’t care where I fought, I just wanted to fight. It was about 1:00 AM when we pulled up a calendar of boxing events and started looking for matches. (I’ll go to WNGG one day, though! When I’m open, instead of novice.)

The first show on the list was only four days away, so we contacted the people running the next show after that: Greenville Boxing Club would host a show in Greenville, SC on July 13th. They had a match for me! Easy-peasy. It was set, and I went back to my training with a specific goal in mind. All we knew about my opponent was who she trains with and that we were matched at 119 lbs.

This was my first out-of-state event. My trainer and I got to Greenville just after midnight Friday night/Saturday morning. I went straight to bed, for one of the poorest nights of sleep I’d had in a long time. I woke up every half hour, growing increasingly anxious about getting enough rest for the fight. Around 4 am, I had the briefest thought about how I might lose if I couldn’t sleep… Just as quickly, I banished that excuse. Unfortunately, I continued to wake up every half hour for the rest of the night.

When the 8:00 alarm rang, Terri told me to check my weight. I rolled my grumpy self out of bed and to the scale. About 124 lbs, if I remember correctly. I crawled back into bed, wondering how bad it was for me to be five pounds over 119. Terri wasn’t worried, though, and told me to go back to sleep. Gladly! My sleep was still fitful, but it was better than being out of bed.

The weigh-in was a breeze. I waltzed in, stepped on the scale, saw the doctor and left, with almost no wait time. I weighed in at 123.6 lbs, which is the lightest I’ve been since high school. And that was without dehydrating! (When we got to the venue later, I checked the bout sheet and saw that my opponent weighed in at 126.2. Good thing I didn’t sweat down to 119!) I saw my opponent at the weigh-in, and wondered if she looked familiar…

Terri and I found a local, country place and ate a GIANT breakfast. Well, I did, anyway. I had two eggs, two sweet potato pancakes (ohmygosh, yum!), two sausage patties and two biscuits. Folks, the post-weigh-in breakfast might possibly be my favorite part of fighting. For real.

During this time, I was working on my confidence. Working my mind “up” (to be mentally ready) while still keeping my body “down” (so I wouldn’t get antsy). The show would start at 2, and I didn’t want to jump the gun with nervous excitement. After breakfast, we went back to the hotel and I had a great nap. I slept hard, and almost felt like it made up for the crappy night. I happened to wake up at 1:30 pm, and my heart started thumping with excitement as soon as I saw what time it was. Terri told me to stay down, though, so I relaxed and tried to stay sleepy. I watched a bit of nothing on TV… and then it was finally time to head to the venue.

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We arrived during the third bout of the show. We found the bout sheet: I was bout #15. Plenty of time to get my hands wrapped and to focus. I got a better look at my opponent, and it was a girl that I had sparred before. I told myself not to care, but it started to unsettle me. This girl made me cry in my own gym and had taken away some of my confidence. (Until Terri restored it by making me get back in the ring with her for the third and fourth rounds…) But I began to think about how I’m a much better boxer than I was when I last sparred that girl. Hey, maybe she had improved, too, but I was willing to bet that I’d improved more.

Meanwhile, Terri had a million words of advice and direction for me. I tried to take it all in. A friend of ours who is also a trainer, D, came over and added his advice. It was a lot to think about! I stayed calm, listening and imagining myself doing what they told me to win. And then, my favorite part, Terri simplified it for me: “Just focus on two things: protect yourself and beat the crap out of her.” I grinned. That works!

Terri worked pads with me before the fight. I got a little frustrated as she kept telling me “too slow, too slow, gotta move faster, too slow.” I finally started moving around more like she wanted me to and the frustration went away. I got to the point where I felt good working the pads.

This was my first time fighting out of the blue corner. Terri and I were both grateful for D’s help and backup while working my corner. At first I was worried that he’d try to talk over Terri in between rounds (and I wanted to be sure to hear her), but he didn’t at all. I sure heard his encouragement during the rounds, however! Pretty much all I was aware of during the fight was hearing Terri and him screaming—and the look on my opponent’s face. (Oh! I was also acutely aware of the fact that I really needed to pee throughout the entire fight.)

I think my opponent gave up early in the first round. She threw some flurries of punches, but mostly she tried to get away. I could tell that she was tired. The times when she stepped back for a breath, Terri yelled for me to stay on her and not let her rest. Sometimes I did, but sometimes I rested, too. I was tired! But I managed to push through and keep after her. I felt slow and tired. Watching the video afterwards, I don’t look quite as slow as I felt, but I do still look slow. And sloppy, to tell you the truth!

I barely remember the two corner talks. I just remember being told not to be tired and that she was open for uppercuts and straight rights, in particular. One of the straight rights that I landed well came right after Terri yelled “Do it now!” (or something like that), referring to the lead straight right we had just discussed in the corner.

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I won all 3 rounds! I knew I’d won the fight, but there’s always that moment when you’re waiting for the decision and wondering… But I did win! Note: This medal is deceiving because it makes people think I won 1st place in a tournament… But there was a 1st and 2nd place medal for each bout.

I posed for pictures with Terri and D, with sweat still pouring out of me and my lungs heaving. Then I began the process of emailing and texting people that I knew would want to know (especially since this was out-of-town, so no one from my gym was there). This was a difficult task, because my hands were shaking like I was having convulsions. Even twenty minutes after the fight was over, I still couldn’t text well. Each text took a loooong time to compose, as I mis-typed and re-typed everything many times.

D, me, Terri

D, me, Terri

As soon was my coach and I let people know the outcome, I started getting congratulations from home, which was a good feeling. After taking a minute to calm down (and stop shaking, darnit), I called my mom to let her know how it went.

Now, while I was on the phone with Mom, I started sneezing every now and then…

The sniffles arrived in full force within a few hours of the fight. By the time I went to bed, I felt like I had a full-blown head cold. I fell asleep and slept really well. When I woke up, I stayed in bed for a while, cozy and relaxed. I discovered sore muscles as I started to move around. Finally, I got up and took a shower. (Phew!) I definitely should’ve taken one before bed, but I was too darn tired.

It was time to head back to Georgia. And, yes, I did have a cold. I felt very lethargic and tired for the rest of the day. Luckily, the cold cleared up after a couple of days and never got worse. But it sure did hit me as soon as the fight was over! Wow. That was no coincidence.

This was my fourth fight, my second win and my first out-of-town event. It was a good weekend!