Tag Archives: Buckhead Fight Club

Latin Fight Night: “Dia de los Muertos”

Crazy things have been going on recently (er, in the last two years) that I want to share, but first I’m going to travel back in time to a good memory and the next piece of my story: my 7th fight and one of the funnest shows I’ve been on so far.

On November 1st in 2014, Buckhead Fight Club put on Latin Fight Night: “Dia de los Muertos” and boy was that a fun show! You should’ve seen the gym. The decorations were cool, we had an Aztec warrior walking around, and the place was packed. So fun!

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Stage one of our decoration prep.

This was my second fight in my home gym (I lost last time). It had been eleven months since that loss, and I hadn’t fought anywhere else due to injury. My bout was matched at 119 lbs and I was thrilled to be getting back in the ring!

The point of the show was to feature talented, local Latin boxers in every bout. The problem: my opponent and I were both white girls. Seeing as she’s a tall blonde and I’m a short brunette, my trainer and I decided that I should be considered the “Latina” fighter in our bout. We joked that we’d change my last name to a common Hispanic one, and we picked Sanchez. I thought it was funny, but I didn’t think we would actually do that. What if I offended someone?

I weighed in at exactly 122 pounds, which was the lightest I’d been at that point in time. Abel and I went to Waffle House together for breakfast after that, and then I returned to the gym to help with the last details of the show. The downside of fighting at home is that it can be tough to work the same event you’re fighting on. Every time this happened I always promised myself “I’m not doing this again,” but I always did because I wouldn’t turn down the chance to fight.

Luckily, as any good fight day would, this day included a long nap and multiple episodes of Fresh Prince. When I returned to the gym, I was stoked and ready to go. I hung out in the back room for a while, but before long I went out to the main area because I wanted to be right in the hustle and bustle of fighters and their teams getting ready. This is my favorite time; I love the energy!

When it was time to warm up, I started to freak out because I felt tired and worried about how long it had been since I last fought. Ring MatHalf-way through my warm-up, our ring announcer called everyone’s attention to the ring for a 10-count and silence for Little Juan. Everyone stopped working pads, everyone went quiet and we listened to the bell ring ten slow, sad times. When Terri and I looked back at each other at the end of it, we both had tears in our eyes — and resumed warming up right where we left off. I was about to fight in the ring with Juan’s name on the canvas. Swallow that lump in your throat and do it.

My fight was the fourth bout of the night and the only female fight. First, my opponent was announced and brought to the ring. Then, preceded by the Aztec warrior waving the Mexican flag, I was announced in the red corner, “hailing from Mexico City… Kelsey Sanchez!” I was astonished, but it didn’t throw me off. I later learned that the ones who knew me were laughing at this, while most of the audience was confused–though some believed it. (I was asked for an interview by a Hispanic news source, but that was before I could fake fluent Spanish.) So, Sanchez became my ring name and an inside joke at the same time. As for the fight…

1st Round: So hard! I didn’t throw much, and it wasn’t good. In fact, it was pretty bad.
2nd Round: Better! I threw many more punches and they connected more.
3rd Round: Much better! I could tell that I was rocking her…

During our last round, her hair started coming out of her headgear, so the referee sent her to her corner to fix it. I threw a whole bunch of punches when we resumed fighting to try to take advantage of the situation–the fact that she was frustrated and I was on a roll. Her hair came out again; the ref paused the match again. They were in the corner for what seemed like forever, and I was thinking “Come on, come back out here…” I was feeling great.

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Coolest medal ever! 

At some point that was unclear to me, the ref stopped the fight. I was confused and asked Terri if it was over, so she got confirmation from the ref and removed my gloves. I won by disqualification, which was less than satisfying! I was certain that I was ahead. I could’ve easily lost the first round, but not the second one. The third round was also in the bag, barring a surprising comeback from my opponent in the time left. I felt like I might’ve even had a chance at getting my first win by TKO in that 3rd round. However, a W is nothing to whine about! I had a great time.

aztecI got my picture taken with the Aztec warrior. This is the only picture I have from the night, which is a shame. Another drawback to fighting at home–everyone’s busy working the show! I couldn’t even find my corner after my fight, but I knew they had to move on to Abel, whose fight was after mine. I wandered around the venue for a while before I changed and watched the last of the fights.

When the event was over, clean-up was relatively quick because of the extra hands there to help. However, Terri’s idea of celebrating included a lettuce fight, HA! What a mess. That’s when the drinking and partying started. I finally came home exhausted and already getting sore muscles from the fight. I went to bed with an ice pack at almost four in the morning. Sanchez out!

 

LFNTable

Ofrenda for Juan set up at the show.

Little Juan Ocampo

I said I’d write about my last fight, but something else happened about a month before that I want to address first. Not only is it more important, but it feeds into my last fight and will make more sense. So that story will be told in the next installment—as a continuation of this one. I do my best not to mention names of people who may or may not want to have their business out in public, but I have to talk about Little Juan. (Well, talk some—but mostly show pictures.)

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Little Juan Ocampo died in a car accident close to home on September 29th, 2014, at the age of 19. He was the passenger in an SUV driving too fast in rain on the interstate very close to both the gym and his home. He was the only one who died; another passenger was taken to the hospital. He went through the windshield and shattered the heart of the gym.

Juan & Terri

I found out about our loss when Terri (our trainer) texted a group of us a link to a news article (here, and later here) along with a picture of her with him. The picture was taken at the weigh-in for his first boxing match, which was on Atlanta Corporate Fight Night 7, our first boxing promotion since opening Buckhead Fight Club.

Before the gym had even been open for one week, “Little” Juan Ocampo joined and took up residence with us. He would come train in the morning, hang out and talk for half the day, run off, and then return to train again in the evening. He kept this up all summer. He lied a couple of times about his age, but it turns out he was 18 at the time. He was great company, and a real talker—he knew everybody and everybody knew him. He wouldn’t leave the gym until he’d said bye to every person there. Sometimes his friends from outside the gym would come looking for him at the gym, because that’s where they knew to find him.

Every Juan in the gym has a nickname so that we can tell which Juan we’re talking about, and “Little” Juan came right after “First” Juan (who joined a day or two earlier). It was a bit of a joke because he was actually relatively tall, but he was young and that made him little. :) It was also definitely a term of affection because he was our Little Juan and we loved him no matter how big he kept growing.

After that summer of hanging out with us, he came and went—sometimes for months at a time. He always came back, though. Sometimes just for a couple of days; sometimes for a steady few months. That’s part of why it was so hard to believe he was dead after we learned about the crash, because it was normal for him to be gone for a while. We still expected him to come back any day, running down the stairs.

Retired LockerNot long before he died, Terri told him to claim a locker at the gym so that he could stop leaving his things in the open. I happened to have a lock that I wasn’t using, so I gave it to him. I didn’t trust him to remember his lock combination, so I wrote it down to keep it in case he forgot. To his credit, he never forgot his combination—but the fact that I kept the numbers means we were able to open it and return his belongings to his family. The locker is empty now, but we locked it back up and put his name and picture on it.

LockerContents

Little Juan’s boxing shoes, gloves, and jump rope.

Remember how I said that his friends and sometimes family would come by the gym to find him? This continued after he died (overwhelmingly so). Family dropped in as if they wanted to connect with the place he loved. It was hard to see them come in crying, wanting to hear stories about him. I’d end up crying, too. His friends would come by, as well. One guy called the gym for information about the funeral, because he wasn’t able to get in touch with his family any other way. He hugged me at the funeral and thanked me for making sure he didn’t miss it.

Even months later, every now and then, someone comes in and sees his picture and tells me that they knew him. (He knew everybody, because there isn’t a person in the world that he’d turn his back on.) People who don’t know about him ask questions, too, because his picture is all over the gym.

That week, his family asked if they could hold a vigil in the gym, and we did. The car accident was on Monday; the vigil was on Thursday evening. We didn’t know what to expect, but I was overwhelmed by the number of people and their singing and grieving. We had his picture set up in the ring with some of his belongings (his backpack!), flower arrangements, candles…

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That was rough. I stayed on the outskirts because I couldn’t handle being close.

His funeral was held Friday, October 3rd, at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. Between there and the burial at Gwinnett Memorial Park, I was amazed to see how many people attended, and especially people that I recognized from the gym—some of whom hadn’t been around in a really long time.

He’s still our boy, with a prominent place in the gym. Little Juan was anything but little. His big heart changed my life.

FrontDesk

Picture posted at the front desk.

Left: portrait for ACFN 7. Right: behind the scenes before ACFN 7.

Left: portrait for ACFN 7. Right: behind the scenes before ACFN 7.

One of the posters around the gym.

One of the posters around the gym. (Juan is in the blue trunks.)

The picture people notice and ask about the most.

The picture people notice and ask about the most, right above the speedbag.

It took me a while before I could drive on the interstate without feeling sad, but I still keep this in my car.

It took me a while before I could drive on the interstate without feeling sad, but I still keep this in my car.

Every time I see this building, I smile and think of Juan. One time he told me that the top can close (someone had told him that). I still wonder if it's true!

Every time I see this building, I smile and think of Juan. One time he told me that the top can close (someone had told him that). I still wonder if it’s true!

Juan was proud when he drew first blood at Buckhead Fight Club by breaking a nose. He was thrilled to sign the ring mat. (That ain't his blood!)

Juan was proud when he drew first blood at Buckhead Fight Club by breaking a nose. He was thrilled to sign the ring mat. (That ain’t his blood! He had the BEST defense.)

One day—after he died but before his funeral—I was babysitting and the toddler and I were out on a walk on a sunny morning. When we walked past this rose bush, I thought the dewy petals were so beautiful (like life, somehow, I don’t know). I had to take a picture and stop to admire them… trying to get the 1.5 year-old to do the same. I posted the rose as my profile picture on Facebook and someone (who didn’t know anything about what was going on) commented that it was a “knockout” rose.

Rose

Grave

On November 1st, 2014, we held Latin Fight Night: “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) at Buckhead Fight Club. You see, months earlier, we had already sanctioned this promotion to feature local Latin amateur boxers. Once Juan died, suddenly the show felt very heavy: while it might’ve looked like any boxing show in the entertainment business capitalizing on a traditional holiday, for us it was solely dedicated to Little Juan.

More about that next.

Still Alive and Kickin’ — At Buckhead Fight Club

Except for the kicking part! No kickboxing for me.

I’ve covered a lot of ground in the months since I last posted. It’s been an overwhelmingly busy period, and I don’t see any signs of it letting up yet. The good news: I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time and I love what I’m doing.

When I last posted, we were still training in a temporary gym. No more! My trainer, Terri Moss, opened Buckhead Fight Club, the coolest place on Earth. Am I exaggerating? Probably not, but you should come experience it for yourself to make sure I’m telling the truth.BFC 1

I won’t go into great detail right now, but let me tell you that I’ve never put in so many hours, so much sweat, so much prayer and so much effort into anything else in my life. Just getting to the point where we could open the doors took hours of physical labor,  financial miracles, many volunteer workers and oodles of optimism and faith. The Grand Opening was on May 11th, 2013. To be honest, I was too worn out to enjoy it! After going home and sleeping for 14 hours, I was able to marvel over the fact that we were actually open, after months of work.

I’ve been working full time at the gym ever since, and I love it! I spend most of my time behind the front desk doing office work, believe it or not, but I am also coaching a kids class. I’ve only got two boys right now, but they’re a fun pair! We’re working on getting more kids in there.

The gym is a busy place, especially in the evenings. We’ve got boxing (for fitness or competition), Tae Kwon Do, Krav Maga, Muay Thai boxing, Guided Chaos, Jeet Kune Do, on-site massage therapy… We’re full of life! We’re family-friendly, too, which is important to me since I mainly want to work with kids. Almost every day, there’s a steady trickle of interest as we get curious walk-ins off the street and as people who’ve heard about us from friends come by to check it out. We’re growing!

For a short while earlier this spring, there was a lull in my own training while I focused more on getting the gym opened up. However, I got back to training and sparring in plenty of time to get ready for summer tournaments and club shows. My goal for the summer is to get as many bouts as I can, and I’ve already begun. My next post will be about my fourth fight, so stay tuned!

While you’re waiting, like BFC on Facebook and be entertained by our status updates! :-)

P.S. In March, I got my driver’s license. In April, I bought a car! In May, I finished my teaching job. I think that ties up all the loose ends from my last post.