As I put it when I emailed my mom a ridiculously long account of this tournament, this is my Labor Day Weekend Boxing Story.
Towards the end of July, my trainer told me about an upcoming tournament. “Wanna fight in it?” Heck, yes. I knew absolutely nothing about it, but that was okay. My only concern was to make sure that it didn’t conflict with work. A fellow boxer in the gym sent me a link with more information (here) about the Paul Murphy Boxing Club Title Belt Tournament 2012 (what a mouthful). It would be held August 31st through September 2nd.
Remember how I lost about 18 pounds for ACFN 5? Well, I gained 8 of them back over the summer, eating whatever yummy things I pleased. As Terri and I sat down to dinner at a Mexican place after training one night, she said: “We need to get your weight down again. Let’s get closer to 119.” So I went back on my diet, eating mostly fruit but also cheating a lot. (Eating fruit is fine, because I love fruit, but I sure do miss crunchy things like crackers, pretzels, croutons and other snacks.)
I began training with this specific tournament in mind. The focus was to speed me up (to think less) and improve my defense. Training went up and down, of course. The first time that I worked a few rounds of defense was frustrating, because I kept getting hit and wasn’t allowed to hit back. The second time, I did a little better. The third time, I started to enjoy it.
I also did a lot of speed drills, either on the bags or when shadowboxing. Whenever I thought that I was going as fast as humanly possible, my trainer would come alongside me and starting punching about twice as fast as me. How’s that for motivation!? The other day, I stumbled across this clip of her working pads:
Well, I’m not quite that good yet. Yet!
The first time I sparred after the summer, I felt like the rustiest, slowest old thing on the planet. It stunk. After that, I sparred with an experienced southpaw for the first time. That stunk, too. I realized that I needed to adjust my attitude when working with boxers who are 500 times more skilled than I. Previously, I felt like I had to try and “best them,” and that just wasn’t going to happen. I would only come away feeling like I hadn’t accomplished anything. Instead, I needed to focus on practicing a particular set of skills with them. For instance, consistently moving to the left while constantly sticking my jab out to keep her from getting set. That was certainly a goal within my reach. Thinking this way helped me learn something from each sparring session. (And I’m only talking about sparring sessions, here. If it were an actual fight, I’d have different expectations, regardless of my opponent’s experience level.)
So, there were days when I felt like there was no way I’d be ready for the tournament. And, there were days when I felt really good and excited about the chance to get another fight. Whether I’d had a “good” day or a “bad” day, the bottom line was that I was happy to be back in the gym after being away for so long. Milana and Ronda (two gals from the gym) also went to the tournament, so we did a lot of our work together.
Our last day of training and sparring was the Tuesday before the tournament. I sparred a few rounds with Milana and a few rounds with Ronda. Sparring with Ronda was a good way to end the session because she gave me a real good chance to practice my technique, and kept up a running commentary to help me out. For the rest of that week, I rested after work instead of coming into the gym.
According to their promotional material, the weigh-in for the tournament was on Friday, at a hotel from noon until 8 pm. That morning, I had the prescribed half-a-banana with some black coffee, which I got from the teacher’s lounge. (I don’t drink coffee, don’t know how to make it and don’t like it.) After that, I didn’t drink or eat anything.
That day was our first field trip of the year. When I got home, I was pooped from shepherding 22 kids safely off campus and back again. (God bless helpful parent chaperones.) The trip was to a local book fair. My favorite part was that we got free books; the kids’ favorite part was that they got to ride on a bus! It’s always fun to break out of our regular daily routine, but it’s also plain tiring. I considered taking a nap after school, but decided not to. When I got home, I was down to 123 lbs—three pounds lighter than that morning. I cackled with delight. Haven’t been that light since before college, at least.
While I waited for my trainer to pick me up, I worked on reading the fourth Harry Potter book. A note on Mr. Harry Potter: I read the first book shortly after it came out, but didn’t read on. Now I’m reading the whole series so that I can catch up with the rest of my generation and so that I can see what all the fuss is about. I’m mostly enjoying the books, but I really don’t get why they’re so popular. (Don’t worry, I’ve already been assured that I’m both heartless and a HEATHEN—yes, an all-caps HEATHEN. My friends’ opinions of me have plummeted as of late.)
Back to boxing. After Terri picked me up, we picked up Milana and headed to Doraville. We got to the hotel rather late (but before 8 pm), only to find out that it wasn’t a weigh-in at all—it was just registration. Instead of having athletes weigh in before the competition began, they would have weigh-ins at 8 am each morning of the tournament. Well, shoot. Milana and I had dried out for nothin’. We drank water and ate fruit.
Though it wasn’t a weigh-in, you were supposed to indicate your weightclass on the registration form. They had a scale set up out in the hall, so we checked where we were. I was at 126 lbs with clothes on, so Terri told me to enter myself as 130. It turned out that the closest class was 132 lbs, so I had plenty of wiggle room.
Milana and I waited in line to register with our forms, passbooks and $20 each. (I was surprised and pleased that entry was so cheap.) The room was full of people sitting around. Mostly men, though I saw a few women, too. I kept my eye out for girls who might be my weight. When we got to the registration table, we handed in our forms and passbooks, signed an extra paper (I don’t even know what it was), gave them $20 and got wristbands that we were to keep on for the duration of the tournament. The wristband had the words “Pit Pass” on it, with pictures of race cars. I thought that was funny.
We sat down and waited, like everybody else. What were we waiting for? A man holding a stack of passbooks came into the room and called out names, telling those people to go see the doctor. Aha, we were waiting for our pre-fight physicals. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too long…
When our names were finally called and the man handed us our passbooks, we followed his directions to a separate room down the hall. This room was full of people waiting, too. Chairs were set up in rows, and every single seat was filled. There were also people standing along the back wall, all waiting to see the doctor. Note that: the doctor, singular. You’re telling me that you’re planning a tournament for over 500 boxers and you only hire one doctor? I don’t know if that one doctor had been there since noon, or if they split up the hours. I hope she didn’t work all day, because she was there until well after 8 that night.
At the front of the room there was a long table. At one end, a guy in a “SECURITY” shirt checked each person’s blood pressure. The doctor was standing at the other end of the table, checking boxers after they got their blood pressure readings.
We waited in this room for about an hour. When someone was called up to check their blood pressure, each person shifted one chair to the left. When you got to the end of one row, you started over at the beginning of the row in front of you. I’m glad Milana and I were sitting together, because otherwise I would’ve fallen asleep. Ronda had gotten there earlier, so she was several rows ahead of us. I was definitely wishing that I’d taken a nap after work. You could tell that everyone, both officials and athletes, just wanted to get out of there.
Milana pointed out people that she recognized from ACFN 5 and from the Georgia Games, but I didn’t recognize any of them. I did recognize one guy that she didn’t, but I wasn’t sure from where. I also saw a chick who looked like she was exactly the same size as me.
When it was finally my turn, I got my blood pressure checked and the “SECURITY” guy wrote down my numbers in my passbook. They were slightly high, which surprised me because I had “perfect” numbers a year ago. Then I stood and waited for the people in front of me to get to the doctor, while Milana’s blood pressure was taken. The doctor checked me, and I was a-okay.
Once Milana’s physical was done, we left as quickly as we could. By then, it was past 10 pm. We headed toward a Chinese restaurant to get food, but it was closed. Instead, we went to a Malaysian place that was open until 11. I had a delicious Thai lettuce wrap: a bunch of yummy chicken served with lettuce and peanut sauce. (Peanuts improve quality of life. Unless you’re allergic to them.) I also had at least three large glasses of cold water. I was in heaven.
I got home around 11:30 that night and got to bed at midnight. It was much later than I’d anticipated, and I fell asleep very quickly. I was too tired to have any jitters. I just wondered whether or not I would have a fight the next day…
All night, I had crazy boxing dreams. The one I remember the best was about Milana boxing an eight year-old girl (I’m guessing) that I saw at the weigh-in, without gloves and in pajamas. In the dream, Milana and I were both shocked, but Terri acted like it was completely normal. “Just go box!” she told Milana. I watched from beside the ring. I went over to Terri to ask why they weren’t using gloves, and she said it was because they hadn’t had their blood drawn. Then she stuck a syringe into my arm and drew my blood, so that I’d get to use gloves in my fight. Luckily, none of that came true.
The other dream that I remember well was that I decided to go for a 3-mile run about an hour before my fight. Half-way through the run, I got really tired and thought: “Oh no! That was stupid! Terri’s not going to be happy about this…” That dream didn’t come true, either.
To see what did happen the next day, stay tuned! (Hint: It did involve running. Just not 3 miles.)