Tag Archives: loss

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose

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My confidence was high after my seventh fight. After all, I ended a long lay-off with a good win! When our next promotion at the gym rolled around seven months later, we were eager and ready to get another fight with the same girl. BFC and Regimen Classic (a Rhode Island show hoping to expand) teamed up to host the Atlanta Regimen Classic at the gym during Memorial Day weekend 2015. The premise of that show was to highlight up-and-coming fighters, because “all legends started out as amateurs.” The Regimen team did a series of short interviews with some of the fighters, including me. (It’s a little cringe-worthy, but I’m ok with that…)

By this time, we had established production lists so that we could almost put on a show on auto-pilot: the supplies, prep work, volunteer staff, set-up and breaking it down afterwards, plus all the little details in between. It was all ready to go. Still, I put in a 12-hour day on Friday to finish up the Will Call tickets and supervise set-up volunteers while Terri ran around on last-minute errands. It’s a common theme for me: feeling busy and stressed about the production side of the show you’re fighting on isn’t the best scenario, but it’s doable.

At 9 am on Saturday, I weighed in at 120.6 lbs and then hurried to check the gym’s P.O. box to see if the medals for the show had arrived as promised by the supplier. Nope! I came back to the gym an hour later to unlock the front door and there were about fifty people waiting outside on the sidewalk. I remember that we did end up having medals for the fights, but I don’t remember how we got our hands on them.

Me, Terri, David (who won his match!)

David, Abel and I went to Waffle House for lunch and I will always remember this occasion because both guys ordered their meals and then added: “…and double everything.” They had to explain what they meant and convince our astonished (and elderly) waiter that, yes, they really did want that much food. In this small world, that waiter regularly visits the store where I now work and I think about this meal with a smile on my face every single time I see him.

After lunch I dropped the guys back by the gym and then headed home to take a nap. I came back at 3 pm to see the doctor, then went home again. (I lived really close to the gym.)

This was my first open fight.* I’d always planned on getting 10 novice fights before going open, but I changed my mind. In the time since this opponent and I last fought, she’d had enough fights to go open. So to get a match on this show, I could either fight somebody else (slim pickins) or I could go open to make the match with her. So I went open! This didn’t matter so much, but it did end up having a bearing on my tournament after this fight—which I’ll explain later.

I went into this fight with a deserved sense of achievement, but I underestimated my opponent and the focus I’d need. I believe I had more skill. I had won against her before, and I was going to win again. The thing is, there’s no such thing as an easy fight. Especially when you think you’ve already got it in the bag… I didn’t think I could possibly lose.

So, of course, I did.

I lost the decision, and I really don’t remember much about the fight itself. I do remember this: afterwards, Terri said she knew I’d lose and claimed she decided to let me fight as a “lesson.” First of all, that’s crazy-talk, because we never pulled out of a fight in five years (except for the time I fell down a flight of stairs). Secondly, this loss was a lesson about proper preparation, but it was also a lesson about the kind of trainer she was.

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Me in red trunks & my opponent in blue trunks

The loss brought my record to an un-exciting 4-4, and it was my first loss that I knew with absolute certainty that I should’ve won and had only myself to blame. While there’s no easy fight and no guarantees, some fights are definitely harder than others. In general, the ones I’ve lost have been harder than the ones I’ve won. Sometimes (but not always), winning comes with a certain ease that you see printed on gym t-shirts around the boxing community: “Train Hard; Fight Easy.”

Well, for this 8th fight, I didn’t train so hard and I didn’t fight so easy. Don’t mistake me: I didn’t train much less than usual or fight much worse than imaginable, but I didn’t give it everything I had, and that’s what cost me.

On a brighter note, the mother and grandfather of one of the kids I babysat were there cheering me on. I bet they can’t imagine how much that meant to me! The mom took this shot and later gave it to me on canvas as a gift:

They didn’t bring the baby to this fight, but she was able to come to a match when she got older. :)


* In amateur boxing, you start out as a novice and fight only other novices with 10 fights or fewer. You have to go open once you’ve had 10 fights, but you can choose to go open after 5. Once you go open, you can fight almost anybody in your weight class, whether they’ve had 11 fights or 211.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.