I got in the ring for the first time yesterday.
Just writing that sentence out, I had to pause and contain my excitement just enough to type this blog post, but I’m still pumped up about it.
After boxing for three months, I figured maybe it was high time I get in the ring if I wanna pursue my dreams of becoming a prizefighter. Most people agreed, some did not. I believe that our coaches know us as boxers better than we know ourselves, so I listened to the ones who told me I was ready to get in the ring and try this thing out. After praying with my husband because I was so nervous, I walked in and Coach K and Coach Kris both asked me if I was going to spar that evening. Happily, I nodded my head yes (I probably jumped around too, cause ya know, for whatever reason I just can’t stand still.) I looked over at who I had mentally prepared to face, the woman I call “The Terminator” for her hard as stone punches, Bella. Previously, I made agreements to spar with another woman, Angelina, who was more my size but could still punch hard enough for me to know “oh hey, her punches hurt, I’m gonna remember to keep my hands up and my chin tucked.” Angelina is shorter than me, which I knew would be a challenge because blocking body shots have been a struggle for me. In other words, I knew Angelina would be a good challenge for me. Earlier through the week, however, Bella challenged me to spar with her, and while I initially was like, “aww hell naw this my first time in the ring she gonna kill me.” I realized that I can’t hide from challenges that scare me. Despite my fear, I knew I had to face Bella and her ruthless punches. Mentally, I was there, but the coaches decided that for my first time, I should get in the ring with someone who wouldn’t punch quite as hard. (Let’s be real though Angelina still punches really hard.)
After class, Coach Rey announced, “We are going to do female sparring tonight!” The class erupted with cheers. An all-female sparring session hadn’t happened in quite some time. I put my gear on, but had no idea what to do about my headgear. This is how some hilarious shenanigans went down:
Me: Coach Kris, can you put this on my head, please?
Coach Kris: (wrapping someone’s hands) “Tell Coach Rey I sent you, he’ll get you taken care of.
Me: Coach Rey, can you please put this on my head?
Coach Rey: (Nods) Is this right?
Me: (not knowing any better but knowing it’s strapped on my head) Yep! Thanks! (gets in the ring)
*We get ready while Coach Kris is finishing up)
Coach Kris: (Gets in the ring, sees my headgear) What the… did Coach Rey put this on you? (takes it off and fixes it)
Me: Yeah, why?
Coach Kris: He did it wrong (laughs) AND YALL JUST STOOD THERE AND LET HER COME IN THE RING LIKE THiS!
*mumbles of everyone’s excuses*
We then proceed to Coach Kris telling us a few instructions like touching gloves and breaking when he says break. We get in our corners and DING! The bell rings and suddenly I feel an inner beast knocking on my chest from within, longing to be unleashed. I never met this beast before. It wasn’t the kind of beast that said “hit hard” it was a beast that said “keep moving, then swoop in and fight aggressively from within” Now, did that beast show itself in the ring? Maybe for a few moments at a time, but we were doing jab only sparring, and from what I learned after the fight, the jab is really only supposed to be used if your sparring partner or opponent is far away from you. There’s no point in throwing it if you don’t have the distance, it comes out really awkward and with no real force. It was then that I understood why I struggled so much with the jab. The coaches even told me this before, but it wasn’t until I got the chance to really use it that my body understood exactly what the jab was for. Angelina stalked me like her prey and then pounced, connecting jabs and hooks all over the place. I took some hard shots to the body, one shot to the nose, and one shot to my eye. By the end of that round, I was exhausted because of all the body shots, forgetting to breathe with my mouthpiece on, and just moving around too much when I didn’t have to. Coach Kris took me in the corner, offered good advice for blocking and gave me some water.
Let me take a moment to say I’ve always known this just from seeing trainers/coaches/managers work with fighters, that a fighter and their coach are one team. You can’t have one without the other. I knew this, but I didn’t fully experience it and all the emotion behind it until Coach Kris took me in the corner. He gave me water, something fighters can’t do for themselves with gloves on. Gave me advice from what he was seeing that I couldn’t see, he said not one word to the fact that by this point, there was snot coming out of my nose, tears coming from the eye I got punched in, and slobber from my mouthpiece, he literally just wiped it on his jacket. Most people would have been like “girl, what are you doing, you’re a hot mess.” but not my coach!
He asked me later if I was done. I was visibly tired, and I was getting my butt beat. I had successfully landed a few jabs, but overall, the women I sparred with in that ring were superior fighters, and if a judge had been there, and it was an actual point, the victory would have gone to Angelina. Luckily for both of us though, that ring is still gonna be there and we can practice our techniques as many times as we want to, as both of us eventually want to compete.
Anyway, I got way off track. Coach Kris asked me if I was done. Through all the tears, snot and slobber, I shook my head no. My nose didn’t stop hurting. My eye couldn’t stop producing tears, so by that logic, I figured I couldn’t stop fighting. Really and truly though, I wanted to keep going due to the fact that I love the sport so much and even though I wasn’t doing as good as the other girls, I loved it and wanted to keep going to see what else I could learn, how far I could push myself, and to see if I truly have heart. I wanted to see if that Rocky Balboa level of grit I take with me in the gym carried over to the ring. Turns out, it did. I am so proud of myself for not quitting, even when the option was presented to me. After a round or two with Angelina, I sparred with Olivia. Let me tell you something about Olivia; she is not just a great fighter for her age, she is a great fighter period. Despite the fact that she’s a teenager I’m not ashamed in the least to say that she far outboxed me. She is really quick, and that’s a style I like and am trying to emulate, so I’m honored I got to work with her. She was the only one in that ring who is seriously competing, and I genuinely believe she’s going to go to even higher places in this sport. She is incredible and no doubt one of my heroes in the gym.
After the session, I went up to both of them and thanked them for working with me. I learned so much more than I could have ever imagined and I do not regret stepping into the ring with either of them.
Though I’m definitely sore from last night’s rounds, I am all the more eager to step back into that ring and get to know the kind of fighter I am becoming.