This is Part II of a previous blog, "Not Every Fight Ends at the Bell".
The words were crushing. Exiting the ring out of the blue corner, the fatigue and exhaustion sank in but the agony of defeat overrode everything. I wanted to win. Instead, I failed. Failed to meet my expectations and goals, failed my training, failed my teammates, and most importantly, failed everyone who supported me. Many people told me similar things after the fight, “You fought great! You got robbed. We’re so proud of you.” At the time, it didn’t matter what anyone said, I was down on myself. Rather than taking all of Fight Night in (the sound production, stage production, video production, fans and support, the screaming, the cheering), I was only taking in the defeat.
I hadn’t been nervous the night before and got a good night's sleep. The nerves began to surface the next day, once arriving at the Mission Ballroom. Things were still getting set up, but for the most part, everything was complete. It was amazing and far exceeded what I had expected. I think most of my guests, not to mention me, were expecting a ring with seats surrounding it. There was a ring, but there was also a stage to enter from, with three big monitors and a professional sound system and light setup! From the setup alone, you would’ve thought it was a professional boxing event, not a bunch of amateurs about to get in the ring.
Eventually, the once quiet venue slowly began to build with noise and people. With the ring and fights taking place, the cheers from the crowd, everything had a Gladiator-type of feel. It was a spectacle. Around the fifth fight, I was called to my prefight prep backstage. Other fighters warmed up nearby with their teams, stretching, shadow boxing, and hitting pads. Then I was fitted with official USA Boxing (USAB) certified 12 oz gloves, and once these gloves are on, they do not come off. In other words, you’d better have gone to the bathroom before putting them on.
The time finally came when my name was announced and my walkout song began. These are the moments your dream of as a kid and to have it happen is surreal. What you don't visualize are the growing butterflies that continue to grow to a point of discomfort. My walkout couldn't have been more than a minute, but it felt like an eternity. As I stepped under the ropes and into the ring is when I really felt the weight of the situation. This fight was going to happen!
After the fight ended, I was immediately hard on myself. Rather than focus on what I had accomplished, I homed in on what I had not. It has been a challenge to understand why I continue to ruminate on the loss as much as I have, and a recent quote I read says it best, “When you win everybody wins, but when you lose, you lose alone.” The fight ended in a split decision, meaning two judges scored my opponent winning, and one judge had me winning. It was close. Had I done a few things differently, the results could have been as well. Ultimately, no matter how much I evaluate and convince myself or others, the outcome of the match isn't going to change. It’s taken time, but I have been able to reflect on the many positives that have come from this adventure.
Are you familiar with "The Man in the Arena" speech by Theodore Roosevelt? In April 1910, President Roosevelt delivered a speech to 25,000 spectators in Paris, France. More than one person sent me this piece, as there is a particular section that continues to resonate and inspire.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
It took time to appreciate my performance, and there are still parts that I'm frustrated with. However, I can say that I'm most proud of my resilience. I was taken by surprise during the first 30 seconds of the fight. At one point, there were thoughts that I might wilt and be unable to finish the fight. I held strong, and not only finished but battled and made it a competitive fight.
Great Devotions and a Worthy Cause
Every fighter was required to raise a minimum of $7500 in order to participate in the event. For three and half-months I was a part-time fundraiser. I reached out to dozens of businesses, sent hundreds of emails, built promotional flyers, organized several online fundraisers, filled out many sponsorship applications, and posted more on social media this past half year than I had the previous three years. All said and done, I raised over $10,000 for Children's Hospital of Colorado, well-exceeding my initial goal. Yet, I couldn’t have done this without the support of so many people and in so many ways. Whether it was a donation, attending the event or sharing my social posts, it was amazing to be reminded of how strong of a support system I have.
Preparing for a fight, you can’t have anyone go easy on you or sugarcoat any truths during training. There were many hard lessons, and I appreciated my teammates and coaches not easing up, because it's the only way to get better. Being on the front line and enduring the same hardships creates a specific type of bond, because they've experienced the trials and tribulations of the sport. To earn their respect and hear their positive words about my performance meant more than they’ll ever know.
The Man in the Arena
There are several areas where boxing and life overlap. Just as in life, bad habits are easy to develop in boxing. However, the bad habit can be fixed just as quickly. Drills help fix the mistake, but when you can feel the pain behind your mistakes, you are must less prone to make them. Like in life, there are areas that are outside of your control -- your opponent, the crowd, the judges, the decision of a match…
Focusing on the areas I can control, like effort and ability, has been a tough, but important, lesson. And it’s one that that I’m still working on. In life, just as in the match, I am presented with obstacles and results that aren’t what I expected. It’s how I move forward that matters most.