“Ding Ding. Seconds Out. Round 1!”
In one of those moments where things in front of your eyes seem to process with a slight delay, the first few seconds of the fight had already passed before my brain had caught up. Unfortunately for me by the time that that I realized the fight had started, my 113kg opponent had advanced quickly onto me and was throwing a barrage of punches in the general direction of my head, His tactic was clear, to overwhelm me.
I couldn’t tell which one of his punches actually hit me first, but as soon as it did, I woke from my sleep-like state. By this time of course I was against the ropes weathering an early storm. Sticking my hands up in front of my face to form some kind of protection, I ducked down and pivoted around and under Rod ‘Big Country’ Thompson’s fists and danced backwards creating some space as I began breathing deeply. My tactic was a simple one, try and use my speed to avoid being punched and then counter the big hitter. The only problem was that I was blowing hard through my mouth.
In 10 weeks of training my fitness had got a lot better, but 30 seconds into the fight I already knew that this was going to be harder than any training session that I’d endured. Not only are you throwing and receiving punches but the pure adrenalin that comes from knowing that there is a man within a metre of you intent of knocking you out steals any reserve of energy or composure. It’s like swimming in a pool with a hungry shark at the other end.
In training it was clear that Rod was big and strong but in what was a frightening realization now 60 seconds into the fight, Rod was also aggressive. Standing my ground for as long as I could before he advanced and began throwing his far stronger punches, I found that lashing out combinations of two or three quick punches in the hope of catching him before one of his bombs landed was my best hope to disrupt him. Inevitably a long lurching right hand would make it’s way towards my face and ducking out of it’s way in the nick of time became a quickly formed reflex which would be repeated time and time again as he chased me around the ring.
By the time the two minute bell had sounded to indicate the end of the first round, I realized I was in a fight. I also realized that any memory of tactics, style, or technique had long been forgotten. We were two wild men in a brawl. It was scary. It was just what I’d hoped and by the sounds of the crowds reactions, they were having fun too!
With that my trainer jumped in the ring and pushed my into my corner. Sixty seconds later after giving me some tactics to concentrate on, he asked me to repeat what he had said. I could’t remember a thing!
Guard up and finding some range
“Ding DIng. Seconds out. Round 2!”
Similar to the first round, Rod starts the second round with a bullying approach, rushing past my jab with weight and strength. Punches rain down on me as my counter jabs sting him some what gently on his bigger frame. As I scamper around the ring with a strong stance and a weaving body, I remember a dream that I had a as a child. The dream itself involved a mystery man whom wanted to fight me, but no matter how many time I hit him, he seemed invincible to my full-blooded blows. With my dream in mind and occasionally hitting the marauding Rod with a variety of punches, I fear my power to be inferior but after a fiery exchange where I manage to avoid some heavy shots, I land some wild right hands of my own. Surprisingly, I see a retreating opponent, apparently affected by my punches which have connected flush with Rod’s slow-moving-head.
Until this moment in my life I”ve never had a fight- this is why having a boxing match is on my list, and so as the bigger Rod reclines into the ropes with a dazed look on his face, I’m unsure whether he’s hurt or just tired. The fact though is that he’s hurt. I advance on a tiring opponent with a desire to take advantage of my recent punches but as I try to step forward with visions of finishing the fight, an incredible fatigue consumes my body and halts my progress. I can barely move. Momentum though takes me forward and after slipping past some of his instinctual defensive shots, I land two more big rights on his jaw causing him to stumble again backwards. Slowly I realize that i’m now on the front foot and after a flurry of punches between us which again sees me connect directly with Rod’s head, the referee steps in, separating me from making more contact. It’s only seconds later that I realise that he’s actually stepped in to protect my opponent- unbeknownst to me, my punches have caused some damage. The referee is now giving big Rod a standing 10-count.
Being ushered into a neutral corner of the ring, I stand there gasping for air. I realize that I’m doing well now, but my fitness is reminding me that I have limits. Rod I think feels the same, but as the referee first checks Rod’s awareness before then waving us on to battle again, his bold movements towards me give me no confidence that I’m near to ending the fight. Instead in the tone that the first round took, I soon find myself scampering backwards, avoiding some more big shots. This man is like a robot! Bouncing off the ropes and under a few more shots from Rod, I somehow avoid his big right by ducking backwards and again pivoting off the ropes and as I do I instinctually bounce back and strike him awkwardly on the side of his head. A combination of a lack of balance and a clean head shot sends Rod to the canvas in a heap. He’s on his back and I can see he’s hurting. Although I wish it was the power of my punch that keeps him down there I know full well that a fitter boxer would jump up straight away. Regardless, again the referee steps in to momentarily assess Rod’s health. Swiftly he stands up and shows the referee that he’s OK. Thankfully he is.
It’s at this moment that that I fully appreciate our predicament. To the spectator, it may seem now I’m winning but I this fight is not about winning or losing, it’s about a test far more real- something about our passion to live. I stand there wondering how Rod may react and Rod I know is standing pondering the same thing. It’s only in these times of complete unknown so we fully figure out who we are. Rod, with every fibre of his body wanting to come back, again attacks my position with his now predicted style of big punches. Although battered, he again throws heavy punches which I avoid and somehow counter with a few lighter jabs to his face. Seconds the later the round ends and I return to my corner with an amazing feeling that I’ve outgrown my dream.
“Seb! You’re doing well, mate”
My trainer seems pleased.
Rod hitting the canvas…
“Ding Ding. Seconds out. Round 3!”
Although in total we’ve boxed for just 4 minutes, my body and head are convinced it’s been 4 hours. Any suggestion that 10 weeks of training has increased my endurance is highly debatable as my once light-footed skip into the middle of the ring now resembles a slow ballroom shuffle.
As I pound my gloves together readying my fists for one last bout of survival, the referee pre-meditatively steps in between me and the equally tired Rod. Ushering me back to where I came from, he then leads my opponent into a neutral corner and pushes him against the ropes as he peers into his eyes deeply. Then holding both of his hands in front of Rod’s face, he begins another 10-count. Rod’s evidently still hurt after the last round! After reaching ten, the match doctor is called to the side of the ring and with the aid of a torch peers again into Rod’s eyes. As words are spoken between the doctor and the referee, I stand there like a lonely figure across the ring wondering if the fight is over. My fatigue tells me that a fight cut short is a good thing but my hope is that we get to continue. This is fun.
Suddenly glancing over to me and calling me into the middle of the ring, the referee asks from across the ring if I’m OK. Nodding YES, I shuffle forward and wait for the decision. With that referee steps aside and asks Rod the same question. He too nods and a second later we’re told to ‘Box!’. The fight is back on.
If Rod was hurt, he covered it well and although I can feel that a few more effective shots of my own would stop the fight, I find it hard calling upon reserves that I don’t have. As such I stand there throwing an assortment of tired jabs. With that Rod hits me with a big shot and send me into the ropes. As my I lean back over the top rope, his follow up shot connects square with the front of my head causing a spray of sweat to explode into the air. A quick analysis allows me to realize that I haven’t been knocked down and my legs thankfully allow me to duck under his swings and escape his onslaught. Having figured out that our right hand shots seem to be inflicting the most damage, we both turn into one-armed boxers, swinging with no technique, occasionally hitting the other with scrappy shots. I feel that we’re not doing the art of boxing must justice, but regardless the crowd are cheering louder with every second.
With every tick from my list, the sense of progress when in the moment is something that cannot be topped. WIth another shot from Rod glancing my head, my exterior may be exhausted but I feel I’m growing as a person. It’s exhilarating. This boxing match, number 22 from my list, has done exactly what I’d hoped for. Life is amazing. A quick burst of energy sees me hit Rod with a few hooks. He covers up as we both breathe deeply.
For a further minute and a half, Rod and I circle each other fully aware that we’re both on our last legs. This has been one of the most tiring things I’ve ever done in my life. The crowd at this stage are all cheering for two blokes who have given it there all and after a few more exchanges where fittingly no one is hurt, the bell sounds for the end of the fight. Relived, fatigued and excited, we come together one last time but this time to hug. We did it. It’s moments like this that I live for. I feel successful in a way that I can’t explain. Boxing on this occasion is the vehicle for what is the bigger journey of life. I’m enjoying every moment and it’s a with a sweaty body that I say thanks to Rod.
The referee congratulates us on what has been a great fight and standing in-between us one last time he raises both of our hands into the air for what is a predetermined draw in the spirit of this exhibition match. I enjoy being told later that if a winner had to be declared I would take the spoils but a draw is far more fitting. We both stepped in the ring because we wanted a challenge and together we made it happen.
A final hug… Number 22- Have a Boxing Match- TICK!
Number 22- Have a Boxing Match: TICK!
What’s on your list?