My first fight: part one

Fighting for survival: My first boxing match with the tough Augusta Carman

In five days, I am going to fight again, so I am going through all the emotions I did four months ago when I had my first one. It is difficult to describe how all-consuming it is preparing for a fight. I felt myself becoming tense and irritable as the days approached. Early on in my training, I had met up with a jiu-jitsu champion, who told me to think from the beginning that I had already won the fight. That type of arrogance is anathema in real life, but I started to see the sense in it. I put away the doubts and committed to wanting to win. It seems to me that what is really anathema here, especially in the UK, is sincerity. Admitting that you really want to win, even at the white collar level of fighting as a hobby, could expose you to ridicule. People want to make a joke of it and pretend they don’t care just to save face if they lose. I couldn’t entertain the idea of losing.

I am going to write more about why I fight. Everyone has a reason and it’s always interesting. I met an Olympic boxer who said he never felt anger, but I do. When I fight, I feel a pilot light of rage ignite, and I stoke it secretly, almost afraid to unleash the full flame. When it is burning in full I feel a great freedom, the kind I never feel in real life. That’s something I don’t always want to admit but another writer told me to write this blog as if I was dead if I wanted it to be good, so I am doing exactly that. Specifically, I had the recent memory of an abusive ex who told me my fighting wasn’t serious. It was so serious for me on that day. I had to defeat this particular ghost. My opponent was nothing to do with it.

The night before my fight, my flatmate told me his dad was going to stay one more night with us. I decided unexpectedly that I needed to be alone. I checked into a BNB which was listed online as being very quiet. It is true what they say that what doesn’t kill you leaves you with weird ticks and coping mechanisms, it doesn’t leave you untouched. Whether or not it makes you stronger is an idea I will return to. My trigger is noise, and as I was already feeling tense, the sounds of jabbering voices, the whining sound of Ed Sheeran on someone’s radio and pootling motorbikes at all hours were unlikely to increase my calm. I needed a soundproofed room.

In the morning, I had slept a good 6-7 hours, but I had been tense all night. I considered it a win that the clock said 7am. The hotel was in Hammersmith, and I had breakfast – a full English, which unfortunately included tinned mushrooms – with the sounds of Eastern European voices around me. The rest of the day passed in a bit of a haze. I know I listened to Azelia Banks’ 212, her voice shrieking “I’m a ruin you, cunt”, before I thought I should conserve that fire for later.

At the venue, my opponent increased my ire by turning up in my dressing room. We were friends, and initially I was questioning if I would be able to fight someone I liked, but this tipped it over the edge. The guy who was supposed to wrap our hands was nowhere to be found, and she was panicking. I left the room to use the toilet in the rival dressing room, no doubt further freaking out the people in that room who were no keener on invaders than I was.

Waiting is terrible. As with all awful things in life, you tend to forget them later and gloss over the horror, but I can still remember how bad that was. The only good bit is you have an excuse to eat flapjacks and drink Red Bull. God knows I had no reason to drink Red Bull before I started boxing, but now I do it all the time.

Someone came to warm us up, and I realised my body was stiff with tension. I wasn’t moving my hips the way I should, and I couldn’t follow instructions easily. Bam! I hit the straight right, I hit the jab. I concentrated on the movement and applied more force. The trainer said I had impressive power, or I might have imagined that part.

Somehow it was time already. I was at the side of the stage, trying to move to prevent the stiffness taking over. “Move your head!” my corner was saying to me. The intensity of that moment is something I can never forget. I find it hard to trust people, hard to get close to them, and yet at that moment I would have done anything I was told. The usual distance between people is gone. So rarely can you open a door and step behind the social niceties to something so raw.

We walked on. I had DMX, X Gon Give it to Ya, a tune which starts with the sound of barking dogs. I knew my family and friends were there but I couldn’t see them. I just walked, like a robot, my corner throwing up an X with his arms which encouraged me. I was first in the ring and walked around it as I waited for my opponent.

I barely remember the moment when we started exchanging punches. I saw her face, her huge eyes, the look of concentration. Again, there was no room for guile, for any kind of mask. You look into each other’s soul is what I want to say. I am afraid to be that sincere because I am afraid of ridicule yet again, but that is how it feels. I remember being told to throw punches if nothing is happening, to throw them even if you don’t have the energy, and I remember that I wanted to make everyone pay that had ever underestimated me – in this, and in anything else ever. I was quickly dominating the fight. My skill and technique were lacking, but I just kept throwing and dominated it that way. At one point, I saw that she was on the ropes, but I couldn’t remember how we got there. I couldn’t hear the crowd at all, only white noise.

The bell rang for the first round, and I was exhausted. As my only defence was attack, I didn’t have anything left in the tank. My corner gave me water and told me again to move my head, something which I knew but it just didn’t make sense to me.

I went out again, and chased her around the ring, despite my diminishing energy. She never gave up and landed punches back. I was slowing down, but I carried on throwing them. Her eyes, concentrated and intent, stared back at me. At some point, I heard the noise around us. We sat down again. This time, my corner said to me, “just keep doing what you are doing.” Did I dare to hope I had won this? There was just one problem: my crude approach had exhausted me, as I had no skills to allow me to dodge the punches or buy a few seconds of time when I needed them. The only way I had of shutting her down was by attacking, but I was tiring fast. I was 41 and she was 26. I felt like I didn’t have another round in me.

Back out there, I remember very little of the third round. Through the exhaustion, I still extended my arms, but there was a moment I knew I was just standing there, guard down, while she hit me in the face. I heard her corner for the first time. “She’s finished!” he yelled. Was I, or could I come back and finish the job? It meant so much to me to win, but I couldn’t even get my breath.

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