The diary of a 50 year old never-was gym rat who wants to keep sparring and is working with a couple of pro fighters as trainers and sparring partners. A look at the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of boxing.
I hadn’t sparred since 12/11. There were holiday events and then the holidays themselves fell on the weekends. The weekdays were caught up in, well, the holidays and i took the time off.
I write this diary mostly to take a look at and share the psychological angle of sparring. I think the reason most people who train in boxing or want to train in boxing never get involved or quit sparring is because of psychological reasons. Mostly it is fear.
It is something that people just don’t talk about. Mike Tyson talked about being scared to death every time he went through his ring walk but he’s the exception to the rule.
The fear is the opposite side of the coin of exhilaration I feel from doing it regardless of my performance.
I notice things when I miss more than a week. I found myself wishing my trainer would cancel. That way it wouldn’t be my fault. I found myself feeling anxiety about everything in my life on the way to the gym. Not so much about sparring but about work, school, the future, the health of my family and pets. I’ve noticed over the years that there are times when my anxiety goes sideways and doesn’t focus on what’s in front of me.
All of this becomes a metaphor for dealing with adversity in my life. I know that dealing with emotions ahead of times is hard, the activity is reinforcing and exciting with a little danger and the feelings afterwards are going to be great. I just ignore the feelings before hand.
This translates to just about every challenge in life. ignore the fear and anxiety, act consistent with what i value and want out of my life and carry on.
Now to the sparring.
I felt weird at first like I had lost what i was concentrating on when I was working every week. I remembered I wanted to “see’ my opponent at all time. I remembered I wanted to recoil the jab and I remembered I wanted to be on guard on the ropes. My trainer, a pro fighter, just signed for a bout so I also knew he’d be working on some things for his own game.
The bell sounded and I got my jab going right away and tried to double it up. I threw hard lefts (I’m a southpaw) even if I knew they were going in to his guard to get the respect and keep him from coming in.
He pressured me and I went to the ropes. I lost sight of him and got out of position. It reminded me I had to work on this. This more than anything else seemed to respond to time on task–when i get away from sparring this happens.
Something cool happened in the second round. He came in on me to pressure me and he came in with a fast step. I was ready and countered with an uppercut with my left hand. It landed hard and on target and a couple of the guys watching ringside gave me some props. My trainer acknowledged it as a good shot. (Which goes to show the quality of his training–he didn’t go to pay me back right away or really put it on me.)
At the end of the round i got my best compliment. A couple of the coaches gave my trainer some pointers. it wasn’t so much that i was challenging his skills but that he was working toward his fight. I felt a measure of respect because I was good enough work for him that he was getting to do some of his work in and I was presenting some questions for him to answer. That’s a huge compliment in this world.
At the beginning of the third another trainer gave me water and very sternly said, “This is always where you tell yourself you’re tired. Don’t do it.”
He was right. I did my best to stay strong and not give in. It worked.
I stayed busy with the jab even though I could feel the fatigue in my lat. That meant I had to really pay attention to recoiling because my body didn’t want to. I could also feel my legs and they didn’t want to crouch as much as they should. I was too tall and not in position to move effectively.
With about 45 seconds to go I was out of gas. I did everything I could to tie up and hold on. Fortunately i didn’t eat a big one–probably more a tribute to my trainer than to my luck or defense.
When we got done my other trainer said, “that’s the best I’ve seen you look.”
Not sure if he was right or being nice but I’ll take it.
For other sparring diary and boxing blogs click here.