Because an amateur boxer’s passbook runs from January to December, there’s a lotta “getting ready to fight” going on in boxing during the last few months of the year. You need to be in good condition and getting close to your weight category position.
And Thor knows you want to get that first looming match over with, out of your system, and finished with (for good or ill) so that you can move the hell on and start to settle into the competition groove.
Because the truth is that you operate at about half — or less — of your usual power at your first show. Why? Because of the intensity, the anxiety, and all the (normal) insanity of a boxing event. Plus it’s just fucking scary, that’s what.
So here’s how to dremel the killing edge right off that wicked blade, and make it a weapon that works for you, rather than slicing you to the bone when you go to pick it up.
1. ATTEND SOME LOCAL BOXING SHOWS
Check out some small club shows (even if they aren’t sanctioned), a regular amateur boxing event, the local Silver Gloves or Golden Gloves competitions, or even a pro show.
a. When you go, pretend you’re on the card.
Immerse yourself in the experience of
- Not knowing where the dressing rooms, restrooms, water fountains, scales, or coaches are…
- Thinking “Damn, it’s freezing-ass cold in here; I’m going to have to work to get my muscles warm,” or “I love to box when it’s hot like this…”
- Walking in to the main arena and seeing how ENORMOUS and elevated the ring looks, and saying to yourself, “That ring is MY HOUSE, and nobody comes into my house without facing ME.”
- Hearing the crazy-loud music and the rowdy crowd (from the women in sequined dresses to the cauliflower-ear guy in dirty jeans and the TapOut tee)…
- The slightly sick-making odor of C-rated concession stands, with their faint miasma of ancient mustard, rancid oil, and stale chocolate…
- Seeing the bouncer-looking dudes and evil-eyed women walking around looking sleek and stony; wondering which one you’ll be scheduled to decimate…
b. Let your heart race a bit, then snap it back onto the leash.
This is your place. Note everything in your place and and OWN that mofo. Let your strength well up in you, but CALMLY. Because you don’t waste energy on all the insanity; this is where you live and ALL of it belongs to you. Nobody and nothing steals your energy. If they even try — if they even smell like they’re gonna try — they’ll get the mental equivalent of a Rockforge sixteen-pound sledgehammer from you. You’ll deploy your untapped power keg in the ring.
2. GET SOME OUTSIDE SPARRING
I wouldn’t put any of the kids I coach into their first match without at least 3 outside sparring experiences. There are two massive prizes you want to collect from sparring experiences outside your home gym.
a. Learn what it’s like to fight on someone else’s turf.
A local boxing show is technically neutral ground (which you mentally pace off, piss on and make your own). When you go to someone else’s gym, it’s THEIRS, and no one is going to lay out doilies or make Earl Gray to serve with Tim Tams for you. (Hm, that makes me want a massage.)
They know the soft spots in the mats and how the ropes feel, they’re used to the vagaries of their own round timer and the working surface of the ring (lo, my restraint: I will spare you my rant on vinyl-surfaced boxing rings)… This is their house, and you are the interloper.
So get your mental rear naked choke hold (gawd, why don’t we get names like that in boxing?) on and prepare to do this shit anyway.
But you know, politely. You want to keep your sparring partners. I know I said “rear naked choke hold” but have fun, learn a lot, but don’t let your own mental shit take you down and arm bar you.
b. Learn what it’s like to face an opponent you’ve never met before.
When I was a beginner, I made it a practice never to get in the ring with someone I hadn’t seen spar. But I was often doing this on my own, and didn’t have a team around me or a coach with the leisure to travel to other gyms so that I could get outside sparring.
So you’ll have to make the decision.
I’m taking the kids I train to outside gyms that I’ve vetted, where I know the coach, and where I’ve actually sparred before to get their outside sparring experience, and chances are they’ll be in the ring with people they’ve never met or seen spar. But I know the places and I’ll be there, watching like a hawk.
Facing the unknown has great benefits in boxing, as in life. Let it bring out your best damn work AND your smartest decision-making skills. Meaning, if you’re radically over-matched, see if you can hold your own. If your opponent is greener than you are, work in such a way to bring out their best.
Ain’t nobody need to kill nobody, but do be smart and (I can’t believe I’m gonna say it, I’m so fucking MOM-ly) use your words. If someone needs to pull their heat or control their shots, guess what? You can tell them! This isn’t a competition, where you’ll be all tidy in your widdle happy weight bracket. And that’s part of what makes outside sparring good. It’s bigger, messier, with more potential for carnage. Hah.
Your turn, badass.
Tell me some of your tips for getting ready for competition. What did you do before you finally rolled under the ropes for realz? How did you prepare (and did it involve Earl Gray)? Comment below, badass, and share your brilliance…