Eight phenomenal non-stop rounds in the boxing ring last night with my trainer.
I am consistently amazed at how much my boxing improves when I’m in the ring with her. I work so hard, learn so much, and have such an incredible experience.
I had gotten to the gym an hour early to do 30 minutes of slow cardio and a long, careful stretching routine. I felt pretty warm and flexible, but wanted to preserve my energy for our rounds. I have not been training with intervals lately so I knew I’d have to work harder than usual to go whatever distance she chose. She knows I always want at least 6 rounds, but she has the capability to do far more; I’ve seen her go 15 straight rounds as fresh boxers on our team cycle in and out with her. She has phenomenal stamina.
Last night I was a little nervous before we began; I couldn’t get the image of Bonnie’s last fight out of my mind. The jab-right combo — which instantly dislocated her opponent’s jaw and ended the fight with a first-round TKO — played itself over and over again in my head. I didn’t want to say too much about it in advance to Bonnie because I didn’t want listening bystanders to make jokes.
It helped that she was relaxed but very serious as we geared up; this is a pro boxer coming off a big win, maintaining her form for her next fight in August. It could be a title fight. What we’re doing together is for real.
Right before the bell rang I caught her eye. “I’m a little nervous,” I said, tapping my left glove to my jaw.
She immediately caught on. “No need,” she returned quietly, shaking her head slightly. My fear immediately dissipated. What this woman says, you can take to the bank. The bell rang, we tapped gloves, and began to box.
She almost always lets me throw the first combinations. Sometimes it’s spooky; you have the sense that she’s sizing you up and once she has your measurements will quickly put you on the canvas. When I’m in the ring with her I can feel her coiled power, all that potential energy swirling and packing into her body and awaiting release. Mostly I take the open shots she gives me with the sure and certain knowledge that I have one solid defense against a boxer who is better than I am: one million jabs.
I have to throw more shots, whether they are good, bad, or otherwise. Jabs are the way to keep your opponent from thinking and planning. They keep her off of you, make her hesitate or defend. A wall of jabs is the surest way to open a path to a real shot, a solid right or a hook to the body, whatever it takes to get in on your opponent and score some pain.
Lucky for me the old Bonnie, the pre-getting-ready-for-a-fight Bonnie, was back last night. She was content to make me work hard for four rounds while she sat back and sipped lemonade, periodically shooting a wicked punch out to make me remember just how deadly she can be.
I was thrilled and amazed at how many of her left hooks I slipped. I got into a pattern with my combos — finally! — of punch-punch-punch SLIP. And it worked, because Bonnie loves to throw those hooks at my head when I come in at her. Several caught me clean, but many more slipped, catching no more than the edge of my glove or headgear. I was jubilant.
In round four I began trying to throw my own left hooks. We’re both orthodox boxers but I frequently circle left on her for fear (respect, I meant to say respect) of her left hook. Last night I was circling right, having figured out the left hook but now being wary of that deadly right cross. I threw several hooks, but they were all in my arm, no body power behind them because I was staying to my right. Where the hell is Mike Tyson when you need him? I kept at it until I saw her grinning.
“What? I’m trying to get in a left hook, dammit,” I slurred over my mouthpiece.
“I know,” she said, “but you have to move in closer to get it.”
Yeah, right. Move in closer to that right cross. My jaw ached just thinking about it.
“Use your jab,” she advised. “Get in behind it, then whoomp.” She demonstrated for me.
I tried a few times, even demanding that she slow down and let me move through it a few times on her. But when we got back into the action, I bailed. Back to a thousand jabs and slips, at least that was working for me.
In round five she started in with her real power. “Bonnie’s warm!” I shouted to the gym. “That means cheer for me, not her,” I joked to one of the guys watching ringside. I was comfortable, in the zone, stoked. Honored that she knows she can unleash that kind of power on me, and more: I can take it!
The gym echoed with the sound of serious blows being exchanged. I went ahead and exchanged all my chips for power and threw the hell out of what I had. She and I both roared with that crazy, brutal, we’re-in-it-now joy. I was drenched, working hard to breathe after combos. The world faded and there was only boxing.
At the bell for the seventh round I realized a small crowd had gathered to watch. I suddenly realized that this was the first time Bonnie had been seen in the ring since her fight. I had made my six rounds with joy, with pleasure, with power. And now I was sucking for air and people were watching. Oh well, I thought, let’s see what I have left to give. And we boxed.
Unfortunately, I caught a solid uppercut to the diaphragm toward the end of the seventh round, and all oxygen exited my universe. Bonnie knew it immediately, and I turned to the ropes and raised my arms to let some air back in to my lungs. “Just a second,” I gasped, “…need just a second.” She backed off and paced, and I cursed gently (because I find this helps) until I could breathe again.
Ten seconds later I banged my gloves together. “Let’s finish this,” I called, and we touched gloves and worked.
I finished the seventh round and collapsed gratefully against the ropes, finished. Except Bonnie wasn’t finished. “That was seven rounds?” she asked our ringside crowd, sneaking a look at me. “That feels so… unfinished.”
“I hate odd numbers,” she continued, laughing. “And I’m not even tired. Let’s do one more.”
She knows I can’t resist. I’m helpless against her charm. Or else I am stone cold crazy.
Yeah, probably that latter one.
“You got it, Boss,” I told her, dumping half my water bottle over my head. I had no jabs left. I’d thrown everything I had. My arms were marshmallows. I got back in my corner, mentally prepared a battle plan for keeping out of range and covering up with a tight guard, and awaited the bell.
It was true, she looked fresh. She performed with power and precision, hardly winded at all. I survived the eighth round with determined grace, and stripped my gloves off at the bell. I felt incredible, awesome. Best night of my week.
But I was thinking later about why she was so fresh after eight rounds.
As I looked back on it I realized that as the better boxer, she knew she didn’t have to throw as many punches as I did. She threw far fewer, but many more of hers were good or even excellent hits. Many of my jabs, which are effective at keeping her out of my space, don’t land with power or don’t land at all. They are still effective, but it means I’m throwing far more than she does. I go after her with everything I have, staying on offense at least 80% of the time, rarely resting.
She boxes as if on very serious holiday, absolutely nothing is wasted, no moment is unplanned. Every combination, every segment of footwork, each careful moment of rest and defense is laid out like a fierce ballet. Every single punch counts.
God, I want to box like that.
I’m guessing she’ll give me more lessons. Meanwhile you can call me Woman of 1000 Jabs.
And keep your eye out for my left hook, people. It may be young, but it’ll mature and bring a house of pain with it.
Image of me sparring by Ken Hall Photography.