first fight

Before You Compete in Boxing…

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.


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.


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…

Photo Credit: Bernau LIVE via Compfight cc

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11 Responses to Before You Compete in Boxing…

  1. Hillari November 14, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    I know that I didn’t do enough before the first bout I had. I had been in the gym for eight years without having a fight. I sparred all the time, but I had gotten comfortable with the regulars in the gym, as well as the ring itself. My diet wasn’t what it should have been, and not much exercise was done away from the gym. More effort should have been put in on my part, especially since I had very little information about the person whom I would be facing.

    Anxiety ate at me for days leading up to the fight. Once I had completed the first round, my nervousness disappeared, but my confidence never really raised up. I was doubting myself the whole time, but I managed to hang in until the end.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 15, 2013 at 9:34 am #

      Too bad we don’t know all this stuff when we get started, huh? I think that’s the same issue the guys I’m working with are facing right now. Plenty of gym time, but it’s their own gym, their familiar sparring partners. But next week we’re going to another local gym for some sparring; I’m really looking forward to seeing how they do in that situation. (Unfortunately, the other gym’s team may not be as strong as they often are — I hope they are, just for my kids’ sake. It’s so good to face people LOTS stronger and better than you are.)

      But good for you for hanging in there that first time. And going back again and again, you crazy chica! 🙂

      • Hillari November 16, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

        Thanks for the comment on my blog!

        I keep going back and forth about whether or not I will continue competing, but I still spar. I think I’m just going to take it as far as I can go.

  2. George Godin November 19, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips! I am always in gym because I love working out but I have not tried boxing. Guess I need to try boxing now 🙂

  3. Eric Morris November 23, 2013 at 4:34 am #

    Thanks for the tips here too.

    This may help others, as it helps me tremendously.
    All I have to offer as my tip is a bit more of a personal one, but it can be interpreted in many circumstances. I have never fought, but in my few times of sparring and every time I train I think of what someone once told me years ago. He basically said I couldn’t box and I was wasting my time (I am giving the very censored version here, but you get the point) and laughed. So when I am doubting myself and completely out of gas, or don’t feel like training, I remind myself of this and I am ready to go again.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe December 11, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      Yep, Eric — sometimes the haters can motivate you to prove them wrong. You’re smart to use that kind of negative feedback as traction in your training. Crap like that is just gravel under your tires, dude. I like how you hit the gas and spun on outta there.

  4. john christou January 24, 2014 at 6:35 pm #


    I tried to find contact info on your blog but could not find it. So i’m leaving this comment.

    LAST WOMAN STANDING, our documentary about the rivalry between world champion boxers Mary Spencer and Ariane Fortin premieres on multiple VOD platforms January 28th, including iTunes, XBox, Playstation, Amazon Instant Video, and more.

    I thought you might be interested in previewing the film and writing about it on your site. If you are, please let me know and i can send you the link and we’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.

    In the meantime, you can check out our trailer here:

    For more information, links, etc please check out our Facebook page:

    iTunes link:

    Thank you,

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe January 30, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

      Thanks for the info, John! I’ve posted it to my Facebook page for The Glowing Edge, and plan to check it out as soon as I can! 🙂

  5. JJ Budde December 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    I agree with all of the above listed tips, especially the outside sparring. I competed as an amateur boxer for almost 5 years. My coach had me fighting in matched bouts pretty early on. The only other thing I would add is don’t be afraid to lose. I watched so many tough talented athletes walk through our gym that never competed because they couldn’t stand the thought of losing. I lost alot, in the beginning, but became one of the better fighters in my area for my weight class. Other clubs around my state knew me and people in my home town know me as a boxer. All my experiences, the wins and the loses, made me a better boxer and a better person.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe December 18, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

      Good word, JJ. You can’t win everything, all the time, right? Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  6. william ryan March 2, 2021 at 4:21 pm #

    Lisa, Good reading and excellent advise. You looked well in your black and gold trim boxing attire. You have a great attitude to boxing. Keep up the good work.

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