It’s a major balancing act, bringing a new boxer into the ring. Especially if it’s a woman. Women who actually want to get in the ring are just such rare occurrences that when one comes around I keep my fingers crossed and do my absolute best to encourage rather than scare them away. However, blood happens.
Yesterday I was warmed up and ready to spar when a woman I’d never seen before came up to me with a friendly smile and a warm greeting. I will admit, in advance, to my utter inability to carry on any sort of normal conversation, I was so floored:
Newbie: Hi, are you Lisa?
Newbie: Great, the coach says I’m gonna spar with you.
Me: Oh! Cool. Um, I haven’t seen you around here before; been coming here long?
Newbie: Nope, three weeks. By the way, the coach said I was just going to be on defense, so you get to beat up on me.
Newbie: Yeah, aren’t you the one who broke your rib?
Me: Yeah, but…
Newbie: Right. So you can be on offense, and I’ll just take your punches.
Me: Oh. So you’ve boxed before, I guess.
Newbie: No, this will be my first time!
[protracted silence, while I try to get my brain to work out why she would sign up for this]
Me: Do I understand correctly that you’ve never been in the ring before and Bonnie actually told you to get in the ring with me and let me box with you throwing NO punches??
Newbie: Oh, no! I told her I wanted to do it and she said okay.
Me: Are you crazy? Why would you want to do that?
Newbie: Well, I’ve been coming here three weeks, and it’s a boxing gym, and I just figured, well, I’ll try it out!
I had never heard that before in my life. I’m constantly trying to persuade women to give it a try in the ring. They rarely want to. And here’s a woman who not only wants to, but is actually telling me that she’s not going to throw a punch.
No way would I go for that. Yes, I’m just healing up from an injury, but that’s just nuts, and I told her as much. We would box normally, and I told her I’d be very careful and control my punches and that she should throw whatever she could, although I did state a preference for head shots, since I’d never seen this woman box and I had no idea if she had the power to re-fracture my rib free of charge.
In we went, and she did just fine. She was a southpaw and after we stepped on each other’s feet a few times she asked me if she should aim for my face, which cracked me up entirely. “Yes,” I encouraged, and tapped my headgear, “Come on, let’s do it.” After a bit she landed an easy jab. I was already prepared for the apology which poured out and both Bonnie and I said it in unison: “Don’t apologize! Box!” It did make me laugh again, though. I gave her some light jabs, and was actually enjoying myself when I landed a very pretty body shot to her stomach, only a touch. But she realized what had just happened, and sucked in her breath. “Wow, that could have hurt,” she noted. I nodded — body shots suck — and we continued to the second round. I started letting her feel some jabs, and several times put my goves up and leaned into her to let her work on me. The first time this confused her a bit, but Bonnie explained that I was giving her a chance to do some offense without having to think about taking a punch, and she accepted that.
It was right at the end of our second round that she stepped smack into my straight right jab. She was wearing a face-saver with a bar across the nose, but it was a solid little pop. Her head rocked back, and I immediately swore to myself. I just lost another woman boxer, I thought.
“Woo!” she cried; it was her first real hit and she knew it. I asked her if she needed a minute, or was okay to go on, and she blinked a few times and ducked back in. “Oh, thank God,” I thought, “she’s gonna be okay in the ring.” But a moment later she said “That made my nose run a little,” and my heart sank. I couldn’t see it yet, but I knew I’d bloodied her nose. We all deal with bloody noses and split lips; it’s just a part of boxing. But I’d hoped the face-saver would prevent it. She finished the round and Bonnie pulled off her headgear; we both knew what we’d find and Bonnie was ready with a paper towel. It wasn’t a big bleeder, but I figured I’d never see her in the ring again.
But Bonnie is smart. She kept me in the ring and sent in Tim, an excellent boxer who brings out the best in me. “Give me real jabs,” I told him, and he delightfully obliged. Our newbie stood holding the paper towel to her nose and watched Tim and me work; she saw me get rocked a time or two and still keep going.
But I don’t know if she’ll be back. I really hope she will.