Wilmington Fight

Boxing Win in Wilmington

I had my first fight with my Second Round team in Wilmington.

It’s always a toss-up, fighting Masters, as to whether I’ll actually get an opponent. I weighed in at an event last month and my opponent didn’t show. Women over the age of 35 who want to compete in the ring are few and far between, then there is the further narrowing of the field because of weight class, experience level, geography, and the random unexpected injuries, family demands and other contingencies.

Because it’s so difficult to get opponents, my goal has become to get one fight every year. Last year got checked off with my October fight. (The December fight was classified “exhibition” and doesn’t count toward my goal.) This year got checked off with my fight in March. I’m feeling a little gleeful to have met and exceeded my goal for this year now!

My opponent got connected for this match through a coach in Wilmington about 3 weeks ago. He had let my coach know she was light and we’d have to get our weights closer in order to get the match. I got down from 142 to 135 and I think she came up from 125 to 132. And she drove 6 hours from Virginia to be at the event; I only had to drive two hours.

We both arrived just before weigh-ins were scheduled to begin. There were only 6 women out of the 44 total boxers fighting at this event, and only one Masters bout; I picked her out immediately.Β She was really beautiful, and just a bit shorter than me. I smiled and spoke to her.Β  Not everyone wants to chat with their opponent in advance of a match, but she was entirely polite. We made weight, turned in our passbooks, and parted ways to wait out the endless, miserable hours of the day until we could get our fight.

I love pretty much everything about boxing except the day of a fight.

Well, and cutting or gaining weight; those both suck, but they are at least bearable. The endless hours of waiting for a tiny, six minute test of your skill and power are excruciating.

Everyone has different tricks and coping mechanisms, but there’s no escaping the endless circus of weigh-ins, passbooks, medicals, getting your food/liquid intake right and timed, sitting for hours in metal folding chairs, finding a bathroom (this one didn’t have toilet paper), constantly tamping down your anxiety, keeping an eye on the time, meeting your opponent, staying limber, and maintaining sanity in the loud din of the crowd.

Every time I go through it I take a paperback to read, but this never helps. There are too many things you must pay attention to during the long hours of waiting. Even having my Shuffle (finally got the playlist right — the quiet stuff from my exhibition fight had failed at fight #2 in Atlanta, so I went back to hard rock) didn’t help much, because I constantly had to take out my earbuds to answer questions, find out what I was expected to do next, help someone find scissors, etc., etc., etc.

Finally I dressed out and sat for my coach to wrap my hands. I normally love this ritual, but in this case, I was wracked with anxiety because my fight got moved up at the last minute so I felt late, after all that damn waiting. I straddled my metal chair, draped my arms over the back where Coach Massey could reach them, and spent the next 15 minutes staring at the bright silver dog tag on his chest. It says “One Bad Jab.” It was his ring name, from his pro fighting days.

“Do you miss fighting?” I asked him.

Hell, no,” he responded, laughing and flashing his gold tooth. For just a moment I felt entirely aligned with his sentiment. Why would anyone want to go through this misery on a regular basis?

“I miss sparring though,” he continued, and I nodded in understanding. All the guts and joy of boxing without the hellish hours of a fight day.

Once you’re wrapped and gloved, you become entirely dependent on your coaches. I had to ask Coach Mandy to find my headband and put it on me for the short period before my match. She gave me a drink of water. She found my mouthpiece (in my sock — this is a great place to keep it in the hour before you fight, btw) and checked my laces.

I made my usual joke: “I need to go to the bathroom,” I said as I stretched out and began to move. The big gloves make this impossible, unless you have a reeeeeallly close friend.

“Can’t help you there,” she said quickly, and we both laughed a little.

I continued to chatter nervously, almost mindlessly: what I should remember, how I should move; combos, tactics, offenses and defenses.

At some point she stopped me quietly with a hand over my gloves.

“You’ve already trained for this,” she reminded me. “You’re overthinking it. Just let your body perform.”

She was absolutely right, and it was the perfect advice, the best possible thing I could have heard.

The match before mine was finishing. I stood ringside amid the din of screaming onlookers as the two fighters ahead of me battled. I couldn’t hear Coach Massey’s advice anymore. He held pads for me but I couldn’t hear the combos. I shuffled like an anxious racehorse, frustration rising in me.

Finally, the closing bell.

Massey held one pad. “Gimme the power,” he said, “Jab, right.”

I sighed in deep relief. If there is one thing I can do, this is it. My jab was fierce, and the right was at full-scale knockout level. It was like a pistol shot: bip-BAM.

“Again.”

Bip-BAM. Bip-BAM! I could hear it echo in the rafters.

“Keep going.”

Six more combos in a row I gave him, every one as perfect and loud and solid. He grinned and shook his head, and his gaze did a slow circle of the crowd around us; all eyes were now on us.

Later I realized that the eyes of my opponent were probably also on us. Massey knew what he was doing, letting me show my power like that. Letting me go in confident in my own strength.

Outside of the actual fight, it was the best moment of my entire night.

I rolled under the ropes and felt the deep satisfaction of the ring settle around me. Time to do what I do.

My opponent surged out with a flurry. I tapped out measuring jabs and began to circle, assessing what I was up against. It’s probably better to go ahead and claim the early part of the first round, but I wasn’t really expecting such a long, light string of flurries. She had punches in bunches, no doubt.

It didn’t take me long to see what I would be doing. Her hands were busy, but she was staying squared up a bit, giving me a sweet little pipeline down the center to her face. An invitation to my power right.

Bip-BAM, bip-BAM, bip-BAM. Yep, those were actually gonna work.

My jabs weren’t connecting every time, but my rights were absolutely solid, and every single one was on target. I suppressed my glee and put my brain back in gear. She was not bringing pain, but she might be scoring with the sheer number of shots she was throwing.

In the amateurs it doesn’t matter if you can throw a bomb; a hard hit scores the same as a medium hit, so long as it connects. Bombs are intimidating, but they aren’t 3-pointers.

I had to shut down her scoring machine. I clinched, got my arm around the back of her head and squeezed and leaned, hard. The ref nearly decked me himself, breaking the clinch and yelling at me for my patently illegal move. But it broke the onslaught and didn’t cost me. They’ll warn you before they take a point.

I glanced over to see how my opponent was taking it. Her face was flushed from the power rights already. I absolutely had to keep her on the end of my jab and prevent her inside game.

She rushed back out and we worked hard to the end of the round.

At the break both of my coaches told me I was ahead, but I wasn’t confident about it. I knew I wasn’t moving my feet and I thought the judges might be counting her shots higher, even though they were coming mostly from the sides. I felt like I’d only taken one or two solid shots to my head — nearly everything else was on my arms and shoulders, which meant my guard was good, but I wasn’t moving around enough.

The second round was where I began to rely on Coach Massey’s strategy. Once you’re in and have tried your game, it’s unbelievably helpful to have someone calling your shots and guiding you through the hard mental work while you do the physical work.

My attempts at longer combos were not scoring all the way through; my hooks often missed because I wasn’t getting in position and getting them off before she moved. She was fast, and seemed to throw four and five shots at a time.

Massey 86’d my hooks. “Straighten it out,” he called from my corner. “Give me the straight right….Thank you.”

The right was scoring and I still had all bars in my power meter. I wasn’t gassed. My feet were not moving, but my one-two continued to hold the fort.

She was slowing and starting to pant. The left side of her face was beginning to swell. I felt like a robot, an automatron, an idiot on repeat. Surely I could do something besides this, surely. Lord I wanted finesse, grace! I wanted to move less like a wooden toy; I wanted to show beauty as well as power. Why can’t I be pretty in the ring??

“Go to the body,” Massey called from the corner.

I sent up a mental thank you, and suddenly had something new to do.

“Double the jab,” he called, and I did. I did lots of things, but there was one thing that worked every time…

At the round break, I had the feeling we were going change gears. I don’t remember what either of my coaches said (other than their reassurance that I was still ahead), I mostly only recall going back out, still feeling slow but strong.

Massey held me back, over and over again, with a steady call of “Wait for her…” She was struggling now, and I could stand and deliver. If I could time it just right each time, she would come forward into my shots.

“Don’t advance,” he warned, “Hold…”

It was hard, because I felt I had to advance to score, but he was right, she was coming and with a surge of joy I realized I was beginning to see her shots arriving. Midway through the third I ducked a spectacular all-in jab-right, and she went sailing past me; the crowd roared. Belatedly I realized I should have come up with a quick left hook.

I sighed inwardly. Someday I may finally put all the pieces of this game together, but not today. Today I was a particularly skilled kindergartener, and my rights would have to carry the day.

And they did.

My opponent was wonderful. She never quit, she barreled forward and burned energy at a ferocious rate. She threw far more combos than I did. She didn’t let the hard power put her out. She gave game to the very last bell.

I deeply respect that. ANY woman — or man, for that matter — willing to go through what a competitive boxer goes through deserves the title Bad Ass. Sara (I never heard her last name), I salute you. You were awesome.

I was happy to be handed the gold medal, and once again I was stunned at my instant “I want to do this again” response, even though I’d spent the 24 hours before my glorious 6 minutes in pure anguish.

There’s no rational explanation.

Only the challenge to be better. Only the relentless push to master my body and make it perform in concert with my brain in the complex intricacies of this sweet science.

And the sheer, brutal pleasure of a fight.

Image: Coach Willie “One Bad Jab” Massey with me after the win. Thanks to Cathy Linkous for the photo!

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26 Responses to Boxing Win in Wilmington

  1. jill November 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Hey Lisa, Big Congrats on your fight!

    I had a similar experience in my last fight as far as the girl coming at me with a lot of punches that did not have much on them, but were scoring. I kept nailing her with my right and a hook, but she was throwing more. I didn’t think they were landing because I was backing up and slipping, and her punches were so light, I wasn’t feeling them, but the judges must have thought they were landing because she won the bout!

    At first, as you know, even though this is a hobby for me, I took it terribly! But, now, I have a rematch which I am looking at as a gift. A chance to do things like push her back with more punches, faster punches and cut out on angles more often. My friend, who is a pro boxer said I have more of a pro style and I will need to adjust it in order to do better against these girls who come at you throwing one two’s.

    Watching the fight makes me want to gag, because I was throwing so many one two’s or right hand hooks and not all the combos I have been working on! But, when you are in the ring, you revert to what you think is most effective. Also, my coach had something come up last minute so I had someone else that I just met in my corner who didn’t know what I was working on. Either way, it was more of a challenge to go against someone with that style than someone who really picks their shots, feints, and moves their head! Who knew?

    This is all to say, I applaud you for your pro style and am glad you got the W with it! Inspired by it too….gotta move forward! Hoping to change things up for my December fight and am seeing it as a gift. Not easy to find women who are close to my age at 110lbs with very few fights. What a crazy thing we are doing. All for love.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

      So true: “all for love”!

      How wonderful that you have a rematch, Jill, a chance to shift the mix and see what you can do. What a challenge! I’ll be curious to hear what you begin to focus on so that your strategy meets hers in a fresh way. I always thought it would be cool to be good enough in boxing that I could actually have a whole toolbox *full* of stuff to try during an actual bout, rather than just my “default” strengths. (Or my “bread and butter,” as one girlfriend more politely put it for me.)

      I always dread seeing my fights on video, because I’m ridiculously critical of myself. I’m so graceless! But I try to remember how awesome it is to be 46 years old, facing my fears and mixing it up in the ring with other fantastic Masters women. I just don’t see how there could be anything better than that.

      For my next fight: feets must move! I may have to find a fairy godmother with a magic wand, but The Feets Must Move! That will give me the angles you spoke about, and keep the flurries from scoring as much.

      Have you found that your anxiety level is no longer a factor, now that you’ve done this some?

  2. Amy Scheer November 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    Hey, Lisa, way to go. Rackin’ up the wins, baby! And I love your play by plays.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

      Thanks, darlin’!

      I told another friend (also named Amy!) that she should come to the All Female Boxing clinic at Gleason’s in NYC with me and you next spring. We could have a whole contingent there, and we’d get to see each other fight, too!

      Amy H. is my favorite sparring partner, and she fought in Wilmington, too. She nearly bested her girl (who had waaay more fights than Amy did) but needed one more round to do it…

  3. browse November 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    From now on, I wanna know the date of your fight a month in advance. I -gotta- see this in person. -grin-

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

      Don’t tease me, B. You know how much we would love to see you out on this coast.

      There are actually two more fights next month on Dec 10 and Dec 17. The problem is that I will have to find an opponent in a state nearby. Not easy at all, but we’re working on it.

  4. Peter Crawford November 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Congratulations – great boxing, and great writing, too. A great double talent.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

      Thank you once again for reading and commenting, Peter. Every time I bang out one of these monster two thousand word posts I think, no one will ever make it to the end of this lengthy monologue! But I continue to be grateful that there are readers who enjoy it even so.

  5. jill November 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Love reading your blog and knowing there are other “ladies of a certain age” who love to get in there and mix it up too! Yes, the anxiety…once I’m in the ring is not as bad, but I still get the sweaty palms and hot flashes. Not sure if the hot flashes are peri-menopausal or nerves, but they seem to only happen before fights!

    I am bracing myself to just accept that this fight won’t be pretty since I am adopting a more amateur style! Lots of punches, lots of moving forward. Will do my best to get some swag going on, but can’t try to be too fancy or cocky, because apparently, the judges don’t like it! Will let you know how it goes.

    Keep on writing your fabulous blog!
    Jill

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      /bows/ Thanks, Jill.

      And be sure to let us know A) How your next fight goes, and B) when your newest film comes out!

  6. Trecia November 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    Hey Lisa,
    So great to read about your last fight and fabulous win! Way to keep the streak going! Love from Atlanta! Trecia

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

      Snif! I love and miss all my Atlanta boxing girlfriends! I didn’t have day-before pancakes like the last two fights with y’all, since I was working so hard to cut weight, but I ate seafood on the beach right after I weighed in. Very NC, but I thought of you and missed you all.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and cheering for me, Trecia. Much, much love.

  7. Margaret Reyes Dempsey November 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    Hey, I’m not a boxer and I love these “monster two thousand word posts.” I’m with Peter Crawford, but I’m only qualified to judge the writing side. πŸ™‚

    I gotta say, if I had to use a bathroom without toilet paper before a big fight, I’d win a gold medal, too. That’s just annoying. πŸ˜‰

    Congratulations. Enjoy the win a bit before you start critiquing your moves for the next fight. Sometimes the internal critic needs a nice bop to the face.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

      Here’s the story not in the story, Margaret:

      When Amy H. and I got to the event venue — a giant, freezing cold and drafty military gym — and realized the tiny, dark (and wet, for some reason we never figured out) women’s bathroom had no TP and a stack of paper towels only a half inch thick, Amy sent her boyfriend out on a mission. Purchase supplies for women’s room!

      We knew the place would be filled with male AND female spectators as well as the 6 of us women who were fighting. So Amy and her man saved the day. Night. The day and the night.

      And I stopped by a drugstore the next day and put three of those tiny tissue packs in my car and my gym bag. NEVER AGAIN.

      And seriously? Thanks for the quick jab to the internal critic’s jaw. She’s wryly rubbing that spot and nodding in fresh appreciation at your precise targeting and apt instruction. πŸ™‚

  8. Girlboxing November 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    You rocked it Lisa! GREAT blog post! I so appreciate your ability to write about your experiences in the ring — they feel so immediate and intense that it gives one the sense of being in it oneself!

    Congratulations on what I know was the culmination of a *lot* of intense training and work. Again, you rocked it!!!

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

      Ahh, GB, I so appreciate your encouragement. You’ve done this kind of training and you know exactly what goes into it, so you make me feel very understood.

      You know that Amy Scheer and I are arguing about coming to Brooklyn for one of the Master’s clinics, right? Or possibly the All Female clinic? Want to do it with us? You wouldn’t have to do the tournament after, but you could train with us for the three-day clinic part!

      Fair warning! We would be in your neighborhood, throwing pebbles up to your windows!

  9. lil sis November 15, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    Way to go Lisa! Very proud of you! Maybe one of these days I will get to see you in a match!

  10. Travis Tilton November 15, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    You write brilliantly. I wish more (strike that)… half (strike that, too)… ANY of the other blogs I read were this good. Congrats on the win and keep up the good work. All the best!

  11. Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 15, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    @Lauren/lil sis — Thanks, hon. Even though you weren’t here, I’m pretty sure I could hear you shouting for me, all the way from the other coast!

    @Travis — Ahhh, many thanks for the writing kudos. I write for a living, but it seems to be here on The Glowing Edge that I really get the purest joy out of writing. And it’s because of people like you, who take the time to let me know how much you enjoy reading it!

  12. Barbara November 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    Hello Liza, Congratulations on your big win, we are proud of you.

  13. niamh December 7, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    Ahem, so there is a time difference with Ireland … CONGRATS!!! Well done Lisa, sounds like a fabulous fight. I love that you think it’s boring you have a killer jab πŸ™‚ Your trainer must be telling you “duh it’s working” but you’re so determined to succeed. It’s great to see! So two fights in a one year, it’s building up now!
    (and on a superficial note, the new profile pic is great too)

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe December 7, 2011 at 10:46 am #

      Thank you, niamh! It felt pretty fantastic to get the W. (And to get a decent new profile pic. πŸ˜‰ )

      PS: Looking forward to seeing your site get moved — every time we connect I have to go over and catch up on there.

      PPS: Loved loved loved the post about they cycling woman Nicola: http://niamhgriffin.blogspot.com/2011/12/nicola-woman-who-cycles.html I also clicked over and checked out her site. I think I’m going to have to add her to my sidebar so I can go over again. (Flirting with the idea of cycling…)

      Good to hear from you, Niamh!

  14. Ethel December 15, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    you go girl! congrats!

  15. Brian February 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Your post was inspiring! I’m currently working with Coach Massey.. He’s one hell of a Coach! Keep it up!

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe February 8, 2012 at 9:08 am #

      Thanks for taking the time to stop in and comment, Brian.

      You’re right, Coach Massey is the awesome. I’m thrilled to have found Second Round. If you’re there too, be sure to come up and tell me who you are. (Sadly, this could be difficult, since I’m not there nearly enough…)

      Are you currently competing? How’s that going?

  16. Michael June 5, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    I just found your blog Lisa. I really enjoyed this retelling of your fight. Felt like I was ringside with your team. Look forward to following your site!

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