Last night I fought in the Toughman competition in McAllen, TX. It was my first and last boxing experience, and for the most part it was a pretty positive one. I was almost not allowed to fight because my blood pressure was too high, but after a few “come on, man"s the paramedic lied to the doctor and got me in.
Back stage all of the other contestants were shockingly nice considering the machismo in the air. Most of them knew each other from their boxing gyms and from previous competitions. They offered me a lot of excellent advice that was promptly knocked out of my head once the bell rang. There were 11 other light heavyweights beside myself. Two were clearly the cream of the crop. On was 6’2” 189, the other 5’8" 188. As the night went on, the odds of me drawing on of these guys increased. Finally, at about 9:30, my and the taller guy’s names were called. Damn.
As the night had gone on, I had watched as guys warmed up backstage. They looked like pros, bobbing and weaving, throwing punches, bouncing around. Then, one after the other, they went in the ring and just swung like madmen. No strategy. No boxing skills. Just wailing. That made me feel a little less anxious, as I don’t have what you call “boxing skills”. Of the 12 fights before mine, only 3 had gone the distance. There had been one knockout, one fight stopped by the ref, and seven that had guys refuse to come out of their corners at the begining of the next round. My whole purpose in life became either getting knocked out cold or finishing the fight. I couldn’t imagine the embarassment of quiting between rounds.
When I got in the ring, the Toughman supplied cornerman told me, “He’s got monkey arms. You better get inside of him fast”. That sounded good in theory, but was a bit more complicated in practice. The bell rang and as we came together I threw the hardest jab I could, but I was too far outside for it to have much impact. He threw a right hook that landed but didn’t hurt much. That’s the last really clear memory I have of the fight. The whole night I could see that right coming at me, but I was rarely able to get out of the way. Towards the end of the first round he landed a right hook that I was trying to slip. It hit me behind and a little below my ear. Everything was black for a second, my back and legs went numb, and my feet started burning. It must have pinched a nerve or something, but for about the next hour my feet BURNED. I can’t describe the exhaustion that had set in even after the first round. I am in the best shape of my life (at 30), but my lungs were on fire and my arms weighed 100 lbs. each. It felt like running a quarter mile in below zero temperatures, carrying buckets of sand while someone beat me with a baseball bat.
The cornerman kept saying “get inside of him”, but he never got to the HOW part. Most of the second round is a blur. I couldn’t see very well anyway because I didn’t have my glasses on, but the exhaustion and shot I had taken to the head made it worse. Somehow I got through that round and made it back to my corner. At that point I was dying. My lungs had exploded, I had tunnel vision, my feet were still on fire. I’ve been in quite a few fights in my life, I played football, I went through basic training, but I’ve never hurt like I hurt last night.
When the last round started I was counting on being knocked out. I didn’t think I could make it another minute, and I wasn’t going to quit. Somehow, though, I made it through. That was probably my best round. Beating me about the head had tired him out enough that I was able to slip inside and work on him. I landed a few shots to the face that, had the come when I was fresh, may have actually hurt him. In the end I made it through. I didn’t get knocked out, I didn’t quit, I didn’t totally embarass myself, but I did lose a unanimous decision.
Backstage I talked to the guy who had just lowered my IQ 50 points. He’s 20. He’s 4-1 as an amateur, and he made it to the finals of the Toughman last year. I wished him luck the rest of the way, and went out with my coworkers for some steak. I had to be in to school today at 8:00am for Saturday tutoring. When I woke up I couldn’t believe how sore and stiff I was. Anyway, that is my Toughman experience. Thanks to those of you who posted advice.