Thursday, July 25, 2013

"The Belt"

I have finally done it.  I won a World Championship belt.  Major bling.  Okay, it's for the Master's division, 108lb female. And okay, there was no one old enough or small enough for me to fight so I won by "walkover."  As a competitive person, there is a huge part of me that thinks because I didn't fight in that tournament, I didn't actually win the belt.  However, I am trying to see it differently...

I trained for two months at Wildcard for the Desert Showdown.  Wildcard is a real "boxer's" gym.   I trained alongside professionals, world champions, and amateur champions.  It's motivating to hit the speed bag and try to match the rythm of the pro hitting it next to me.  Sparring in front of Freddie Roach is daunting.  I once glanced over when the start bell rang and I saw him looking rather amused, in a good way.  I imagined he liked my swag.

This past training camp was difficult in that I sparred tougher girls than usual.  We went harder than I had been going in a long time and I had to step it up or give up.   I had to drive all the way to Hollywood from the West side four to five times a week.  I had more self doubt than usual.  I expected more from myself because this was going to be my 8th fight so if I didn't get the results right away, I would become extremely frustrated.  I have been a student of boxing for 7 years and learned a lot of different styles.  Some of them suit me and some don't, but I do them anyway for the challenge.

Superman, my coach, upped my game, made me hit harder, sit on my punches, had me spar girls who were way bigger than me as well as two nationally ranked 16 year old amateurs.  You think 16 year old girls can't get their fight on?  Try sparring Julie Ladisa or Krysten Juarez, the 106lb and 110lbs national champions.  Little tanks that don't run out of gas vs. my motorbike that putts in bits and spurts and once in a while, pops a wheelie.  The gas tank has gotten smaller with age, but the will is still strong.  At 47, I have been boxing on and off for 7 years.  At 16, they have both been boxing longer and more consistently than I have.  The footwork, shoulder rotations and defensive movements are built into their little bodies.  I still have to tell myself not to hold my breath when punching.

There is a humility that comes with being smaller, older, less athletic, and less talented than a lot of my sparring partners.  I know I have to work harder to get middle of the road results.  To get "great" results, I have to really commit myself and lose myself in the sport.  As a woman who owns her own business, produces corporate videos, is a wife, a mother of two doggies,  manages an MMA fighter, and is marketing a film that is just coming out, I can't lose myself for too long.  I also know that my "great" most likely won't match up with those top girls, but for short bursts of time, I do love having that kind of focus and commitment to the sport.  I get better, stronger and last longer in the ring.  The moments when I execute a move I was working on with my coach are the most rewarding and probably one of the reasons I still do it.

The last two weeks before the tournament, I was driving myself intensely, sparring hard, running, and convincing myself that I could beat any other woman my age, my size in an amateur tournament.  This is not easy to do, when you are clearly not dominating most sparring sessions!

Making weight was tougher this time because I got my period that week.  Hello, three extra pounds I usually don't have to cut.  The morning of the tournament, I had to wake up at 5am, drive two and a half hours, weigh in, and wait to see if I got a fight. Walking past the other boxers on my way to weigh in, I got a lot of looks.

"You're fighting?" a young boxer asked me.

"Yup," I said.

I don't know if people do a double take because I am a woman, I am old, or I am very small.  Maybe all three, but it just makes me walk stronger.  Like I belong there.

After weighing in and waiting around for a while, we discover that the only other "Master" boxer (i.e. older) is 132lbs.  Too big for me to fight.  They only allow an 8lb difference.  I would spend the rest of the day cheering on my teammates and watching the three ring circus that is amateur boxing.  Literally three rings with fights all happening at the same time.

What I really enjoyed seeing was all the little girls putting it out there.  They were as young as 8 years old.  Many of them had ponytails, big pink gloves and skinny little legs.  Each one of them fought with all their might, never backing down and giving it their all.  I kept thinking how this experience will help them later in life with their self esteem.

At the end of the day, Superman talked to the promotor and the officials, told them I won by "walkover" and they gave me a belt.  I was slightly embarrassed and tried to hide it, which is difficult because it is bigger than I am.  Three of my other teammates also won belts.  One also won by walkover but he didn't seem embarrassed at all.  He was proud.  After all, the winning is done by the hours you spend in the gym training and we did that.  I decided to wear the belt more proudly.
I decided my belt represents persistence, hard work, overcoming obstacles, not being afraid to get into the ring with pros or amateur champions.  It's for 7 years of training, the fights I won, the fights I lost, the fights I was robbed, and the sparring with other boxers to prepare them for their fights.

Hell, it's for actually finishing an independent film about the women I admire most; the women who participate in a sport that is unforgiving, not financially rewarding, and does not give due credit to their accomplishments the way  men receive in the same sport.

I'll take that belt and I will wear it proudly.