In college one of my roommates signed up for “Fight Night”, an annual two night event featuring boxing matches between college students.
My “trainer” was a college buddy. His training regiment was simple: pizza and Rocky movies. I even called him, Mickey. It just seemed right.
When Fight Night rolled around, there were 800 to 900 students surrounding an honest to goodness, real life, professional boxing ring. After a dozen fights, it was time to get the gloves on.
Mickey said “we” had drawn a fight against the second string tight end for the SFA (our University) football team. I was nervous because I had zero, nada, zilch boxing experience, and all the sudden I wished we’d done more than eat pizza and watch Rocky movies.
Pre-Fight — We stood nose to nose looking like a couple of banty roosters on an electric fence. I strutted my stuff while the boxing ref went through the rules of the ring. I kind of relaxed. What’s the worst that could happen in three, 1-minute rounds?
In the corner Mickey told me, “Keep your gloves up, elbows in! Keep your feet moving, and remember! No matter what! Keep dodging your head back and forth!”
A ticker tape question crossed my mind…why he didn’t tell me that over the pizza? The next ticker tape was in big bold letters…“Yo Adrian, this it ain’t sounding so good!”
Round One — The bell rang and I did just what Mickey said. I had my gloves up, elbows in, feet moving like a peg legged pirate and head bobbing side to side like a loose spring bobble head. I looked more like I was having a seizure than boxing.
I danced around the ring like a Mohammed Ali wanna be, but even with adrenalin pumping, it was tiring, so after five or six seconds, I stopped. Standing there looking at the SFA tight end, he suddenly looked a lot bigger than before, like, Goliath bigger.
The fans were mostly inebriated college students who started yelling all kinds of things, most of which weren’t nice. Above them all, I heard Mickey yelling from the corner, “Hit him! HIT HIM!” I gave Goliath a quick jab square to the nose and was quite pleased to see him wince. His eyes immediately watered as he squenched up.
I side-stepped a punch and landed one squarely on his right ear. I wasn’t trying to hit his ear, but was happy to land a punch anywhere. It had the same effect on him as blowing in the face of a dog…..you know, dogs will ride in a car with their heads hanging out the window at 70 mph, but blow in a dog’s face and it will get mad at you!
Goliath got dog mad. When he did, he reared back and swung wildly. I danced like a butterfly, stung like a bee and skillfully avoided his punch. Alright, truthfully I got lucky because my bobble head was on a right bob when his punch went for the left bob!
I landed another punch on his ribs and jabbed his eye with a quick left. I was surprised how fast I got tired. I’m pretty sure the judge made a mistake because it felt like at least ten minutes when Mickey started yelling there were 15 seconds left.
We walked around each other, swinging, mostly missing, but right at the sound of the bell I nailed him in the eye! Felt good too! As the bell rang, I walked back to my corner with a “That’s right! That’s right! I’m bad! I’m bad!” walk.
Round Two — Mickey said I was winning. He hadn’t even laid a glove on me. Mickey said he was holding his gloves in front of his face, so hit him in the ribs. Ding! The bell rang!
I stepped out glad that the rounds were only one minute long because my adrenalin was done. Sure enough Goliath’s gloves were up high, so I stepped in and landed a hard right in his ribs. Uwww weeee!
Fans started screaming like I was the Gladiator because he turned sideways, almost away from me because of the punch. I immediately swung again and landed another hard punch…..OK, to be technical, it was right in the small of his back. The referee immediately stopped the fight telling me another kidney punch would get me disqualified. Hey! Wasn’t my fault! Big Dummy’s the one who turned his back while I was punching with my eyes closed!
The ref said fight on, so I danced like a gorilla, stung like a moth and landed more rib punches. It was obvious I was just annihilating him. He hadn’t even landed a punch! I walked back to my corner with a “Are we there yet?” walk.
Fast Forward Commercial Break — The next night at Fight Night I visited with Goliath. He was a nice guy. His lip was still puffy and one eye was swollen half shut. He told me he had to go to the emergency room after our fight because he thought he had broken ribs. Turned out they were just bruised, and I know this will sound egotistical, but I was glad he hurt, nice guy or not! Besides, it was at least a shred of dignity I could hold onto!
Round Three — Mickey was fired up! With one eye squinted, he hammered on “You got this! You got this! He hasn’t even hit you!! Finish him off! Keep hitting his ribs and you win!!”
I didn’t care. I just wanted to sit and breathe without the over sized mouthpiece. Lemonade, pizza and Rocky II sounded a lot better than “Finish him off”. I was amused when Mickey took my arms, which were dangling lifelessly beside me, and started shaking them like they do on TV. I meant to ask him later what that’s supposed to do because when he let my gloves go, my arms dropped like lead weights and my forearm hurt from hitting the rope.
The bell rung! I went back and danced like a sloth, stung like a snail. Goliath swung and missed again, and I landed one right on his cheek bone. He bent over covering his face in pain and I nailed him in the ribs.
He just stayed doubled over in the middle of the ring covering his face with his gloves with his elbows down on his thighs. I stopped, stepped back and looked at the ref thinking he was going to call the fight, but the ref looked fairly bored.
Mickey was hitting the mat yelling, “Finish him! FINISH HIM! NOWWWW!!” So I stepped straight forward, reared back and was about to TKO him right in the ribs….
I still don’t know what got into Goliath. I mean the big dufus couldn’t see a thing doubled over, except, maybe his ankles. Somehow though, Goliath made a single, blind punch straight up in the air, which caught me squarely on the chin. Holy cow of India!
I knew then and there what it means to see stars! My helicopter brain only had one blade left! I was spinning and stumbling all around the ring. While I was rolling around on the top rope of the ring trying to stand up straight, I could see Goliath still squatted over like he was constipated.
The referee came running up to me while I was walking weak kneed from side to side and started shouting a standing eight count:
“One!”– But all I saw was a bright glass of lemonade and pizza.
“Two!”– Nope. It was just lemonade, no pizza.
“Three!” — Wait! Lemonade with big shiny ice cubes.
“Four!”– Or is that a bright light at the end of a tunnel?
“Five!”– “What a loser!” was yelled from the crowd! Hey, I heard that!
“Six!” — Walk toward the light at the end of the tunnel and find peace.
“Seven!”– No, the light is just the ref’s little flashlight shining in my eyes.
“Eight!” — I realize the ref is looking at me shaking my arms and gloves like Mickey had been.
Turning to the center of the ring the ref motioned and yelled, “That’s it! Fight’s over!” The ref walked to Goliath, who was still bent over, and gingerly raises one of Goliath’s hands over his head to declare him the winner.
I went to the corner, but Goliath’s trainer sent me back to the right one after I stood looking at him with a blank stare. Honestly, it’s still a little blurry, but I don’t remember Mickey saying anything as I stumbled out of the ring. In fact, I saw Mickey leaving a few minutes later talking to himself waving his arms over his head in exasperation.
I should’ve never listened to my roommate! It was a raw idea from the start. Plus, he ended up being the big winner because for the next two years of college, he took great delight in telling everyone how tough a fighter I was….until I got hit! And it’s true. To stay in a fight, you have to be able to take a punch.
Life’s like that too. Most people do life well when sailing smooth seas and walking paths of roses. We do fine when it’s all going our way, but then something knocks us down on our knees and we’re not really sure how to proceed.
It seems the real test of strength is not whether or not you get knocked down. Everyone gets knocked down some time or another. It’s really a question of whether or not you stay on the mat after your feet come out from under you.
It’s not easy. You may have to crawl up the ropes just to get back into life’s fight, or you may need to stay down a little while to get it back together. The fact is though, strength of character is not measured on whether or not you get knocked down, but whether you get up again. Get up and get back in the fight, even if the fight is in another ring.
It’s an odd thing with life, usually when we look back, our Goliaths are not nearly as big and tough as they looked at first. The key is getting up after the hit. Don’t stay down. Find a Mickey if you need help, climb up and step back in the ring. That Goliath can come tumbling down!