Savage Joy: Training Part 1

6 years ago

That's me in the gold and black, in one of the happiest moments of my fighting career to date.

It was a tremendous honor to be invited to box as the Main Event against Mischa Merz, an undefeated national champion with a 13-year-long fighting career and dozens of fights under her belt. People laughed with me when I wryly told them I was undefeated too; my first fight was six months ago, but I did win. It seemed clear to them that I'd been invited in order to give the champion an easy win during a fight timed to celebrate the launch of her second book on boxing.

I don't think she would tell you that anything about the fight was easy. I certainly wouldn't.

Training for the Fight

For my five weeks of training I worked with Jason “Jay Fury” Abraham. He’s about six feet two, maybe 180 pounds; a daunting opponent in the ring. Jay talked me through the panic I felt during an onslaught of his hard, rapid punches. He taught me how to repel or smother an attack and made me practice getting into and out of a clinch with him. He timed my sprints. He made me work angles, cut off the ring, and keep my feet and head moving. He controlled his power but never let up. He continually noted my improvements and built up my confidence.

But the pressure of the looming match was unrelenting.

Jay Fury and MeA couple of times I felt my composure fracture. About two weeks before the fight Jay was putting me through some complex combinations on the pads. Over and over again I failed to get the sequence, placement, and power right. Finally I accidentally cracked him hard across the mouth, instantly drawing blood. He scowled and made me finish the combination correctly and I fought back tears of frustration.

"I can't do this, Jay. I can't," I told him, spinning away from the pads he still held in front of me.

"Look at me," he said quietly.

I turned reluctantly back. My eyes were drawn to the blood smeared down his chin, blood I'd drawn because I'd missed the focus mitt and bashed him in the face. I turned away again. He swiped irritably at his mouth.

"No, I mean it," he said. "Look at me. I'm telling you that you can do this. And you're not leaving until you tell me the same thing. Say it. Say 'I can do this.' Say it like you mean it."

He pushed my shoulder with one of the mitts. I couldn't meet his eyes. "Say it," he repeated, getting louder, and the only way I could avoid a complete dissolution was to yell at him.

I banged him in the chest with my gloves. "I can do this damn thing, Jay," I cried, tears barely in check.

"Damn right," he muttered. "Now do that combination again. Slower, but use your power."

And I leaned back into my training.

And for the first time in my life I began to wake up at night from dreams in which I was fighting, and fighting well.

Weigh-Ins, Jay's Arrival

On the day before weigh-ins I drove the seven and a half hours from my home in North Carolina to Atlanta, weathered the drying out to cut weight and the general circus of weigh-ins, medicals, and meeting my opponent for the firsttime. It was long past midnight before I finally took two sleeping pills in
order to get some rest.

After making it to the arena the next day I called Jay and learned he was only minutes away; he'd been driving since early that morning. My heart sang as I threaded my way back through the maze of hallways and the milling groups of people. When I finally found my trainer I threw my arms around him and hammered him crazily on the back. I was awash with nerves and fear and gratefulness that he was here.

"Hey," he grinned, once I finally turned him loose.

"Hey, yourself," I replied. "Welcome to the zoo."

"Thanks. Let's kick some ass," he said mildly, as we headed in together.

I'm not entirely sure that I navigated the next hours of craziness gracefully. I felt like a speed boat banging wildly across chop. I was working hard to keep my heart rate down, to not let my attention get drawn into the dozens of mini-dramas that played themselves out continuously around me.

Finally it was time to get wrapped and gear up. I would go on last, but the ring announcer had called the first bout.

What next? Check back for Lisa's Fight Night Part 2 and find out how the Main Event went.

Crossposted at The Glowing Edge

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