A Familiar Pain Part II
This is a continuation of a post that started here.
George Foreman once gave an interview in which he said that his children wouldn’t be successful fighters because they had grown up with too much. They didn’t know hunger or homelessness. They hadn’t ever had to fight for much more than an extra slice of pizza. He said that because of this they wouldn’t have the edge or the fire to stand in the ring night after night. George might want to rethink that one. I didn’t grow up in the ghetto nor did I grow up with a silver spoon. Upper middle class, college educated and productive member of society is what you would have said about me.
Father, friend and successful would have followed. There was nothing to suggest that one day I would stand in a ring and try to kick the crap out of the guy standing across from me. No one could have imagined that I would fight for a living and if they did they would have rubbed their eyes and double checked to see if they were awake. I was just another happy go lucky guy who went work, coached soccer and took family vacations. Look at old pictures of that guy and you see a man who might not have had it all, but knew that he was on the road to getting it.
He never doubted that he would get there, wherever there was. It was just a matter of time. All he had to do was work hard, keep his eyes/ears open and be ready to jump when opportunity knocked. Except the life that he lived found itself riding the proverbial crazy train and when it jumped the tracks everything went to hell.
You might ask why I have developed the habit of referring to myself in the third person. It is simple. I can’t afford to think about who I used to be. It only makes me angry. I didn’t choose to fall down the rabbit hole. I didn’t choose to live in Bizarro world. I am not here because of addiction or any sort of problem other than “shit happens.” It used to be that it happened to other people and then it happened to me.
So I talk about who I used to be in third person because it is easier. It stings less and I don’t run screaming through the halls, well not as often.
Sometimes I wonder if that guy could have imagined that he would turn into a man who would make his living with his fists. Sometimes I wonder if he could have imagined that one day he would find himself fighting in abandoned warehouses for a payday that he once would have scoffed at. Maybe he could have pictured it. If you would have explained how circumstances threatened his children he might have nodded his head and said that he could picture it. Except the thing is that he would have been incapable of truly understanding the feeling of fear and failure.
Professional fighters don’t fight as often as we do. They have access to better training facilities and better trainers. There is plenty of time to prepare for a fight. Time to develop a scouting report and battle plan. Time to practice working on the plan so that when you do fight you can capitalize upon the other’s weakness. It is great system, but only for those who are about it. The rest of us aren’t so lucky. There are no doctors to certify our health or partners to spar with.
The guys told me that you never forget your first fight and they were right. I remember stepping into the ring and thinking that it was going to be easy. The guy standing three feet away from me was several inches shorter and clearly weighed less. I was out of shape, but figured that if I rushed him the way Tyson used to I could end it quickly. Shock and awe, except I was the one who was surprised.
He walked right up and tagged me in the mouth and the side of the head. While my head was spinning he took out my legs and we went down. I didn’t know which way was up or what was going on. All I knew was blinding flashes of white light. Someone kept screaming. Later on they would tell me that those screams came from me. They weren’t described as screams of pain, but anger.
I can’t decide if I was lucky that these fights are unsupervised or not. If they were it would have been called early and I would have been a victim of TKO. Instead I was subjected to one hell of a beating. Somehow I managed to stand up again. I wrapped my arms around the other guy. Some people described it as a bear hug, but not me. I still didn’t know where I was. But I did know that I had to stop the pounding long enough to think, or at least I think that is what I thought. It is hard to say for certain.
What is known is that I headbutted him and broke his nose. In the movies this would have been followed up with a series of lightning quick punches that led to victory. In real life it wasn’t that pretty. I hit him in the throat. It was an accident. I was aiming for his head and missed. Since there was no ref to deduct points and or warn me I was able to throw him out of the ring. It wasn’t anything amazing. I didn’t pick him up, hold him over my head and throw him into the third row. I was kind of scooped him up and forced him over the ropes.
He landed on his head and didn’t get up. Four hours later Jimmy dropped me off at the motel I was staying at. I had $500 in my wallet and a bottle of whiskey that he said I should start drinking from immediately. I didn’t leave the room for two days. I was battered, bloodied and bruised. Truth is that I didn’t plan on fighting again. But some choices had been taken from my control and time would show that was one of them.