Sparring, Minor Concussion, and Footwork Oh My – Training Blog (5 Weeks Left)

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Editor’s note: Follow my journey as I prepare for my charity boxing Match April 7, 2018. Tickets and T-shirts are still available! 

“Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

I’m not exactly sure what my plan was, but it should have included not blocking so many punches with my face.

About two weeks ago, I was in the gym doing sparring to prepare for my upcoming fight April 7th. We were doing round-robin sparring (one person stays after the round to face a new fresh opponent) and my first round went well. I got tagged with a few punches, but moved well and caught my guy with a few good combos.

I felt good as my second opponent entered the ring. The round started, we tapped gloves and we were off. I threw a straight jab and got one back. We circled and when I stepped in for my next jab I got absolutely rocked with a right to my face. My nose felt crushed and my legs went weak. The world was dark and I felt completely dazed. I pretended to be fine but circling around my opponent, I focused on just not falling over.

I could feel the blood spewing out my nose as I slowly got my senses back. My dazed state turned to anger for taking such a devastating shot and I started throwing back hard punches (we were supposed to be going 60% and in sparring you’re supposed to hit only as hard as you’re willing to get hit. It was my fault for eating such a hard punch though, I should have protected myself). After a few shouts of “60%” from the trainers, they realized I was pouring blood and stopped the round. I cleaned myself up in the bathroom but was barred from sparring anymore that night so my nose wouldn’t reopen. I remember leaving the gym still feeling a ringing in my head from the punch.

Two nights later, we were warming up and I saw the trainer looking around from atop the raised boxing ring, pointing to people to get ready for sparring. Our eyes met and before he could point to me I pulled a “I don’t want to be picked in gym class moment” and turned to continue jogging. A minute later our eyes met again and I took his pointed finger, grabbed headgear (this time with a bar for my nose), and got in the ring.  Sometimes after a bad experience, you have to get back in the kitchen and start cooking again, to get over being burned.

I went into the session just hoping my nose would survive it. I fought with more caution than normal and circled my opponent, not overly aggressive to throw the first punch. He eventually came right at me and I was able to sidestep and whack him as he lunged with punches. The round went extremely well and when the bell sounded, I felt a little excited that my nose and face survived it. My next opponent was someone I had looked forward to sparring because of their size, but they were tired from earlier rounds, so it pretty easy & uneventful. I made it through two rounds with my injured nose and then joined the group to do drilling on the heavy bags.

My first opponent came over to talk after training and we complimented each other on the round. I told him my goal was to not get rocked into another dimension after the hit I took the other night. He told me the guy that hit me was his friend and not to worry because he had been boxing his entire life (wish I knew that going in!). I thought I was out of the woods from taking the heavy shot and my training was back on schedule…boy was I wrong.

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The next day was Friday, February 16th, but for me, it was Friday the 13th. The owner of my gym, Mike Foley (great guy, great trainer), had set me up to spar with someone else who was preparing for a different charity match. As I drove to the gym I saw my check engine light go on right near the train tracks at the intersection of Dunkin Donuts and Tiki Palace in Braintree. I thought, “That sucks, hopefully, it will be something minor I can get fixed tomorrow.”   I got my answer a mile later when white smoke started to pour from my engine. I was right near my gym so I attempted to just drive it there but the car shut off in the middle of the busy road. People honked and I eventually got my car to turn on and rolled it into the gym’s parking lot.

I called my girlfriend’s brother, Eli, who’s a mechanic and he told me to not drive it any further and have it towed to his father’s shop (shout out to Emerald Auto in North Attleboro). Mike, the gym owner, was there to warm me up for the sparring and I had to break it off when Tripple A came. To make matters worse I was supposed to pick my mother up right after sparring, who was flying in from Florida. I  had to break from warming up again to coordinate with Ranna, my girlfriend, to pick her/me up. As I started to warm up again, my head was a thousand different places, instead of focusing on where it should have been: I was about to get in the ring where another human being who was going to hit me.

When we climbed into the ring, the other guy’s trainer wanted to start off with a drill, rather than straight sparring. We would switch off with one person throwing jabs and the other just blocking. I had never done this drill before and quickly didn’t like it as I ate a few punches and couldn’t hit him back (reminded me of being in a dream where you can’t punch back). We did a few other variations (throw combos, blocking) and I took another shot to my nose. Mike noticed I was bleeding and shut me down from sparring. I plead with him to let me continue. “My car broke down getting here, I was supposed to pick up my Mom, I had to eat punches in some weird drill, come on, let me spar!”. He let me continue with the stipulation I had to stop the second my nose started to bleed again.

We stuck petroleum jelly up my nose and we kicked off with the live sparring. I had read that you don’t want to be mad in boxing, it’s a recipe for disaster, and here I realized why. I was pissed about my car, my nose, eating punches in some strange drill, and I wanted to show what I could do in live sparring. I let out a flurry of punches and got him against the ropes. I kept the pace up and threw punch after punch and circled the ring not relenting. By the second round, I was dead, I had used up all my energy in the first round. I circled my opponent and threw punches without any power or speed behind them. My opponent started to pick me off with repeated shots, I was spent. They gave me the option of not doing the third round (I felt dead, like back in my track days after a hard race), but I thought it would be good for me. That round I was basically a punching bag. My legs were gone and although I kept my hands up, I took a lot of shots to the head when my opponent realized there was no real threat of me returning shots. We ended the session and it felt like I was getting out of a bad dream, where anything that could go wrong, did (Murphy’s Law fulfilled).

Mike gave me some good perspective on learning from the session and what to work on. He said, “You like to hit, and don’t mind getting hit, but let’s work on not getting you hit so much.” He gave me some movement drills and also drills focused on pacing myself, so I don’t die again after the first round.

I went to the Saturday morning boxing session and besides my face being beaten up, I felt alright. I did an afternoon run with my dog and planned on writing a blog the next day on my week of sparring.

Then that Sunday while at my friend Brendan Mark’s surprise 30th birthday party I knew something wasn’t right. My head started to ache and I felt pain from the bright light inside the brewery. I had a diet coke to try and have caffeine make me feel better, but it was to no avail. I was in a conversation with Brendan’s brother-in-law and I couldn’t focus and felt completely out of it. I apologized if I was acting like a weirdo, but I was feeling progressively worse. I started to feel groggy and a bit dizzy.

The next day I still felt bad, and the pain was exacerbated by any bright light, especially the computer screens at work. Meetings in our conference room under the lights felt like fluorescent torture. The only reprieve I had was being at home in our my dark apartment.

My phone screen hurt my brain and I had to turn every electronic screen to as low as possible. My work got concerned because I wasn’t my usual happy-go-lucky talk to everyone in the office self. After a few days, my boss Sandra sent me home from work and said I couldn’t return without a doctors note. The doctor checked me out and said I may have suffered a mild concussion, but the only thing to do was rest.

I took that Friday off and went back to work on Monday. I continued boxing with drills and cardio (felt better training than anywhere else), but sparring was out of the question.  I wore sunglasses as much as I could and had good and bad days. The symptoms intensified the more I had to use my brain or a computer and the presentations I had to prepare, didn’t make it easy (my work was completely understanding and let me leave early on my bad days. It was myself that didn’t want to fall behind or cancel presentations). I started to take Vitamin D and heavily concentrated fish oil that was supposed to help in healing the brain. After nearly two weeks of having a constant headache, I started to finally feel normal again this past Saturday.

This concussion, or whatever it was, sucked. It was frustrating, scary, painful and gave me a new appreciation for football players that want to retire early to save their bodies.

This past Sunday I felt good and I  did a private session with the Corebox trainer Matt. We’re on the same wavelength on a lot of things and he hit the nail on the head with where I need to improve. He said, “You’re strong and fast, and probably got away with just overpowering with strength & speed in other sports. That’s not going to work here. You’re going to need footwork and be able to work the ring.” He’s completely right and I know I will have to work extremely hard on my footwork and finesse skills for April.

Give up? Never. 

A few people told me to quit after my injury. However, giving up has never been in my nature and I’m not starting now. I agree it isn’t worth permanent damage, but I feel fine, and I trust my trainers to only let me participate if I’m good to go.

What I do need to do is practice my footwork, head movement, and blocking/countering 10,000 times before April 7th.

I admit there are times I do feel like giving up on a certain workout. We’re doing planks and made to punch the bag at the same time. After a few minutes, my body is aching, the lactic acid flooding through my muscles, and I think how nice it would be just to flop down on my stomach and relax. I then remind myself that my brother didn’t have the luxury of giving up and I feel the rage from childhood come through and power me through the workout (still waiting to turn Super Sayain). You got to shut out that voice that tells you to give in and meet it with a pissed off steadfastness.

Now that my brain doesn’t hurt, I’m happy I can focus on April 7th with a renewed vigor. It’s time to train.

Thank you to everyone who bought tickets to my upcoming fight April 7th and for purchasing the KO Hunter T-shirts & Hoodies!!!

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(Bmarks looking tough in his KO Hunter Sweatshirt. Thank you for the support my man!)

 

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