There's an unforgiving honesty in this game and as much as anyone loves or hates it, it really is a contest of skill. I looked up game in the thesaurus, it offered the words, willing, brave, bold, dogged, I aim to be. Strategic, difficult, physical, brutal but above all else, honest.
If you've put the work in and you have the talent there's no doubt in my mind you should enjoy the spoils of victory. Fake it, take shortcuts, go for the easy option or fail to recognise that you don't quite have the talent, you will be on the receiving end of something which might hurt a little. But then life is the school of hard knocks, you have to try, you must do things that you can learn from.
Jab left, feint right, roll, slip, hook, uppercut, are all terms I thought I was familiar with until you are asked to do them, replicate them at speed, no power just speed. Not one mention of hurting someone, just scoring points. It's as if each connecting jab is removing another pawn off the board. Each and every attack is the opportunity for a counter. Physical chess; unless you've ever got in the ring or been in a boxing gym, I don't think anyone can ever really respect what these athletes put themselves through, and I'm barely scratching the surface. The focus and concentration needed is intense, just remembering to breath requires conscious considered concentration. It is like thinking just about your Queen, when you have the whole board to cover, plan and strategise. Protecting yourself, just blocking, dodging and slipping an opponent's attacks is again a challenge, now we're adding in the Bishops but I've not even thought about the pawns (jabs) or knights (hooks, uppercuts). It is intense.
Five weeks exactly to go, I've got a huge amount of learning, the steepest learning curve I've ever faced, so steep it resembles a few of the hills I somehow got up earlier this year during the Lakes Ultras. Just keep moving forwards. That surely I can do?
Sparring today with Liam was an hour's lesson, actually I only needed one second of tuition, perhaps it was less than that? During the journeys up and down the A1M, we often play 'Spot the Eddie' and if I win, my chant to the children is 'You just got schooled'. Today was like playing 'Spot the Eddie', only with flying fists, driven by a professional. Schooled? I'm the one whose getting tons of homework. Some green shoots however; my skipping has improved a little, my core is stronger and I seem to be able to absorb expected body shots (unexpected or unprotected, which I'm responsible for are not quite within my skill-set just yet). Slipping the odd straight, parrying and blocking and just protecting my head seems okay, except for when it's not. We carried out some drills in the ring and then perhaps the alarm bell should have rung, the 'spidey-sense' should have tingled. 'Do you have your gum shield?' We are just going to do two rounds.
It was careful coaching throughout the first round until maybe the last 10 seconds, when the immortal words of Kenneth Wolstenholme rang loud and clear through my head. Liam caught me with a right straight direct on to the crossbar of my nose. The tap was turned on. Blood streamed. Yay, thought I, my first boxing bleed, the first time I've really bled for Brathay. I was ready and willing to go back in the ring, I'd fallen off the horse, I know the best thing to do is get back on it. The right was not the only thing that Liam gave me, a compliment ensued too, apparently I can take a punch. Except for I'd rather not. Better get better at this bloody quick. Ten more sessions to go plus personal training and then Fight Night, 12th October, it can't come round quick enough.
My nose is a little pronounced, all my school mates made fun of me as a teenager, so I know I am 'Big Nose'. At Alton Towers on a school trip waiting for the ride the 'Black Hole' there was an 'attraction' just before you got to the front of the queue, the theatrical stall included a little alien in a capsule, the person controlling the 'alien' had banter with people waiting in line, he picked me and chose to single me out for the ridicule of Big Nose. I had nowhere to go, I was still in the queue. So everyone recognised who he was talking about and able to laugh, chuckle and point at the sideshow spotty teenager in the line, the one with the large proboscis. Today it is a little more enlarged. Swollen from my learning punch, I need to learn to get out of the way of them!
Admittedly last night I was feeling a little sorry for myself, but need to temper my mood, what was I expecting? World title fights? Idiot, I'm 50 next year, never been in a boxing ring before last week. I'm determined to see this through to achieve something so far removed from comfortable I want to remember it and remind myself of the fight I have in me to achieve whatever I feel I need to. So let's get those Right Straights, straight, right! My head is ringing, ding ding, see you in the ring next Tuesday.