7 Lessons I Learned From Getting Punched In The Face


1. The fight is won long before you step into the ring.

This one is huge. I’d say that about 50% of the fighters trained between absolutely nothing and 1 month at a boxing gym. Unless you’re just some sort of undiscovered boxing wunderkind—which I highly doubt you are—this means you will be out of your element in the ring. Even if you are an athlete, or even a martial artist, I guarantee your boxing fitness will suck. A lot.

And don’t think that just because the fight is three minutes long that it will be over quickly. Not even close, buddy—those seconds will crawl by. Your shoulders are going to burn, and your legs are going to ache. For the first time in your life, you will somehow forget how to breathe. Oh, and don’t forget that there are punches also being thrown at you! Look up what a tomato can is in boxing. Don’t become that.

Make sure you go to the gym and get in shape — I promise you, you aren’t in good fighting shape — not yet, at least.

Once that bell sounds, there is no hiding. It will become clear very quickly, to every member of that audience, how you used your time leading up to the fight. In this moment, all of those miles, tire pulls, and hours in the gym will serve you well. Remember that endurance will be the key to 95% of these fights.

2. Power comes from speed.

Anybody who has ever fought before should know that power is generated from the hips. This is Martial Arts 101. If you’ve ever had an instructor worth a damn, you should know this; if not, now you know.

Something that I had never really been taught in martial arts, though, is the importance of relaxing your muscles when punching. Have you seen the Olympic sprinters while they run the 100 meters? Their facial muscles jiggle up and down like Jell-O, right? Same logic applies here.

When throwing straight punches, in order to maximize speed—and therefore power—you should only clench your fists the moment before impact.

It should almost feel like you’re trying to slap-touch your opponent, but then at the last second you make a fist. Try it out! It will increase your punching power immensely. If you manage to combine this with good hip rotation and proper arm extension, you could get some explosive punching power.

Practice relaxed-muscle punches until they become second nature.

3. Keep your gloves up at all times.

This seems obvious, but it needs to be heavily emphasized. You are going to get punched. A lot. It is going to hurt sometimes. Taking a solid shot to certain areas (e.g. the nose, the solar plexus, the chin, the liver) will make you seriously re-consider your decision to step into the ring.

However, I’m a firm believer in the old adage that basically says: “If nothing else will teach you to keep your gloves up, getting punched in the face repeatedly will.” It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

And don’t just limit yourself to defense, always keep them up. A common mistake made by first-time boxers is to put their non-punching glove at their sides while they throw a punch. This is an awful mistake, because you will leave an entire half of yourself wide open. You will get blindsided.

Make a habit of putting your non-punching hand up to your cheek when you throw a punch. Condition yourself to feel leather while you throw leather. Keep ‘em up. You’ll be glad you did.

4. Getting punched hurts, but not that much.

The first guy to really punch me in the face was a 37-year-old man with a shaved head and sleeve tattoos on both arms. At the time, he was also about 15 pounds heavier than me—putting him at least one weight class above me.

He didn’t seem to care that it was my first time getting in the ring. For the entirety of the first (and only) round—a grueling three minutes—this guy beat me like I owed him money. Occasionally, the makeshift referee had to stop my charming training partner to tell him to “cool the fuck off.”

This, however, only seemed to inspire his rage further. After one of these stoppages, he pushed me into a corner, where the rain of punches seemed endless. Even worse, the headgear that I had borrowed from the gym bin felt alien to me — it somehow felt loose on my forehead but also very tight on my throat. With every punch I took to the temples, my headgear would inch over across my face. After several blows, I was blinded in my left eye by the headgear. After a few seconds, I just closed my eyes, held up my arms, and took my punishment. Occasionally I would lash out and throw a wild punch, but it would never do much. Eventually, to my great relief, the bell sounded to end the round.

The round felt like it had lasted forever, but you know what? I survived. Not only that, but the adrenaline pumping through my veins made me feel like Superman. Even though I had gotten my ass kicked for three minutes straight, I was coasting on a physical high. Funny how that works.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself grinning ear-to-ear after a thorough pounding in the ring. You have good reason to be happy—adrenaline, for one; but also because you are finding out what you’re made of

The first time getting in that ring will be equal halves exciting and terrifying. Often you’ll get paired with a much more experienced sparring partner, who may or may not take it easy on you. Either way, it is guaranteed to be a learning experience for the first-timer.
It takes a certain courage—and foolishness—to step into that ring for the first time. And even more to step in a second. Anyone brave enough to step into that ring immediately has my respect.

5. 10 oz. gloves are not the same as 16 oz. gloves.

This was almost never mentioned leading up to the fight. Whenever you spar in the gym, you use 16 oz. boxing gloves. These heavier, more padded gloves are used to not only protect your hands, but also your training partners.
For whatever reason, I expected these to be the weight of the gloves we would use for the fight.

Wrong. In competition, amateur boxers—at least in my weight class—use 10 oz. gloves. I figured that since they’re lighter they would be better. Well, it turned out that the lighter gloves are not so much better as much as they are just different. I didn’t realize until about ten seconds before entering the ring that they didn’t really protect my face as well as the other, larger ones.

Also, the speed of your punches will be different. Faster, but not necessarily in a good way. I had trouble finding my timing with these new gloves, and it took me two rounds to really get used to them. I recommend trying out some 10 oz. gloves at least once beforehand—but do it on a bag. Don’t hurt your training partners.

6. Breathe!

When you step in the ring, your senses are flooded. You don’t know where to look, what to hear, where to move—it’s a nightmare. Breathing, one of the most important things not just in boxing but in ANYTHING is always a struggle for new boxers. I was taught to count my punches when I throw them—it helps regulate your exhaling with the moment you make contact.

In practice it’s the simplest thing in the world. In the ring, however, breathing becomes one of many difficult things to remember. Between moving your feet, shifting your weight just-so, clenching and un-clenching your fists at the right times, moving your head, and so on…remembering to breathe can be hard. Just practice, practice, practice until you find yourself exhaling sharply with each punch.

7. Where will you go from here?

This was something that never really crossed my mind until after Fight Night.

I trained at Richard Lord’s Boxing Gym for about four months leading up to my fight on November 1st. I trained hard, and earned a reputation in the gym as a hard worker who would show up regularly, run with the fighters, and get in the ring and spar whenever asked. I always expected my boxing career to end with Fight Night.

And to an extent, I suppose it did. I broke my nose during the last fifteen seconds of my fight, and had to take a month off from sports to recover.

Worse than the broken nose, I lost my fight via a tough decision. Although I give credit to my opponent, Brian Aninzo — he fought hard and was in better shape during the third round when it mattered.

Since that fight, and since my recovery, I have only had a brief encounter with boxing, and with Richard Lord’s gym. A week ago, I saw Richard Lord as well as some of my training buddies at the Austin Golden Gloves — where they had five champions, and won the team trophy. I was immensely proud of my teammates, and I was at a loss when Richard asked me where I had disappeared to.

Who knows? Maybe a record of 0-1 isn’t the way to end such a promising boxing career.

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