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‘This is it,’ I thought,  all my training, all dedication to the sport was put on the line. The sense of anxiety was huge, it felt difficult just to move forward given the amount of apprehension I was experiencing. The boxing ring is a very lonely place and is the ultimate in one-to-one competition. The cliche is true,  the bell went to begin boxing, all external sounds, even peripheral sights are no longer there, you become so focused on your opponent. This is what happened to me, the bell went, I stepped forward and 'boom' - it was like no-one else was in the room.

Lee (my opponent) was very wiry, and came at me with his jab. I'm not sure what it was, call it nerves, experience, but during the first minute Lee got the better of me. Out of nowhere he hit me with a jolting right hand, my head shot back like a recoiled spring, immediately I received a standing 8 count. This is where the referee deems you to have taken a blow so severe that you were unable to defend yourself; after eight seconds he makes a quick assessment to see if you have recovered. In all fairness my head was spinning a little making me feel slightly bewildered.

During the count I could hear people in the audience, I felt from the tone of their voices they could see I was out of my depth. Lee moved better, jabbed better, and had clearly been in the gym a lot longer (I later learnt he had been training for 14 months prior to the fight, compared to my 3 months of short training).

After the referee instructed us to fight on, I tried my best to fight back but Lee’s skills were superior to mine. It was very frustrating as I knew that in sparring I was so much better. I felt that I was not flowing enough, and I didn't feel free. Looking back, I was so emotionally charged by the night that I was holding onto fear, and had to let it go to have a chance of winning.

The first round went and I recall sitting on the stool in the corner of the ring, feeling dejected. Basically I had just been given a thorough boxing lesson. My nose was bleeding heavily and I was out of breath, even though the rounds were just two minutes. To say I remember what Jim said to me that evening would be bullshit, yet a strong feeling inside told me I had better to give, I could do so much more.

I was told to stand up in preparation for the second round. Literally moments before the bell went, I started taking huge breaths, huge. It was like my mind and spirit had entered a different dimension. All external sound was blocked out. Every time I took a breath it helped me focus, when I exhaled it was like I was breathing out all my fears and reservations about expressing myself. It felt very therapeutic and liberating.

Now, in the ring this feeling of being pissed off about being knocked about by Lee was coming out. I think in those five short breaths my attitude towards being teased, bullied, pushed around by others stopped - I would never take it again, I would never be pushed about again, I would really show who I was and fight. On top of that I had this anger inside me that was surging to be let out, I really can't put an accurate description on it but it was like every fibre of my being was buzzing with rage. Every time I breathed out it gave me a surge of confidence, a desire to win, and a trembling of determination shot through my body. On the last breath out, I made a huge emotional decision – ‘no more taking it’. I said to myself, ‘I want to knock this cunt out.’ I gritted my teeth and prepared myself. 

The bell for the second round went, this time I stepped forward with a greater degree of strength and fortitude, I wasn't stepping back for anyone.

Bam, I whacked him with my left, and cracked Lee with a right hook, then I stepped forward punching non-stop. The crowd responded and went wild, I kept moving forward and wouldn't stop, this momentum caused my opponent to keep on stepping back and we found ourselves in the corner. I kept pulverizing him with my punches, and suddenly the referee stepped in to give Lee a standing 8 count. ‘Fuckin’ right you cunt, take that,’ I thought.

Not really knowing what to do I was instructed to go to a neutral corner. I looked down at Jim and Dinesh (who was the second) and they both put their hands up and said well done, Jim waved one of his arms forward in a circular motion instructing me to keep moving forward. In other words he was saying, ‘Lee doesn't like the pressure.’ I eargerly nodded in recognition of my trainer's instructions. 

At this moment I felt truly free. The adrenalin, and the sudden turnaround in the fight, instilled a huge bout of confidence within me. Angrily I thought, ‘I'm going to knock him out.’ The referee signalled for me to come forward after the standing 8 count on Lee. With my new sense of enthusiasm I charged forward again, only this time he was more prepared and fought back.   'Smack', I landed another corker and he received another standing 8 count. Bonus. By this time the crowd was going mental, the entire room was fixated with our bout, they really went wild.

I think shortly after this the bell went, signalling the end of the second round. I was dog tired but also ecstatic that I had managed to turn things around. My trainers were really pleased too, I managed to tune into the crowd and it was nothing like I'd ever experienced, it was like I had woken up the entire room, there was such a buzz about the place. The atmosphere was really contagious.

The bell went for the final round; again I stood up with more confidence and walked forward, knowing we were pretty equal, although he'd received two standing counts, which meant I was ahead. Still, I thought I can't rely on that, I've got to knock him out.

I will be brutally honest here, during this fight, and many others, especially street fights when I was younger, I've had this sense that I really want to hurt someone, like I don't want them to get up. I get this instinct to make sure they are going down, I think it’s called 'killer instinct', ‘red mist’, or whatever. On that day I realised I had this, it can neither be bought nor sold. And anyone who calls themselves a fighter will well-and-truly relate to this.

Back to the fight.

By this time we were both physically spent and it came down to who wanted it more, it really did. We were both knocking the fuck out of one another, blood, sweat flying all over the ring. I had this urgency to keep punching, keep coming forward even though a large part of me was screaming 'stop'.

As previously said, I had experienced really difficult sparring bouts up to this match, yet with this added fatigue, it brought the meaning of tiredness to a new level. I found I really had to dig deep and find strength that wasn't physical at all. It was desire, a desire to keep going even though I could have turned around and given up. That wasn't happening.

Both of us were flagging but young enough to recover very quickly, and we kept on punching towards the stomach, face, side of the head - anywhere we could see an opening. I am told the noise in the audience was deafening, everyone was screaming and to this day people still talk about that fight.

The bell went and immediately I tuned into the support from the audience, it was truly overwhelming. It’s funny; in boxing, the moment the final bell goes, you have the utmost respect for your opponent who literally seconds before was knocking ten tonnes of shit out of you. Lee and I hugged, and although we never spoke to one another before that fight, we had, and still do, have an understanding, respect and rapport, that, to this day lasts; amazing that a boxing match can create that bond.

Walking towards the corner both Jim and Dinesh were buzzing, really pleased for me. I felt happy that I was getting feedback for the hard work, that support really made me feel special.  I asked both what they thought of the result and they both said it was very close, but reckoned I’d edged it - but not to worry if I didn't as it was a fight to be proud of. Those supporting words meant the world to me, they really did. I looked down at myself and I was absolutely covered in blood, my hair was ringing wet with sweat yet I felt so alive - it was an amazing feeling.

Prior to the referee calling us over to announce the decision, I became aware that I was buzzing, shaking with excitement even though the fight had finished. It was like the adrenalin was still rippling through me, it felt great, I felt so alive.

Bloody, battered, bruised, I happily walked to the centre of the room and shook Lee's hand. Immediately the audience saw that another roar went up, it really was a special moment, and not just because it was our first fight.

The MC congratulated us both on an outstanding, brave performance which was again agreed by the audience. Then momentarily the entire room fell silent on hearing the results. ‘...... And by a majority decision. . . . . . . . . Greenhall wins, by 2-1.’ I lifted both my arms aloft and screamed, ‘YES!’ The audience screamed again. I hugged Lee, went over to his corner who smiled and congratulated me on a great fight.

Stepping out of the ring I was buzzing, truly happy for the first time in years. Looking back, I can see I needed this injection of goodness in my life, otherwise who knows what path I could have taken.

So many people congratulated me on a brilliant fight, my friends were going wild, and my family were equally happy, but I noticed my sister looked nervous. She later told me she hated seeing me getting punched and covered in blood, whereas I replied, 'It was great.’

Later in the evening I received a double bonus for best fight of the night too, as well as the brilliant trophy I received for winning. Amazing.

Even now it’s very difficult to accurately describe but I can honestly say the emotional shift in me just before the second round was truly life-changing. I really don't know what happened, but learning not to give in, getting through very difficult circumstances, served me well, especially in later years. On the plus side, I became more confident, eager to box and I developed an awareness that most fighters can relate too. It is something that comes when you meet someone, you kind of naturally assess someone's character by looking in their eyes, their physique, their mannerisms. I think it’s just something that comes when you train in 'combat' sports. I can see I entered the ring a boy, and came out a man.

Equally, I can see it was as much about a fight with myself as it was my opponent. The years of feeling tormented, down and abandoned, lonely, were very much evident in my life up to that point. After that fight they disappeared for a while but came back with a vengence that lasted years and felt like a life sentence. 


Short story about my entry into the world of amateur boxing. Four year before this I'd lost my mother to suicide, I was a shell of the person I used to be.  It describes my journey of coming from boyhood to manhood.


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