Written by Timothy Lewis (@MrTeeLew) — September 18th, 2019.
Today is September 6th, 2019. My first amateur boxing match is a little over 24 hours away. The process to get here has been a challenging one and I’d like to document it both for my own memory, and so those who seek to be in my position may understand its demands.
I’ve been training out of West Philadelphia’s James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym for about eight months. At 26 years old, my boxing experience prior to this point took place during my junior year of high school. I will be competing at 165 lbs and my weight is already on target (163.5 lbs as of yesterday around 2 PM!). This is 24 lbs heavier than my target weight in high school. I know I’m not particularly large for this weight at 5’11.5” with no cut, but I’ve lost some 25 lbs of chub throughout training and feel confident in my preparation.
Much of that confidence has come from battling my no’s — all the excuses that enter my mind as to why I deserve to rest on a given day, why I should take time off, or even why I should quit. Boxing is really damn hard. It leaves my body exhausted and battered. There’s also a lot of days I don’t want to eat healthily, write articles, or go to work, so I repeat to myself the phrase “discipline is freedom” and that gets me going when motivation is on E.
In all, I try to exercise four days a week. Ideally, I get some sparring in or get to work defense against a live opponent once a week. Because of my work schedule, I attend the gym during unconventional hours. Lately, that’s resulted in the presence of unified super welterweight champion, Julian Williams, as he begins preparation for his upcoming fight. While that puts some motivational gas in the tank, it also coincides with limited opportunities to work with people at my skill level.
In terms of my demeanor, I’ve been calm the past couple of days until it’s time to shut my brain off and go to sleep. That’s when visualization sequences begin and my body tenses as if ready to throw down. I do not know much about my opponent and my mind races trying to answer questions I have no business asking.
Will I be fast enough? Strong enough? Do I have enough experience? When the time comes, will I maintain the techniques and fundamentals I have spent months refining?
These doubts are the enemy. I have to take solace in my physicality, my preparation, and what I believe I am capable of pushing my spirit through to achieve my vision: Timothy Lewis — undefeated boxer.
It has a nice ring to it even if it’s only one amateur fight. I think it does well to represent my dry, facetious sense of humor. I am blessed to have a powerful support structure even though I have only told a small number of people about this endeavor and anticipate just a couple of friends in attendance. It’s not that I’m worried about the pressure of an audience; my goal is to be somebody whose self-worth is not attached to the adulation of others, but to my own focus and perseverance. That’s always been difficult for me, and it ain’t going to die unless I kill it.
I woke up feeling fresh. The event began at 3 PM but all fighters reported two hours early for weigh-ins and medical evaluation. I weighed in at a surprisingly-low 160 lbs after fretting all week. The five pounds didn’t matter much to me psychologically, the work had already been done. Give or take a roll of quarters, I knew I could still punch the other guy plenty hard.
One thing I knew ahead of time is that eating would be difficult. My body was prepared for battle and the stress response kept my stomach tight. Throughout the day I managed to choke down a fruit medley and a few handfuls of cashews. I didn’t want any of it, and I didn’t mind eating timidly as I prefer feeling light on my feet when fighting, but the calories were necessary for an evening fight time.
Upon arriving, things were incredibly busy. I heard that as many as 75 fighters showed up to compete. From my time in high school, I was well aware of the organizational deficiencies of USA Boxing. It was back then I had my first fight scheduled, traveling all the way from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to Delaware for a fight that should have been canceled in advance, as it was known my scheduled opponent was physically ill and 10 lbs overweight a number of days beforehand. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in the amateur boxing ranks.
And so it was no surprise that the day’s card had been overbooked, nor was it a surprise when the scheduled 3 PM start time was pushed back to 4 PM, then 5 PM, with no USA Boxing officials to be found ringside. Word was, with the scheduling conflicts, they needed to make cuts to the card. The number I heard was 25 fights being cut down to 15. Naturally, I was pessimistic. My girlfriend and three of my closest childhood friends arrived at 3:30 in hopes of timing the expected-yet-underestimated delay. After waiting for an hour and a half with my people, I decided to go look for Peewee, my trainer.
Sure enough, upon finding him, I could see the look of frustration written on his face. My fight had been cut from the card. Again. Because my opponent failed to show up. For a second time. So much dedication, focus, and emotion, a mindset consumed by the idea of an accredited fight against a fellow trained combatant, shipwrecked in the pit of my stomach.
Almost immediately, a boxing official and a gentleman familiar with Peewee tried to commit me to events happening in late September. I told them I couldn’t make that call in my current state of mind. I remain disappointed and on edge. I worked really hard for this, in a way I don’t think is sustainable for another continuous month. Not without stealing too much from my other pursuits. My body needs to rest and my mind needs to refresh. I will be back and it will be on my terms, sharper, hungrier, and more confident.
If I could pass on my experience to you it is this:
It’s extremely important to feel comfortable with your trainer. Of course, every fighter wants their trainer to have a strong understanding of the sport and how to teach it, but the relationship goes beyond that. Your trainer is the guy who you trust to look out for your wellbeing both in the ring and through the day-to-day grind. They keep you focused and find ways to maximize your personal strengths. They breathe confidence into you and demand excellence. With Peewee, I’ve been fortunate to have the consummate boxing trainer.
This relationship is vital because unlike other sports, boxing isn’t a game. If you don’t work hard, there’s no getting put on the bench — you get beat up. Even when you do work hard, you will still get beat up. Throughout the world, this sport is a platform for a better life. People from difficult and impoverished communities accept the risks and demands of boxing because they feel they have to. For me, a 26-year-old man formerly raised in white suburbia, it’s hard to find this brand of intensity and competition elsewhere, and it’s likely the risk factor is not an equitable exchange for what I get out of it (ie. sweet abs, sense of fulfillment, sharp hands). But, should you do the damn thing and do it well, know that there remains a good chance USA Boxing will screw something up.
My would-have-been-but-overcome-with-terror opponent was fighting out of King of Prussia. I don’t know his name but Kevin sounds right. KOP Kevin. If y’all see him tell him “The Bull” Tim Lewis said: