Stepping into the ring during training might seem nothing out of the ordinary until Coach Iskandar shouts out, “Headgear and mouth guard on.” For those who enjoy 'whacking' people or getting whacked, then sparring is your heaven on earth. But most of us still have our reservations about crossing those ropes formally. Personally, it took me a really long time to overcome my sparring jitters when I started boxing. What’s worse is overcoming the nerves for an actual fight.
But there are definitely some of you who are not afraid of getting into the ring. In fact, when sparring time comes, you’re ever ready to snatch up the least smelliest government headgear, and grab that usual 16oz gloves on the rack. While everyone's still drinking water, recovering from the previous drills, you’re already in the ring pumped, and ready to go.
Some of you may already know, Onyx is holding a members' sparring night this Saturday, 29 April. This upcoming sparring night is not the usual sparring we go through every training, but neither is it a real fight. It will be a different kind of experience; think of it like a mock fight. With all eyes on you for 3 rounds and it will just be you and your opponent in the ring plus and minus some formalities. However, this sparring is not for you to live your fantasy of beating the crap out your opponent or to win at all costs. This is a time for you and your opponent to develop each other’s skills while getting a good feel of what it is really like to go for a fight.
I remember my first fight. I was a bundle of nerves, a ticking time bomb.
It was nothing like I’d experienced before. My mind was racing at a thousand miles and the butterflies in my stomach wouldn't settle. As the previous bout was stopped short, it was a race against time to get ready. I was in full on panic mode. My hands were trembling and I couldn't stay still. Before I knew it, my name was being announced through the PA and I was somehow transported into the ring.
It wasn't the best experience you could say. It would be a lie if I say that I enjoyed my first fight. In fact, I was kind of scarred from that time, still shuddering at the thought of it. There are so many things I wished I knew before my fight. So I’ve put together a list of tips I believe may help you out.
Breathe. Don't forget to breathe. Before entering the ring, in the ring, at every single moment. Just breathe. Let out the nerves with a loud HUFF. It really calms you down and allows you to let out all the pent up tension inside. Going into a fight all tense and nervous can really hinder your head space.
Protect yourself at all times. “Hands up” as Coach would say. The worst thing you can do in the ring is to not protect yourself, thinking that you're safe. You might think that it is needless to mention this but easier said than done. Keeping your hands plastered to your face has to be a conscious effort on your part. As tired as you may be, keeping your hands up and not exposing yourself is the least you can do in the ring.
Listen to your corner man. Besides yourself, your corner man is your most valuable resource that you have. During the round, just listen out for their voice and heed their instructions. Your corner man sees what you don't see, and is able to identify any loopholes that your opponent has.
Listen to the referee. The referee determines when to count a fighter when is he or she down and also when it is necessary to stop a fight. With the priority of the boxer’s safety in mind, the referee is there to enforce the rules and control the action in the ring. To ensure your own safety as well as the safety of your opponent, be alert and pay attention to the referee’s commands.
Believe in yourself. Don't doubt your training and skills. Don't be hallucinated just because your opponent starts dancing like Mayweather. He/she isn't, and most likely, he/she is just as scared as you, probably just slightly more confident. Coach Iskandar always says, train like how you want to fight. You’ve put yourself through all the trainings and you know your own strengths and capabilities. So just apply all the things you’ve learned. It boils down to believing in yourself and having confidence in your skills.
Most importantly, enjoy the experience. Use the sparring as a test of your ability as well as a learning experience. Of course, there will always be something you can improve on, be it your defense or footwork. You can’t expect to be flawless. But regardless of your performance, there is something massive you will gain from entering the ring.