I walked into the Lima boxing gym expecting to spar with Mauricio, the pro fighter with an upcoming bout next Saturday. Normally I wouldn't opt to just hop in with a fighter of his caliber, but I scoped him out the day before and noticed his lackluster one-punch-at-a-time combinations, his apathetic effort in finishing his workout, and just his overall skill. I figured I could survive three rounds with him.
But when I stepped through those doors meandering around the gym, searching for his familiar face, I was later stopped and asked if I would spar with another fighter to prepare him for an upcoming bout next Friday. A smaller fighter named "Maicelo". I watched him shadowbox for a couple rounds. He was definitely faster than me, in better shape, and fought with a will and determination that I have so unsuccessfully tried to recapture, but "What the hell," I thought, "You only live once."
After the first three punches crashed into my face and the headgear flew off my head, I knew I was in trouble. For the next 10 mins of my life, I knew what it felt like to be a punching bag. And he didn't punch as if it was sparring match, but as if I had stolen his childhood pet or offended a close relative. Even my Polish friend Anita told me she at one point she could see a pure and absolute anger in him pummeling me.
I managed to get through the three rounds I promised, battered and beaten, feeling like I had all the meager accolades stripped from the little boxing rank I had. I felt like I wasn't in a place I was supposed to be in, like I failed at what I was set out to do. On top of that, last night I messed up the bar count at my new job at the hostel. I usually fare well with numbers. I don't know how it was so off. Maybe I'm just losing a step, or more probably, overestimating my abilities.
But for some reason, I also feel like something got beat into me, almost like a new energy to go on. The coaches said I did well, most likely to make me feel better, but the one place I can give myself credit is that I never quit. I never gave up. I suppose you can always look at the glass two ways. Either the beginnings of self-doubt and abuse, or the opportunity to start over and try again.
What a lovely gift.
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