the first time

Posted: April 20, 2010 in Boxing, Confessions of the CEO

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
T. Roosevelt

Following months of planning, this past weekend our young boxing club co-hosted the 2010 BC Golden Gloves tournament.  It is the first event our club has put on and dozens of boxers and coaches from all around the province came out to test what they have been working on all year.   Kids as young as 12 jumped into the ring to show their stuff and impressed the crowd with their intensity and energy.

We had three boxers in the event – Dean and Stephen with previous ring experience and “young Kyle” who was boxing in his first match.  The event went over two evenings and the boxers didn’t know if they would be fighting the first or second night, or both.  Kyle showed up with his family ready to go on Friday night only to find out that his match was on Saturday.  So he had one more night to consider what he was about to do and cheer his teammates on.

When Kyle arrived on Saturday his anxiety was exploding out of his body.  He was smiling, but shaking and bouncing around like the energizer bunny.  I immediately put him to work – delivering water bottles to the officials, fetching tape for the gloves table, handing out coupon cards for the Hit to Fit program.  I was running out of ideas (I had considered asking him to move chairs from  one side of the ring to the other and back again) when it came time for him to glove up.

When he came out of the dressing room he looked calm and focused.  I asked him how he was doing and he said confidently:  Good.  I’m good.  This is good.  And together the team walked him to his corner and left him to enter the ring alone for the first time.   Unless you’ve done it before, it is really hard to explain the emotions and the intensity of walking up those stairs for your first match.  The kids have sparred in the gym plenty of times with their teammates (who are also their friends), while the coaches look on and interrupt as needed.  But walking into the ring with an unknown opponent under the bright lights with your parents watching and your coaches removed from the game is an entirely different beast.  Boxing is surely about punches thrown and points scored, but anyone who’s been in the ring knows that it’s really about managing fear.

I genuinely feel that for the first 10 fights at least – every bout is a win.  Showing up is a win. But when Kyle entered the ring that night – I wanted him to win win.  I wanted the ref to raise his hand and declare it for whole room to see.  Kyle is 17 and a really cool kid.  He’s been training with us for about a year and half and in that time I’ve come to know and admire him a great deal.  He’s dedicated, honest and hard-working and the type of kid that takes away your cynicism about the youth of today.

I think I was as nervous as his mom when the first bell rang.

The first round was sketchy – his opponent came out of his corner really aggressive and Kyle held is own but lost the round.  He came back the second round and evened it up.  The third and final round was going to decide the winner.  I wish I could give a play-by-play on what happened that last round, but I don’t have a clue.  I wasn’t working his corner so I stood with the crowd and screamed my head off until it was over and my voice was hoarse.   But I’ll tell you this – he won!

And when he came out of the ring, holding his trophy, he had the biggest smile you could ever imagine – oh wait – here it is:

And then he got his picture taken with former Canadian Heavyweight Champion George Chuvalo.   And his family gathered around and his mom and his grandmother were beaming.  His mom said that she had no idea that a boxing tournament could be so fun and a team so supportive.

I’m sure that this is a moment Kyle will never forget.  I’m certain that he will look back on this as a defining moment of his life — the moment when he discovered in himself that he could handle and overcome anything thrown his way.  Kyle, at the age of 17, has now accomplished something that very few people ever will.  He knew two months in advance that he was going to pit himself against the physical strength and skill of an unknown opponent and he was going to do this on a stage in front of his loved ones.  He had two months to opt out – and many do – but he didn’t.  He managed his fear, and he won, not only the trophy but hopefully an unwavering self-respect and confidence.  He certainly earned it.

Dean and Stephen did amazingly well.  Dean is perennially focused and won his fight easily by RSC (Referee Stopped Contest) known in the pro world as a TKO and the first thing he said when he walked out of the ring was “Oh my God, I’m glad it’s over” and the next day he wanted to do it again.  Stephen lost his first fight on points but learned a ton – so much so that he won his second.

And if that wasn’t enough, I got to know George Chuvalo, an incredible man, and hear first hand how one copes with insurmountable loss.  But that’s another story and you can read about it here:

Not only was this Kyle’s first match, but the event was a great first for all of us at Capital City Boxing and I was very happy to be a part of it.

Yours in boxing,


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