IMAGE: Cam F Awesome, 2015
I would love to embellish the story of what boxing did for me. Every boxer I’ve met has some version of the following story: “I was fighting in the streets and beating everyone up. I was so good at street fighting that *insert authority figure* said I should join the boxing gym. So I did.”
My story differs slightly. I was a non-aggressive, under confident, overweight 11th grader. To this day I’ve never been involved in a street fight, with the exception of the girl that beat me up in 9th grade. I was never much of a fighter. I picked boxing because it was the only free gym in walking distance from my house.
I thought that going to the gym would give me muscles, and in-turn, muscles would get me a girlfriend.
Not similar to the common stories of other boxers, right? I just didn’t want to go to prom alone, or even worse, with a friend.
Spoiler Alert: I still wound up going to prom with a friend. (I still had a good time Patrice!) Lol.
Before boxing, I was never in danger of getting caught up in the streets. Actually, I was rarely in the streets because I had far more interest in Mario World, than the gang world. Boxing didn’t save my life; boxing gave me a better life.
If I didn’t box, I would probably be working at a grocery store, have fewer friends and be incredibly awkward.
Boxing hasn’t made me any less awkward, but it gave me the confidence to love myself enough to not be ashamed by my awkwardness. Confidence has allowed me to love myself.
It’s difficult for others to love you if you don’t love yourself. When I was in high school, I didn’t love myself. I was overweight and I wanted to be better, but I did not know how to achieve “better.”; probably because I didn’t understand the value in hard work.
I didn’t understand the concept of hard work until not working hard enough resulted in me being punched in the face. Once boxing taught me what hard work was, I began to achieve accomplishments outside of the ring.
Boxing also requires personal accountability. My coach won’t always be there to make sure I run, but if I become fatigued in a fight it would be apparent that I’ve been slacking. I took this personal accountability outside of the ring and into my life.
I know the importance of working even when no one is looking. I don’t need to be babysat to make sure I follow my diet. Constant personal accountability will result in self-discipline. I’ve used self-discipline to pursue a speaking business.
I own my business. I am a boss, but I’m my only employee. I don’t have to answer to anyone if I don’t feel like sending emails, generating contacts for speaking engagements or creating content for my site. It is the discipline and personal accountability that I gained from boxing that allows me to put in work when I don’t want to.
The physical, emotional and mental exhaustion from boxing has prepared me to tackle any task with resiliency. I’ve trained in high altitudes while being both tired and emotionally drained. I’ve learned that competition will not care if you’ve had a good night of sleep, or if your heart has recently been broken. Boxing taught me that any weakness is a weakness. I must rid myself of weaknesses.
If fatigue is sensed in the ring, your opponent will feed off of it like a shark that smells blood in the water. I’ve learned to exhibit a posture and a poker face in the ring at all times, especially when I’m dog-tired. When I’m cranky before a comedy show performance, I’ve learned that I must get over it and display the proper posture and poker face.
Boxing has also given me invaluable life experience. A friend recently told me about an app that allows you to see how many states/countries you’ve visited. It’s called “Visited.” I have visited 75% of the states in America and 22 countries. I never traveled until I started boxing.
When I get the opportunity to visit other countries through boxing, I don’t visit Sandals Resorts-Americanized tourist areas. I go to the heart of cities and experience the actual country.
I’ve learned to appreciate how great America is. I’ve come to realize that most of the people, who complain about America, have never actually left it. If you’ve visited a place that has t-shirts and mugs with the name of the city you’re in on it, you haven’t actually left America.
I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have in America. I’ve learned things about other cultures that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I learned that in some countries, giving a service worker a tip is a form of disrespect. I’ve been enlightened to the proper way to take a shot in Finland.
I’ve made friends in faraway lands. I’ve developed friendships with boxers in America that, without boxing, I would have never met.
I’ve lived a week of luxury in Moscow, courtesy of Don King, while I was one of his fighter’s sparring partners. I had a stadium of Ukrainians chanting “USA” after defeating their hometown fighter the night before.
I drank champagne in a limo on the Vegas strip. I’ve eaten soup out of a stranger’s van, in an alley in Poland. I’ve sang Jay-Z songs on a stage of hundreds of people in Kiev. I’ve swum (doggie-Paddled) in the Mediterranean Sea, drank aged wine in the south of France and played soccer in Kazakhstan.
I’ve walked on the Formula 1 track in Azerbaijan. I’ve visited the Vatican, the Statue of David, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and even had the opportunity to see the Pope.
I’ve learned how to win. I’ve learned how to lose. I’ve learned to overcome fears. I’ve learned what it takes to be a champion. I’ve learned more than ever would have been possible, had I lived my entire life in Uniondale, Long Island. I doubt I ever would have left Uniondale if it weren’t for boxing.
So, no, boxing didn’t save my life. I wasn’t in danger of dying. Boxing didn’t give me the ability to defend myself from getting beat up in the hood. Boxing didn’t even give me a prom date.
Now, why don’t I turn pro? Because USA Boxing has done so much for me and it would break my heart to leave. If I can stick around and help to make it a better organization before I left it, I would die happy. Too many boxers milk the amateur program before turning pro and never look back.
The boxers get the glory, but there are so many pieces of the puzzle that make up amateur boxing. Ringside World Championships took place last week. Hundreds of coaches packed up fighters in team vans; some of theme driving 30 hours to come to Kansas City for it.
Amateur boxing has angels that we call “judges” and “officials” who willingly take a week off of their jobs and life, pay for their own travel and expenses, to come work for free, for 12 hour days as referees and judges. Without these angels, we wouldn’t be able to have these tournaments.
How could I leave a program as great as this? Does it have flaws? Yeah. Is it a life-changing program? Yeah. I am walking proof. It has changed my life.
Boxing taught me to be a man. Boxing has allowed me to learn lessons about compassion, culture, and acceptance, the value of friendship, hard work, loyalty, patriotism, confidence, and above all, life experience that most could not fathom.
Boxing didn’t save me from dying, but it did give me a life to die for.
Cam F Awesome