*2/2 See previous post*
The first round and a half, we felt one another out. It became steadily clearer that my plan of uppercuts to get away could be avoided completely by utilizing my reach and tagging her to maintain distance while getting solid connection. When she did get in, I clinched her and threw the full weight of my legs into a knee to her body. I knew it was sloppy but it was a fight and that's how it was. She wasn't as aggressive as we had anticipated, or rather, as my teammates and coaches had foreseen, she wasn't dishing out any punches I hadn't been hit with a lot harder before. As my dad would remark on later when he recovered from the trauma of watching, "You can take a punch... and you give it right back."
On the stool, I lightly spat out the water coach brought to my lips as he told me, Keep doing what you're doing. Sometime after touching gloves a second time, she caught me with a solid overhand. I staggered a second and went in after her. I tried to stay serene, or not putting anger into strikes when I begin to slow and tell, but instead leveling her hits back out and doing my own damage regardless of the hits I was absorbing. We could feel the crowd surging with the punches; their shouts after a hit punctuating significant strikes.
It was early to middle of the third round, I couldn't know, when the blood appeared in her mouth, staining her teeth around her mouthguard. I sank my fist into the blood and her face again with my heart behind it, the aggression and thirst to do damage heightened at the sight of weakness. Of already inflicted damage. In my head, Coach's words, You've got the first two rounds. Keep doing what you're doing. It's working.
The knees I had already careened into her ribs had visibly hurt her every time and I knew she might be tough, but I'd tagged her cleanly more than she had made solid contact with me. Between the second and the third rounds as I had tried to control my ragged breaths, Coach said, This round, it comes down to who wants it more.
There was no way I would be leaving without leaving part my myself out there. And so we battled out the remaining time.
"That was the best fight of the night," the ref said taking our hands as we awaited the judge's scores. We had been a good match-up. My height gave me an advantage that leveled out her experience and a heavy right hand that had caught me a couple of times. With blood staining her mouth and marks on her face, she thanked me for a good fight and we told each other we'd done well.
It was a split decision until announcing the third score of 30-27.
Annnnnd the winner, fighting out of thaaaaaaa blue corner!
Both my hands flew up in victory. There was no questioning it, the moment was mine. I'd fought for it and reveled in the crowd's cheers. Through the black cage, the shadowed faces applauded the win and the fight. "Love is what makes us great, and this display of strength, heart, and love is what brings us all to the fights," Sam Sheridan writes in A Fighter's Heart. Everyone was there to see a display of human work and sacrifice and to see who had gameness, who had the fight in them that night.
It was one of the best moments of my life. Certainly I had never invested so much in anything before with such an uncertain outcome. It's just you in there when they lock that cage door and the ref claps his hands.
It will always be one of the greatest moments of my life, for your first fight happens only once.
"What did you win?" People have asked since the fight.
"Nothing. It cost me a lot. But it was worth it. I got to fight. And- I won." I say with a smile.