This is our second blog post featuring Robert Peate, who we sponsored during his Ultra White Collar Boxing challenge whilst raising money for Cancer Research. If you missed his first blog then go back and have a read of it here. This blog focuses on fight night and is a great insight into how he got on!
Fight night – can you describe your experience?
Considering I’d had trouble with sleeping after training, I actually got a decent night’s sleep on the eve of the fight which I was really happy with, I wanted to be as fresh and sharp for the day. The morning of the fight was weird combination of the normal routine including domestic bits and bobs, all the time knowing that I was going to be doing something pretty intense in a few hours’ time. It’s not often you plan to have a fight! Mercifully, the time went fairly quickly as I had things to do, I didn’t want to be clock watching…from about 2 weeks before the fight I’d been wanting to get on with it, not because I was being impatient but because I wanted to test myself having visualised it so many times. Even though I’d packed most of my kit the night before, I still went through my bag and re-packed it about 3 times and had a minor meltdown when I couldn’t find the head phones I wanted to take with me, a minor irritation that nearly got out of proportion!
We had to be at the venue 3½ hours before the first fight for medicals and to be given briefings by the organiser, the referee and the medics amongst other things. The bit everyone wanted to know was the fight order; we’d been pre-warned we wouldn’t find out until when we were on until the day of the fight. Drum roll please…I was first up! I was actually really happy about that. I knew that everyone who’d come to watch would be attentive and excited for the fights to get under way and that I’d get to see all the other fights afterwards. Once all the preliminary bits were out the way, we had about 90 minutes to kill. I hadn’t known how much time I’d have to one my hands but I’d gone prepared with some food and music. During the training I’d been doing separately to the boxing sessions, I’d listen to music that I found motivating so I took myself off to a quiet spot, (the balcony overlooking the main hall), sat at the back in the dark where nobody could see me, plugged myself in a munched my way through nearly a whole bag of jelly babies whilst trying to put myself in a thoroughly bad mood! The track I’d picked as my walk in music was ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ by Metallica and I’d listened to it over and again picturing the moment the guitars dropped in to start walking out. Boxing out the blue corner worked out really neatly as it meant I walked out second and that my opponent would be waiting for me…in my head, that music was saying ‘I’m coming for you and you’re gonna get it’.
Before the fights got under way, there was a parade of boxers in the ring. We were all changed in our kit and taken out as group from the red corner and the blue corner. We walked out and the reception was awesome; I had a lot of family and friends there and seeing them ringside I couldn’t help but crack my game face and smile, I knew they were proud of me and that meant a lot. I’d been told I was the top fundraiser before things got under way – a total of £630 – and was given an award by the MC which got a round of applause from everyone there. Truthfully, I got a tiny bit choked up, (not ideal necessarily before a fight), but having the appreciation of everyone there was moving.
Soon enough it was time to get kitted up. The experience in the dressing room was awesome, being treated like a real boxer. The corner team were there talking to you, someone was putting your hand wraps and gloves on, gum shield in and head guard on and then warming you up, nothing intense, just a few punches on pads to loosen up and that was it, time to go. My nerves had been jangling for quite a while and my adrenalin started pumping hard as we walked out from the dressing room but I stayed focused the same way I had through the whole process, not thinking about anything but me and what I was capable of, everything else was secondary and out of my control so not worth worrying about.
Once the bell went for Round 1, did everything go to plan?
In truth, so much of what happened in the rounds is a complete blur. I can remember being talked to by the ref before the first round, eye balling Mark and the bell sounding for round 1 and then the details get a bit fuzzy! As I said earlier, Mark was a Southpaw which makes it an awkward fight. When you’re right handed like me, you’re programmed to fight Orthodox so lead off with your left hand. Because your opponent is a mirror image of what you’re doing, everything they do is in the way so my left jab was just getting caught by his right hand. I’d been coached in sparring and told before the fight to get my left foot on the outside of his right which brings my left hook and right hand into play but doing that was proving difficult to do and in fact I’m not sure I ever managed it.
From the outset I’d told myself keep busy, keep moving, stay on the front foot and dominate the centre of the ring which I was doing, trying to force Mark against the ropes or into a corner. Of course I was never going to get it all my own way and Mark was obviously working to his own game place. I was getting caught with some good shots and trading back with my own. What I wasn’t expecting but really helped was the MC was commentating on the fight for the audience. I can remember hearing ‘1 minute gone’ in the first round and thinking is that all?! The one thing the sparring doesn’t prepare you for is the intensity of the rounds. Sparring is more measured and controlled so you’ll throw a combination, move, think about what to do next and so on. The rounds were 100% more intense than that, it was like a pendulum swinging between the two of us, Mark would come at me, I’d defend then go back at him, it was constant with no time for rest.
The second round was my best and I knew I’d done won it. All through training and talking to everyone that’s ever boxed, the one piece of advice your given is don’t p**s off your opponent and Mark did. It wasn’t long into the round and he caught me with a flat handed blow on the side of my head with the palm of his glove, almost like a slap and it annoyed me. Someone said to me after the fight “you went after him like a Tiger” and I can remember thinking ‘that’s it, I’m going to flatten you’, (or words to that effect!) and I launched after him. It’s strange, even writing about this gives an adrenaline buzz! At the end of the second round the referee came over to me and said “It’s yours to lose” which I wasn’t expecting to hear at all as I didn’t think I’d done all that well in the first round but I must have just shaded it. In hindsight I wish he hadn’t said that because I took my foot off the gas a little in the third, in part because I was breathing hard at the end of the second, but I let myself get over confident. It wasn’t until after the fight that I found out from Mark that the ref had said to him “You’re not far behind, give it everything you’ve got and you’re in with a chance” and to his credit he did.
Again, a lot of times during training we’d been told that the fights would be evenly matched and it would come down to who wanted it more. For most of the third round I was on the back foot, defending, moving, taking shots and just trying not to get hit too hard…I tried to just keep moving forward, getting as close to Mark as I could to stop him getting shots off, hanging on for dear life! I needed the break to get my breath back and I did start to fire off shots with about a minute left, no way was I going to walk around like a target for the last round and I couldn’t chance being knocked over but truthfully by the end of the third I had nothing left in the tank, physically I was spent and was so glad to hear the bell.
At the final bell, Mark and I had a quick sporting embrace before going back to our corners to gloves and head gear off, waiting for the result. Genuinely I haven’t got the words to describe the emotion when I heard ‘And the winner, in the blue corner…’ It was a combination of relief, elation, pride, that overwhelming sense of achievement from taking on something way outside my normal comfort zone and coming out on top.
How did you feel afterwards? And what’s next on the cards?!
Immediately after the fight we had to have another medical to make sure we were ok then it was back in to the dressing room. I was absolutely pumped for the rest of the day and typically couldn’t sleep until well after midnight! I spent the rest of the evening with my family and friends watching the other fights and listening to what they were saying about watching me…they were all proud and said I’d given a good account of myself so between winning my fight, being top fundraiser and having their appreciation I couldn’t ask for any more. Plus I had the added kudos of being able to walk into work the next day with a touch more swagger than I would normally!
It wasn’t until the day after that I started replaying the fight in my head. I could still only fill in odd blanks and couldn’t remember the whole event. It was only when I saw a video that one of Mark’s relatives had taken that I could appreciate it better, I’ve watched it back a couple of times and I’ve probably been my own harshest critic, picking fault with what I should have done better and where I had opportunities to do more.
Physically I was fine in the main part. I had a swollen lip and a nose full of dried blood plus a good collection of bruises and scrapes but that was it; weirdly I had aches and pains in places I didn’t realise I’d been hit. Without doubt the adrenaline and distractions of the evening kept me from feeling any pain which is probably true for part of the fight too, I know I was absolutely focused on the man in front of me and hardly registered the crowd at all. I wasn’t bothered by the aches and pains afterwards, I saw them as sort of a badge of honour, if I’d come unscathed I would have been doing something wrong, it wasn’t a tickling competition and I was never going to get it all my own way. I’ve got nothing but respect for Mark as an opponent, had gave me a good fight and amongst other things, boxing teaches you to never judge a book by its cover.
I’ve every intention on keeping on with the training, it’s a great form of exercise and you get a real rapport with the other guys in the gym, there’s an underlying respect from everyone there. I think the prospect of another fight may land me with an instant divorce but never say never! There’s other events I want to tackle and have been looking at for a while; The Commando Challenge and The Para’s 10. Both are obstacle course type events but run over the same training terrain as the full time Royal Marines & Para’s. I was in the Army Reserve for a couple of years and I was one the odd ball types that used to enjoy the PT and tabbing, (running with your pack on in layman’s terms), and both events replicate that so would be good throwback to those days. Apart from that, I’m open to suggestions!
Huge thanks to Rob for providing us with a ‘blow by blow’ account of his Ultra White Collar Boxing experience, and for the insight into the psychological challenges he faced and overcame.
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