Fight or flight; ‘the instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation, which readies one either to resist forcibly or to run away.’ Some people tackle the fire, some people retreat. Which am I? In all honesty, I’ve taken more flights in my life than EasyJet. When deer notice something threatening, they freeze in hope that the threat does not see them. Humans too can act like a deer in the headlights. This is why we applaud each other when we overcome this fear to achieve something we desire. On Saturday 19th March 2022, RAG and SUABC held a charity fight night in front of two hundred people. I was one of the twenty-four fighters who took part. This is my account of the training camp, the fight, and what participating has taught me about fear and myself.
Inflicting violence is alien to my nature. When I was five years old in primary school I spent one lunch building a ‘theme park’ for the ants in the dirt by the fence (I did have friends I promise). The park I made would send Thorpe out of business. Near the end of the lunch break, a lad from the year above who looked and acted like that pr*ck Sid from Toy Story came over. In cold blood using one stamp, he massacred my boys. Tears flooded my eyes as I mourned the dead. To me, the kid was on the same level as a Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer. My teacher came over and gave me ‘house points’ for being so caring about living things. Yes, that new Cavetown song doing the rounds on Tiktok about “I’ll f*ck you up if you’re mean to bugs” resonates with me. I believe this anecdote represents me as a person fittingly. As MJ would say; “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” My ‘soft’ nature and flight responses are a recipe for failure in boxing. The ‘killer’ instinct that boxers talk about is absent in me. That being said, I signed up for the fight night and training began..
In one of my first and only sparring sessions for my first fight a couple of years ago I remember feeling bad when I was catching my friend in the face with a jab. In terms of the natural flight response in me, I struggled so hard to avoid flinching when I would get hit. I heard though once that ‘the monster does not disappear just because you closed your eyes.’ I listened to UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman talk about the only time he got dropped in sparring too, saying “my coach told me after to not back away, once you step into the fire, you realise it isn’t as hot as you thought it would be.” It takes time to re-program your brain, it’s attempting to undo the Pavlov conditioning that has been wired into you for your entire life. As my sparring sessions went on over the three weeks of training, I got more and more comfortable with taking shots (to an extent lmao).
In terms of my diet, I did not change a single thing. I was powered by Phat Chip and Sals Kebab House. They should have sponsored me. I still lost around 5kg in just over a month from the hours of cardio I was doing every day. For the past two years, I had been a slave to the vape. I remember in the first session I ran to my car to fetch something and came back panting. My car was 10 yards away from the gym. A blend of sprints, sparring, hotpod yoga, bag work, and sauna sessions helped me lose weight though, and re-gain some of my cardio. In terms of vaping, I took the fight as an incentive to quit. It has now been over two months since I vaped and I feel far more healthy. Remember kids, it’s not cool 2 Juul.
After weeks of training and weeks of playing the Rocky soundtrack in my usual, corny fashion, fight night arrived. I felt completely prepared. Hell, I’d even thought of my own catchy, Muhammad Ali-esque rhyme to say on the mic if I won; “Kesto’s the real deal like a Tesco meal deal.” In my first fight I genuinely had no nerves, I was relaxed. I think it caused me to under-perform though, I had no adrenaline and never really felt ‘up for it.’ It was a draw when I believe I really could of won it. I was more nervous this time. I wanted to feel nerves, I needed the adrenaline to get me pumped. Luckily, I have the best mates in the world and had a dozen of them come from different cities to support. I wanted to win for them. To make them happy and to be proud of me was all I had wished for. 6:20pm struck. I was warmed up and waiting to be called out. My opponent walked out to Pop Smoke. I walked out to Tom Jones. Slight difference in taste. Pumped and ready, I had a nice stretch before the bell, stretching my arms in the air and crossing them which, apparently, everyone thought I was doing some weird warrior battle pose like some kind of Power Ranger. I was stretching.
He was fast. 6ft2 with a long reach. I’m a short king, 5ft95. Do not dismiss the .05. The fight was competitive but I landed some naughty right hands which drained his energy. I managed to get a standing count on him in the second and third rounds. As the fight went on we both looked shattered and were bleeding everywhere. There was one moment in the fight where I feinted a jab and hit him with a right hook. You can see on the clip above that his blood got sent to another postcode. Pure filth. Anyway, I was shattered. It was such a relief when the ref would stop the fight to adjust our headguards, I can’t lie. The final bell rang and I was gassed in more ways than one. It felt amazing seeing my mates ecstatic. My opponent and I hugged after the ref lifted my arm. I was somewhat pleased with my performance other than dropping my hands constantly and not keeping my elbows tucked. But did I care in the moment? Absolutely f*cking not.
The feeling I have after my second fight is similar to when I did a skydive last year. Will Smith, when talking about his skydiving experience, said “the best things in life are on the other side of fear.” It has happened many times in my life, these nerves in my stomach and this self-doubt. When I get past this fear though, I’m always left with this “oh, that wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be?” feeling. When you walk into the fire, you realise it isn’t as hot as you thought it would be. To anyone considering doing the next fight night at the Uni, I would highly encourage you. There is nothing to lose, everyone who steps into that ring is a winner. Congratulations to my fellow fighters too, we raised a lot for charity and put on a good show. That’s all I have to say really. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk, and don’t be mean to bugs.