Monday, 1 June 2015

FIGHT NIGHT- Through my eyes!

What a night! I can't believe that I just took part in something so much bigger than I could have ever imagined. My journey in this new adventure started exactly a year ago when I attended, as a guest, Fight to End Cancer 2014. I knew nothing about the fighters or coaches, but I was getting into these fights like some of these people were my personal friends. I was hooked. I needed to be part of this. Fast forward one year and HERE I AM. This might sound crazy, but I didn't even know what I was REALLY getting myself into until my 3 rounds were complete on Saturday night. Those were 3 rounds of HELL and I felt like my legs weren't moving, my arms weren't properly swinging and my brain certainly was not working....

The final month leading up to May 30th was filled with BOXING. I didn't do anything else with my time (besides work of course). I went for runs and I went to the gym and repeated that every single day for over 30 days. I was doing this and I could not let a single day go by, knowing that I could have done something more. My competitiveness went crazy and I was obsessed. I had to force myself to take days off to rest my body and on those days I felt intense guilt.  Everyone talks about how hard all of us fighters work to prepare for our boxing debut on event night and when I hear this, I think to myself that none of this felt like hard work to me. Yes, I put in the time and left the gym, sometimes in tears, sore and sweaty but I was having the best time doing it. I got to see people every day that I have grown to love and respect over such a short period of time.

My nerves started to set in about a week prior to the event...I was starting to lose sleep and this was worrisome and annoying to me. Training had to start getting lighter and when my coaches told me to slow down, all I wanted to do was go faster.
Thursday night was the last night in the gym. I felt great. I did some light shadow boxing, went for a run and hit the bag. I was ready. I truly felt like I had done all that I could have done leading up to this fight of a lifetime.

Friday and Saturday were weird days- my nerves turned into excitement and I couldn't wait to get going. After work on Friday, it was essential that we keep ourselves busy. Robert and I went to see a movie and it was the worst movie ever but at least we weren't thinking about boxing! I slept like a baby that night and woke up Saturday morning ready to go. I needed to get out of my condo in the morning to avoid thinking, so I met up with Robert again to grab a coffee and walk around the city. Robert and I have shared so much of this entire experience together that it only seemed fitting to hang out with him the morning of the event. It was also nice to be with someone who was feeling the same way I was that day. Any moment of silence was easily chalked up to both of us thinking about that night. I then met up with Kelly to get our nails done! The woman at the salon asked if we were going to a wedding, to which I responded, 'no I'm in a boxing match tonight!'. She didn't understand.

Arriving home that afternoon after my morning festivities is when it all hit me. I was NERVOUS. I took these nerves as a reminder to be present in this moment and to reflect on what I was doing this for. I laid silently on my bed and actually spoke out loud about why I was doing this and who I was fighting for. This lasted a good 20 minutes. I was back to feeling at ease.

Then, there I was at the Old Mill sitting in front of the ring that I would be stepping into hours from then. It was smaller and the ground was softer and spongier than the one at Kingsway, I got stressed and overwhelmed about my walkout and told Virgil I wasn't doing it and found myself in tears. Two minutes later I said "Fine! I'll do it!" without anyone even trying to convince me. I was being a crazy person. The amount of emotions I had already experienced on this day was nothing compared to what was about to come pre, during and post fight.

The fights were underway and even though I said to myself that I was for sure going to watch Robert and Mark fight the first bout, I quickly decided against it once the nerves really started to set in. Waiting in the back room with the other fighters as we all warmed up and got in our zones was such a cool but weird experience all at the same time. I knew the fights started at 8pm and mine wasn't until 10pm so I actually brought a book to read in between. It's comical to think that I thought I would be relaxed enough to chill out and read while so much was happening around me... instead the time ZOOMED by and as Phil and the coaches came in every 15 minutes or so and grabbed each bout in order one after another, I was panicked. How is this coming so fast?!

All of a sudden I was standing outside the main door about to make my entrance. At this point, I had done all that I could have done. This was it, the moment I had been waiting for that I had trained for, for over 7 months. I was warmed up and I said to Virgil "there is no way I am losing this fight."
There was only one thing left to do in my mind as we waited for the live auction to wrap up... sing and dance, of course. I love Virgil and TJ so much! They didn't even hesitate and got their singing and dancing on! The three of us stood there, huddled around an iPhone, singing and dancing to 'Cheerleader' by Omi. That was one of my favourite memories of the night. I was in my own world. Then I hear my name and the doors opened with the cameras right on me. "Oh shit" is all that went through my head. I couldn't hear a single thing for my entire walkout, I'm surprised I was even somewhat on beat to the song. It was such a blur!
I got in the ring and waited for Erica to do her walkout. I took note of my family and supporter tables who were on their feet cheering me on. Here goes nothing....

After we were given the rules, we tapped gloves and were sent back to our corners. The bell rang.... "Holy shit!" I feel anxiety even recounting this right now. At this point, there was no turning back and punches were being thrown- by both of us and they were really hard. I got panicked and in my head there was a lot of swearing going on. Erica came out in full swing- those punches were coming at me and a lot were landing. I felt panic and then I was calm. I heard Virgil and TJ yelling "Box! Box, Paige! Box!" and I was telling them to shut up under my breath and in my head (hehe sorry) because I KNOW THAT'S WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO BUT I COULDN'T THINK! Somehow I got through the round. I was SO tired. How was that only one round?
Virgil gave me the typical "Virgil pep talk" and I was recharged. Round 2 baby.

I couldn't tell you what happened but all I remember is seeing blood flying in front of my face and having it all over my glove. I had no idea if Erica or I was bleeding. It was me.
Uh-oh. The ref got me to my corner to get cleaned up and before I turned around- I seriously felt a surge of energy pump through my body at that exact moment. I glared at Erica, sucked blood back in my nose to taste it in my mouth (ew) and landed some hard punches on Erica's face. I felt like an animal attacking my prey. It was creepy actually now that I think about it. But Erica was NOT letting up. Round 2 ended with a quick 8 count for Erica and secretly I was hoping she'd quit because I felt like I was going to collapse. But no, nope. No quitting there.

Virgil told me how well I did in the last 2 rounds and that this was it. He told me to not do anything stupid to F this up. I listened and took more of a defensive approach in the 3rd round. I tried to slow things down because I was really tired and wanted to showcase more of my boxing but Erica was still pressing pretty hard. We were not slowing down, at all. I wish there was a count of punches thrown and landed in our fight because I honestly felt like it was so back and forth. There was 10 seconds left and I gave it all I had. The final bell rang. I wanted to collapse to the ground but I made it back to Virgil.

I won my fight that night but it was a hard, competitive and passionate fight. Erica and I have both worked so hard training for this night and through blood, sweat and tears- we put on a SHOW! I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity to begin with and to have fought such a worthy opponent.

Paul Alofs (President and CEO of The Princess Margaret) said to me that when I got punched in the face and my nose started bleeding, it was the perfect analogy of that moment when someone is told they have cancer. You can either take this news and hide or you can make cancer pay and really fight. I didn't back away. None of us did. All 10 fighters did just that. We were fighting for those who could not. We were fighting for hope and we were fighting to make a difference.

Paul Alofs was one of the first people to give me a big hug in his suit (even though my face was covered in blood) as I stepped out of the ring. I then felt like a real celebrity as my AMAZING cheering section came swarming over to me. My parents looked so proud and there were so many tears of happiness! It was a moment I will never forget.

I am so blessed and grateful to have experienced everything this experience had to offer. I went through every emotion possible and came out of this as a different person.
I have made so many long lasting relationships that I will cherish FOREVER and I am still floating around on a cloud that I hope lasts for a very long time. I am in love with my coaches, my fight team, my Kingsway family, my real family, my friends and complete strangers that came out on Saturday night. We were all there for one reason. We were there for the Fight to End Cancer and there is no way we are losing that fight.

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