Journey Into the Ring
On Sunday, September 18th, two Touchstone members brawled on San Pablo. Fighting for Education, a fundraiser brought together by the Alcazar Scholarship Fund, By Any Dreams Necessary, and Rocha Scholarship, hosted MMA exhibitions, raffles, and a fight between Andy "Mustang Andy" Sondag of Diablo Rock Gym and Tone "Iron" Chin of Berkeley Ironworks.
Both fighters are members of Victor Damian’s Touchstone boxing classes. Tone Chin wrote an account of the fight.
An instant message pops up across my screen. It’s Victor Damian. “Hey, do you want to have an amateur boxing bout with Andy? Sept 17th? 3 rounds, 3 minute rounds, for a good cause.” After reading the message, I felt a nervous chill running down my spine. No, it didn’t just running down my spine, but lingered around for a good, long minute. Do I really want to fight Andy? I respond, “I might be sailing. gotta check. will get back to you.” I already knew my schedule was open; I wasn’t going to be sailing that weekend. I was just trying to buy time to think things over. Do I really want to fight Andy?
Andy and I have sparred together a few times in the past. Sparring is about learning and teaching each other. And each time, I did very well. I relied on my quickness to hit him. But the real fight would be three rounds and my speed would be nullified when I tire out in the later rounds. Also in sparring, if one gets a good shot in, the other has a chance to take a breather and recover. But this was going to be a real fight with no breaks for hard hits. Show any weaknesses and your opponent will jump at you. I neither have any desire of hurting anyone nor do I have the desire to get hurt. But this was my chance to step into the Ring. If I pass on this opportunity, I will forever have regrets. I had to fight, not for the purpose of beating Andy but to test my mettle. There was a reason for that nervous chill to run down my back.
Andy is bigger, stronger, and better conditioned than me. After pointing out to my friends who Andy is, my friends would pull me aside and tell me, “be very careful” and joked if it would be possible for me to add them onto my Last Will and Testament. I only had 7 weeks before the fight. I had to start training immediately. My main resource for training is Berkeley Ironworks (BIW). In addition to being a top-notch climbing gym, it has weights and cardio equipment, excellent physical trainers, and a studio with heavy bags and a speed bag. Cardio-fitness was my weak link. I decided to take up Kristin Rios’ Cardio-Kickboxing and Bootcamp class to improve my fitness. In addition to helping with my cardio, Kristin was great at advising post-workout routine for recovery and good nutrition. Mary Rocha, another trainer at the gym, advised on strength exercises. Everyone at the gym was helpful in providing me with training advice.
On my second day in Kristin’s class, I badly twisted my ankle while completing her warm-up run to the fence and back on Potter Street when I stepped into a pothole. The ankle swelled up and was colourfully bruised. I had no time to be injured!! I went to a friend who practices Eastern Medicine. Within 48 hours of treatment, the bruise and swelling were completely gone. But the ankle was still injured on the inside, so I wrapped it everyday, up to and including the day of the fight, for safe measure. On the fourth day after the treatment, I was back in physical training. Instead of being out for four-six weeks, I was only out for one.
Training for a fight is such a mind-trip. Everyday I thought of the fight. It was a constant reminder for train hard, eat right, and respect my body or else I’d get my ass kicked. My training consists of attending Kristin’s class, followed by hitting the heavy bag, then finally strength training. I would be at the gym for 3-4 hours everyday. I sparred whenever I could convince friends to come “play”. Unfortunately, I only had 4 sparring sessions. Not surprisingly, a lot of friends did not fancy the idea of getting hit.
The training prepared me for the fight and it prepared me for my other passion, sailboat racing. The week before the fight, I raced the Big Boat Series, a four-day regatta. In the past, I felt exhausted after three days of racing. Because of the improved conditioning, I felt strong even after the fourth day of races. I even trained two more days after Big Boats before I tapering down for the fight.
By early September, I was in the best shape of my life. Friends and acquaintances remarked how bigger I looked. I had gone from skinny 140 lbs to well-toned 146 lbs. Regardless of what happens in the match, I felt that I’ve already won since my life had changed for the better: I was eating breakfast, reading nutrition labels, and working out regularly. It wasn’t about how I did against an opponent but how I’ve improved from one period in time to another. I trained hard. I am in the best shape of my life. I am ready.
Round One was so exciting and full of energy. In fact, I was so exciting that I completely forgot my fight strategy and just went on pure adrenaline and instinct, which expended a lot of energy. Attacks were followed by counter-attacks.
Round Two, I was getting tired. I really thought I was in better shape than this. My only advantage, my speed, was gone.
Round Three, I was taking a beating. I got my first standing 8 count and I was pissed. Unbelievable, I didn’t deserve this stand 8! After a few seconds more of fighting, I got my second standing 8 count. Ok, I deserved this standing 8; I’m super-tired. I wasn’t defending myself; I couldn’t even get out of the way of the incoming punches. My legs were jello. I was surprised I could even stand. But I wanted to try just one move, the Superman punch. I want to say, “I did the Superman punch in the Ring,” even if I missed. I dug deep for some energy, raised my knee, and lunged with the right cross. I glanced Andy without any effect, but I did it! Then later the third standing 8 count came from the referee. I thought to myself, “I’m done, call off the fight, ref.” But as soon as I thought that, I screamed at myself, “No you’re not! You’re going to finish it!” When time was finally up, I was still standing.
If I could do it again, I would do things very differently. I wouldn’t have gotten so excited at the beginning and stuck to my original strategy. It’s amazing how strenuous three, three minute rounds are. I had trained seven weeks, including injury time and time off for sailing, for the nine minutes of fighting. Yet those nine minutes were the most exhausting experience of my life. I can proudly say, I gave it my all and left nothing back.
Friends often ask, would you do it again? I knew before entering the Ring, my answer. This would be my first and last time in the Ring. I don’t like hitting people and I don’t like to get hit. It’s not about beating an opponent, but about knowing that if I get beaten down, would I get back up and fight? I already know; I will fight on.
Stop by the Touchstone gyms and check out the great kick boxing and boxing classes that we offer.
Labels: Andy Sondag, Fighting for Education, Tone Chin