Ever been in a fight in front of 2,000 people at the House of Blues? Kim Lipman has.
Kim, who grew up in a small town in Maine, had never been in a fight before, boxing match or otherwise. On May 18, she stepped into the ring to fight in a Haymakers For Hope charity boxing tournament to raise money for cancer research. We asked Kim to describe what her first fight night was like in this week's Out of Step journal post…
WAKING UP READY
The day of the fight, I spent most of the morning packing, getting my hair braided (apparently they have lots of rules about hair in boxing), packing food for after weigh-in, and generally trying to not think about the rest of the day. I checked into my hotel next to the House of Blues at 2pm. I had to check in for the weigh-in at 4:30pm. Surprisingly, I feel asleep. It struck me when I woke up that I was ready. I was prepared. And for the first time, my mind wasn’t nervous. Of course, there were still nerves, but the excitement far outweighed them.
THE TALLEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD
As we were in line for weigh-in, my opponent walked by. She’s tall. Like almost 6 feet tall, and I am 5’ 5” on my very best day. So going into this, I knew that was going to be something I would have to deal with. I tried to stay focused on my game plan. I wanted to ignore the fact that she was 6 inches taller than me as she walked by, but one of the other fighters exclaimed, “Holy F*** Kim, are you sure she is only 5’11”?” We had a good laugh about it and again, shockingly, I felt calm. And it was not the kind of, ‘I think I am going to win’ calm, but more like I knew I was going to have a good day, and whatever happened, I would be proud of my effort. My coaches had me prepared, both physically and mentally, so it was just time to enjoy a very special night.
Maybe it was the warm day or just the excitement, but it seemed like I warmed up for only a few minutes before I felt good. From there we just stretched and waited for the intro song [Diana Ross’ “I’m coming out”]. Clear as day, I remember looking out toward the ring and feeling excited. I am pretty sure I beat my coach to the ropes and he had to scramble to open them wide for me to go through. Which is good because let’s be real, I was terrified of falling into the ring before the fight even started.
THE STRATEGIC UNDERDOG
My coaches and I knew going into the fight that I was much shorter than my opponent. I needed to use my strength. We also knew that she had experience and that in combination with her height made me the underdog. But I love the underdog role and have always competed with heart. I was never the most skilled or the fastest, so I decided no one would out work me. That was our attitude going in.
“Get inside and stay there” was the strategy. Basically, we wanted to take away her reach so she couldn’t land a big shot from a distance. Once I was inside, the idea was to throw lots of shots to the body and basically try to work that until her hands fell and then finish with a shot to the head. The reality is you can game plan and game plan and game plan…but once you are in there, you just hope to god you have some kind of muscle memory. You don’t have time to think so you just have to react and hope the reaction is mimicking the game plan.
In the ring, I could hear the crowd, but as soon as it was time for my coaches to give me a last minute recap of the game plan, the crowd became white noise:
“Get inside and stay there.”
“When you get tired, find more.”
“Body, body, body, and finish to the head.”
They told me to go out strong and that they would pull me back when needed so I wouldn’t gas out in the first round. That bell rang and I basically ran to the middle of the ring and started throwing! I listened for them to pull me back and heard them yell: “Press!” I am pretty sure they yelled that for the entire 2 minutes of the round. It felt like I threw and I threw and I threw. And then the bell rang. Thank god. Rest.
I got to my corner, sat and had an incredibly calm Mark Nolan say, “Just breathe….good round…keep your hands higher, parry, catch and do the same thing…breathe.”
For the 2 seconds it took me to get to the middle of the ring, I thought I was still feeling fresh until I threw a punch. This is what they meant by being tired. For the first minute, everything felt hard, but I just kept pushing. I don’t know what it was but something in my brain remembered: “Bite down on that mouth guard and make it ugly.” This was one of the many sayings that was repeated over and over to me throughout training. It stuck. Out of all the rounds, this one was the one that felt like the biggest whirlwind, just trying to gut it out. This one was about just trying harder than I thought I could and finding the heart to keep pushing.
When the bell rang, I took my seat. I can’t remember the conversation, but I know I smiled. I was trying to catch my breath, but I was excited to get back out there. I had two more minutes to use the 4 months of conditioning, learning to box, and fighting the mental fatigue that was always there. This night was special--I walked in ready. I knew win or lose, I did everything I could and I was proud of that.
ROUND 3 AND THE WIN
The third round was just two competitors going head-to-head with heart and determination.
Every round my coaches would tell me where they thought I was, so I thought I was winning. But I was also thinking my opponent was tough! I thought she really had a lot of grit and never stopped working. In the end, hearing my name called and having my hand raised was the amazing payoff of training, the support from my coaches, and all the people who donated and were part of my journey.
After the fight, I remember going into the back to get my picture taken and then things get really fuzzy from there. I pretty much floated around the House of Blues trying to say hi to everyone, and when I say floated, I mean it. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t really focus on anyone or anything. I was just on cloud 9.
EFFORT + ATTITUDE = EMPOWERMENT
The one thing that I could never have prepared myself for was how mentally challenging the experience would be. The only things I could control were my effort and my attitude, so I focused on that. In the end, I have never felt so empowered, so proud to be part of an amazing organization, and so overwhelmed with support from friends, family, co-workers, and complete strangers, many of whom are now friends. It was the best experience of my life.
-- Kim Lipman
Photos courtesy of Haymakers For Hope.