In my sophomore year of college at the University of Georgia, I attended my first boxing event: Bulldawg Brawl. The minute the bell rang and the fighting began, I was hooked.
There’s something to be said for the raw brutality of amateur boxing that one can not find in the professional circuit. In professional boxing, there are 12 rounds each lasting 3 minutes.
Boxers have to fight more defensively, throwing punches at the right time rather than all of the time. The potential for knockouts are much higher, however, like many saw with the Pacquiao-Mayweather bout, a defensive boxer can turn a marquee matchup into a snoozer.
Amateur boxing, especially with fighters who have never fought before, takes the appeals of the professional circuit and packages them in a much quicker, 3 rounds usually lasting 1 minute 30 seconds. The fighters, lacking true technique, resort to use of their raw power and energy to win fights. This raw energy is what drew me into Bulldawg Brawl.
Anyone can enjoy an amateur boxing match because it draws on fighter’s most human instincts rather than pure technique and training. I fell in love with the Brawl and immediately sought out Matt Thomas to see what I could do to be a part of what I saw as the best form of live entertainment out there.
Fast forward a year later and I am helping Matt and the Brawl team with sponsorships and event planning, but in 2012 we were lacking fighters. It was at this point that I made one of the best mistakes in my life. I decided to fight in Bulldawg Brawl.
To understand the significance of this, further background on myself as an athlete is needed. To put it plainly, I am not an athlete. Most of my time in high school was dedicated to the performing arts and while I did a good deal of dancing, I would never call myself athletic and in my junior year of college I lacked the endurance I once had that could keep me performing in 2 hour shows without tiring.
Despite my lack of athleticism, I wanted to fight to support the Brawl and to support my uncle, who had been suffering from stage 4 skin cancer. I knew if I was going to fight, I wanted to fight someone I could trust and someone who I could match well against.
This led me to my fellow fraternity brother Boyd Wilson. Boyd, like me, was extremely skinny and based on what I knew, was lacking in athletic ability…boy was I wrong. Although I had about 5 pounds on Boyd, he was a good 5 inches taller than me, and had an arm length I did not anticipate.
After training for a month (and I use this term loosely) I felt my best shot was to knock Boyd out in the first round. Up until the fight I was unaware that Boyd was a state champion cross-country runner who had endurance for days. If I was going to win, I would need to use every ounce of the 5 pounds I had on him.
Leading into the fight, before walking out to the recently released “Harlem Shake” I realized I had to overcome my generally peaceful nature, and draw on an anger that I had never experienced in my life. Boyd and I are to this day friends and brothers, but at that moment, he was the target, he was my adversary, and I was going to give it everything I had to beat him.
Bell rings for the first round and the fighting begins. Every semblance of technique I had learned was thrown out immediately. I threw hay makers left and right, trying to land a big one on Boyd’s head. Unfortunately, Boyd’s length allowed him to keep me out of strike range, and Boyd landed punch after punch on the top of my head.
Round two begins, and I am gassed. At this point the idea of winning was out and the idea of finishing the fight was in. I had seen many fights where the ref would call the bout early and I did not want to be one of those fights. I worked in my technique, with the gloves now feeling like boulders attached to my arms. Boyd and I sparred but I kept distance, knowing another round of hay makers would lead to my demise.
By the end of the third round, I knew who was going to win the match, but knew that I had just completed something I never thought I would. I had never fought someone in my life, but on that day, at that Bulldawg Brawl, I got out of my comfort zone and put it all on the line to support what I believe is the greatest live event this country has yet to see.