My Shot at MANnyhood—My London Boxing Experience

I grew up in the Philippines,growing up there was challenging, you see, my culture was in love with two things: beauty pageants and.. boxing.And at an early age, I knew that if I wanted  people to celebrate me, I either have to be spectacularly beautiful or brutal and unafraid to bleed.For me to be spectacularly beautiful, I had to be tall, I wasn’t…So, I had to go with the other option.

So yes, I conditioned my mind to be brave and unafraid of bleeding, so conditioned that I became a nurse—in the operating theatre.(Yes)I’ve always love boxing ,I suppose, cos I grew up in a house where boxing was always on tv.I watched boxing matches on tv with my father and I’ve seen amateur boxing matches in plazas and town squares as a child.And yes,when Manny Pacquiao broke the boxing scene,my country decided to breathe and eat boxing.I remember going on Romantic dates to watch Pacquiao fight on a big screen and I remember dreaming that one day, I’d be a boxing wife sitting on the front row with a designer handbag and a poker face.Then, I saw Manny Pacquiao’s swollen bruised face smiling,after winning a unanimous decision and I realised that more than the designer hand bag, thats the kind of happiness I wanted.

Industry boxing and Against Breast Cancer (in memory of my mother) gave me a shot to earn that kind of happiness.On the 12th of April,I did my first boxing match for charity  in London,and because it was a charity match,a five foot something sub 50 kilogram petite little asian girl like me was allowed to box…in an actual boxing ring… in south London.I was obviously the smaller girl.(I am miniature, who am I kidding? )I’m not even sure I’m legally qualified for a boxing weight class.I also lost weight while training adding to the fact that not a lot of girls are my size and if there were,not a lot wanted  to box,but then again, it was a charity match. Besides,I desperately wanted to box, so desperate that I trained harder than some girls in the program.For 10 weeks, I trained as hard as my body could still allow me to do my shifts at the operating theatres.And these weeks I began a routine, in the daytime,I worked at the hospital helping surgeons fix people and in the evenings I trained with the coach and the girls,so I can learn to break some or learn to avoid being broken… my life has never been in COMPLETE balance.

The training was not easy, I kind of expected that, after all, I have spent years watching documentaries about Pacquiao’s training.The real test began with the sparring exercises, the once really large group of girls began to narrow down and I knew that I had to keep going, all the girls who have endured with me will forever have my respect.

I have learned that boxing isn’t just a sport, its a performance, so outfit,walk out music, promotional photos, everything had to be thought of.I decided to wear a blue boxing shorts (because I was in the blue corner) with a band bearing my actual nickname.The shorts was patterned after a Manny Pacquiao shorts and a subtle homage to the Philippine flag.I decided to walk out to the song “bebot” by the black eyed peas. Bebot translates to chick or babe in Filipino and I suppose the reason behind the choice is self explanatory.And yes ,I may or may not have rehearsed a walk out dance routine that would make Fergie jealous,but on the actual night, my legs felt like jelly and my whole body stiffened when I heard them call out my name.  I managed to shake my torso while walking out, but really it was just me shaking the nerves off and fighting the extreme urge to walk backwards.

It was an amazing experience,every girl who fought that night would say that, but it wasn’t just that, boxing in real life let me recall lessons I’ve already learned in the past.Lessons about love for example.You see when I fought, I thought I could win the first round because the sly skinny little Filipino girl who once roamed the streets of Manila took out all of her aggression when she realised the other girl was going for her  and just like in love, when you pour out all of you into a match—–you run out. You run out of energy, of tears, of forgiveness, of love, of fucks to give,and yes that happened to me.It’s as if I’ve NEVER learned.

Boxing is an art form,its like a dance,in boxing, you have to go with the flow you have to push and pull, give and take into a rhythm that another person is demonstrating to you, and love, I’ve learned is the same form of exercise.That’s also bullshit, because who am I kidding?I do not remember the second round. I just know the whole room was spinning and my target was moving around so I was aiming for her but I don’t know where my arms are and as I come for her,I feel a punch land my jaw, my nose,it was just like her arms( which were long by the way) were everywhere,I was there thinking,how many arms does she have? I have to duck, keep my head down so my right arm was just punching blindly, I discovered something strange about myself———–my right arm had a mind of its own.

Boxing can hurt you, it can bruise you, make you bleed, paralyse you, sometimes even kill you and oh so does love.I suppose that’s why you have to keep your guard up at all times because some damages could hurt and sometimes, the towel has to be thrown in, because some damages could  be irreversible,but why box?Why do a sport where you’re constantly trying to stop someone from breaking your nose while trying to break theirs?The answer is.. because it gives you a kind of high that validates your existence as a person. I suppose also because of the thought that we could end up winning and if we end up bruised again, we are stronger and quicker and better and maybe  just maybe,if we never ever find that equal match, we have at least made something better out of ourselves. Just like in love.. but I wasn’t thinking about love at the end of round two.In fact, I wasn’t thinking,AT ALL. I didn’t even know which country I am in.

Like any other high of course, you soar with it  and then you come down with a thud.It happened to me when my coach,the amazing Jon, came running for me to take my head guard and mouth guard off ,the lights came on and for the first time in the last 10 minutes or so, I realised that we were not alone. It’s like a scene in those boxing movies I watched as a child.I finally heard Clapham grand roaring and the spinning started to slow down,the men in the ring were coming to me, some giving me hugs or squeezes, the referee whispered something to me, my coach said something to me, the other coach did too and I was just nodding at everything.I’ll tell you a secret, I DID NOT… understand a single word.The winner was announced and obviously,it wasn’t me so I gave her a hug, Lauran was amazing,she was good,and I flashed a big smile to the audience,and I did my little subtle bow—I was smiling not because I was ok but this point,I had about 10 percent comprehension of what was going on. Everything I knew about Manny Pacquiao changed. It didn’t matter if he spoke in broken English early in his career on the after fight interviews, to be able to speak a word in a second language after having your head bashed a number of times is… a superpower.At this point, I also realised I didn’t have any eye make up and the audience was staring at my bare face, suddenly all the pain and the tiredness and the breathlessness stopped to matter.I DIDN’T have eye make up, that was worse than a medical emergency.I had to hide.

I heard my name,and I realised my friends were in the audience, fuck eye make up, fuck my bruised nose,who cares if I lost?I gave it shot, that was all the mattered.         I walked out the ring smiling, not only because I still cannot speak a word of English but also because I have felt loved by my friends, who eye make or not, was screaming my name like there’s no tomorrow.I have become proud of myself because I also remembered that exactly a year ago at this point, I broke a portion of my pelvis, one year post surgery there I was, and yes, just being able to stand in that ring was my secret  silent success.I’ll probably never get a heroes welcome like Manny Pacquiao always does, but my friends’ support for me was more than enough.I had a shot at the Manny happiness, to me, I came close.  Coach Jon Durrant, Coach Dave and Amy,Robbie and the amazing people at industry boxing did a wonderful job, I’m not sure they also  knew  that they made a little girl’s dream come true. For a little over five feet, sub 50 kg slim Filipino girl,this felt just like winning a beauty pageant.I could feel a crown replace my head gear.I felt spectacularly beautiful—–only on the INSIDE because, well…I had a bruised nose for two days—-BUT beauty is Pain and Pain is beauty.In my world at least.




Against Breast Cancer


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