This was the scariest, most FANTASTIC thing I've ever done in my life !! Please, let me explain...
As a kid, fighting was something I avoided at all cost. Growing up with three older brothers, my non-confrontational approach far too often found me at the mercy of their inability to express their displeasure verbally. (In other words, they kicked my ass...) On the bright side, their aggression spawned my ability to talk my way out of situations which I quickly found could also be used to talk myself into situations! (like with the ladies). But you know how that goes. Popular with the ladies tends to make you a target for their gentleman. Bringing me right back around, full circle. I pretty much spent my school years chasing girls and running from guys....being in awe of those tough guys, but being scared to death if they turned their focus on me. Because it sucked getting beat by people who "cared about you", but mainly I didn't want to find out what it like by those who didn't !! Luckily, I made it through unscathed but what remained was the wonder if I was really just a "pussy"?
Fast forward many moons....
I was now a father and responsible for the "safety and well-being" of my family. This is a lot of pressure for a man! And as my kids got bigger, so did those who were influencing them and the sheer potential for disaster. I was going to have to get rid of this nagging feeling I have been carrying since I was a kid. So, I decided to re-visit my childhood interest of martial arts. I had taken karate off and on for a number of years believing it would provide me that confidence, but it fell miserably short in the "real combat" department and was more a glorified gym class. I needed way more, and I missed my chance at joining law enforcement so shooting people was out. But just then, I stumbled upon a little style called Krav Maga. WTF!!!
Krav was at the absolute opposite end of the martial arts spectrum from the Tae Kwon Do I learned as a kid (Is this even still taught?...haha). What once was the "Chon-Ji" form in Tae Kwon Do (which looked real pretty but didn't do shit) was now replaced with multiple Krav moves (meant specifically to incapacitate or MAIM your opponent). PERFECT !! This is exactly what I was looking for... sign me up!!
One more leap in time and we are in the year 2009...
I am training and learning and can already feel the difference in my confidence. I felt like I finally wasn't just "All talk". But even with that, I still knew it was in a controlled environment and all of my opponents were people I knew and shared a respect level with. So, I felt great, but not cured.
Enter the LAW OF ATTRACTION ... I will get into how this universal law works in other posts, but for the purpose of this one let me just explain it this way: You will attract what you want most in your life. Consciously or subconsciously. And with that came an offer for me to participate in a live boxing match... Yup, you heard it right. A live boxing match. Against a real opponent !! In a real ring!! In front of REAL PEOPLE !!! and, oh yeah, in only 90 days ...sure, why not?!!
It was all coming together rather well for being such a last minute decision. But in my typical style, I reverted to focusing more on the promotional side of the event, Flyers, tickets, t-shirts... the whole nine yards. This helped me get my mind off what I was actually about to do... Until my Krav instructed suggested I should train in Boxing Specific because THAT's what I was actually about to do... So, with that I went and found the best boxing instructors in the tri-county (Cliff Johnson "Leff Jab Gym" and Golden Gloves boxer Richie Pieri) and informed them of my situation with 30 days left till the fight.
"Get in the ring and let's see what you got, kid."
Now, Im not sure if you know this, but, even if you are an incredible MMA fighter, DOES NOT mean you can BOX!! Boxing is entirely different fighting scenario!! ENTIRELY!! Which basically meant I was really starting back from ZERO... but at this point I was fully committed with sponsors and t-shirts and all. There was no turning back.
FIGHT DAY !!
With Richie Pieri (Dulaio Twins) & Gervace (from Survivor),
what did I have to be nervous about?!!
I've never been in a real fight!! or boxed !!
And in front of an AUDIENCE, including my SON !!
It was only a "promotional event", but for me it was
life and death.
Three rounds, three minutes each. Here we go.
DING !! Round 1: We come out, size each other up, circle for a bit, then go in for the kill.
"You can know all you want about fighting, till you get punched in the face. Then it all goes out the window!" - Tony Kates
I think I stopped breathing after the first thirty seconds, but aside from that it seemed to be going well. I remember that being the longest three minutes of my life and wondering if someone accidentally make my gloves weigh 20 pounds each?! DING ! I survived, but what the hell was I thinking and how the hell was I gonna talk my way out this one now?!! My entire body was numb from the lack of oxygen and if I could have felt my legs, I might had chosen to run...
DING ! Round 2: By now I was deciding, which of passing out or puking would be more embarrassing. About half way into the second round I couldn't tell you my own name. I was hanging on for dear life. Then it hit me....
I think I started to black out, and in that moment my mind went into slow motion... It began replaying all of the events in my life that led to this point. I could hear the voices, the screams, and I can see me backing down all the time... and faintly like a saviour, ... DING ... I survived round two and retreated to my corner .
While Richie was icing me down "screaming motivation" at my face, still delusional, I glanced over all of the people in the seats. And as I looked out, and all this stuff was still swirling through my head, I connected with them. I could see that they all were dealing with their own fears too. Fears inside of them that were controlling and effecting their lives. And I understood why I was there. I wasn't there only for me, I was there for them too. By me doing this, fighting in this ring, I was showing them that it's possible to conquer your fears. I wanted to show them it was possible.
They could see it in my face. I was finished... I was scared, unprepared, exhausted, and just totally out of my element. But I showed up. So win or lose didn't matter. What mattered was that I did it!!
But now that I had come this far, I had my second demon to conquer, and this time I wasn't backing down either. For me, it wasn't enough to just finish.
DING ! The bell called to me one last time.... Round 3: It was go time.
Que: Rocky theme music
I dug my heals into the canvas and gave it everything I had. Every punch had someone else's name on it; a different story, a different meaning. Some were mine, some were other people's, but they were all victories!!
"Tony Kates with a SERIOUS look on his face..."
At this point, it was a good thing the rounds were only three minutes long...
and guess what ?! ..8 ..9 ..10 !! DING DING !!
I kicked his ass!!
Touchdown Tony Kates - TKO !!
THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE !!
So much more was won that day than just a boxing match. It was retribution for all the years and all the times I was too afraid to stand up for myself. It was like I went back to all of those situations and corrected every one and showed each person sitting in those seats that they could go do the same.
I still participate in boxing training now along with my MMA training because I see the importance in both... Though now, I am on to conquering more fears...
like telling you this story...