The lessons I learned from getting punched in the face

Fight Night 2013

Every November at the University of Texas, the brothers of the IFC fraternities join forces to raise money in the name of philanthropy.

Most fraternities opt to raise money through traditional fundraisers, e.g. concerts, barbecues, crawfish boils. The Sigma Chi’s, however, have perhaps the most unique and entertaining philanthropy of them all: the famous Fight Night.

Every year, brothers of competing fraternities (as well as brave GDIs and members of the ROTC) step into the ring—usually for the first time—and throw leather.

The fights are each three, one-minute rounds. The fighters range wildly in size, skill, and reasons for participating.

Some guys do it for charity. Some do it for fraternal pride. Some do it for the smokeshows who are cheering wildly on the sidelines. Hell, some even did it for the free entry into the Trinidad James concert afterward.

For whatever reason, this year, I decided to fight. These are:

The 7 lessons I took away from Fight Night ‘13

Me (left) and my opponent Brian Aninzo of Acacia & Azteca Pride Boxing Gym. ©Marc Goodwin/fratography.com

The fight is won long before you step into the ring

This one is huge. I’d say that about 50% of the fighters trained between absolutely nothing and 1 month at a boxing gym. Unless you’re just some sort of boxing wunderkind—which I highly doubt you are—this means you will be out of your element in the ring. Even if you are an athlete, or even a competitive martial artist, I guarantee your boxing fitness will suck. A lot.

And don’t think that just because the fight is three minutes long that it will be over quickly. Not even close, buddy—those seconds will crawl by. Your shoulders are going to burn, and your legs are going to ache. For the first time in your life, you will somehow forget how to breathe. Oh, and don’t forget that there are punches also being thrown at you! Look up what a tomato can is in boxing. Don’t become that.

Make sure you go to the gym and get in shape—I promise you, you aren’t in good fighting shape—not yet, at least.

Once that bell sounds, there is no hiding. It will become clear very quickly to every member of that audience how you used your time leading up to the fight. In this moment, all of those miles, tire pulls, and hours in the (boxing) gym will serve you well.

Endurance will be the key to 95% of these fights

Power comes from speed

Anybody who has ever fought before should know that power is generated from the hips. This is Martial Arts 101. If you’ve ever had an instructor worth a damn, you should know this; if not, now you know.

Something I had never really been taught in martial arts, though, is the importance of relaxing your muscles when punching. Have you seen the Olympic sprinters while they run the 100 meters? Their facial muscles seem to jiggle up and down like Jell-O, right? Same logic applies here.

When throwing straight punches, in order to maximize speed—and therefore power—you should only clench your fists the moment before impact.

A powerful counterpunch by Bulat Bazarbayev of Lord’s Boxing Gym against Sean Slater of Sigma Alpha Mu. ©Charlie Pearce

It should almost feel like you’re trying to slap-touch your opponent, but then at the last second you make a fist. Try it out! It will increase your punching power immensely. If you manage to combine this with good hip rotation, and extension, you could get some explosive punching power.

Practice this until it becomes second nature.

Keep your gloves up at all times


Parker Monteith of Sigma Chi & Richard Lord’s Boxing Gym keeping his hands up against Bernardo de Alba of Texas Cowboys. ©Charlie Pearce

This seems obvious, but it needs to be heavily emphasized. You are going to get punched. A lot. It is going to hurt sometimes. Taking a solid shot to certain areas (e.g. the nose, the solar plexus, the chin, the liver) will make you seriously re-consider your decision to step into the ring.

However, I’m a firm believer in the old the old adage that basically says: “If nothing else will teach you to keep your gloves up, getting punched in the face repeatedly will.” It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Keep ‘em up—you’ll be glad you did.

Always keep them up. A common mistake made by first-time boxers is to put their non-punching glove at their sides as they throw a punch. This is an awful mistake, because you will leave yourself wide open. And you will get blindsided.

Whenever you are in a fight, make a habit of putting your non-punching hand up to your cheek when you throw a punch. Condition yourself to feel leather while you throw leather. Never allow your hands to drop.

Getting punched hurts…but not that much

The first guy to really punch me in the face was a thirty-seven-year-old man with a shaved head and sleeve tattoos on both arms. At the time, he was also about fifteen pounds heavier than me—putting him at least one weight class above me.He didn’t seem to care that it was my first time getting in the ring. For the entirety of the first round—a grueling three minutes—this guy beat me like I owed him money. Occasionally, the makeshift referee had to stop my charming training partner to tell him to “cool the f—k off.”This, however, only seemed to inspire his rage further. He pushed me into a corner, where the rain of punches seemed endless.

Even worse, the headgear that I had borrowed from the gym bin felt alien to me—it somehow felt loose on my forehead but also very tight on my throat. With every punch I took to the temples, my headgear would inch over across my face. After several blows, I was blinded in my left eye by the headgear. After a few seconds, I just closed my eyes, held up my arms, and took it. Occasionally I would lash out and throw a wild punch, but it would never do much. Eventually, to my great relief, the bell sounded to end the round.

The round felt like it had lasted forever, but you know what? I survived. Not only that, but the adrenaline pumping through my veins made me feel like Superman. Even though I had gotten beaten up for three minutes straight, I was coasting on a physical high. Funny how that works.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself grinning ear to ear after a thorough pounding in the ring. You have reason to be happy—adrenaline, for one; but also because you are finding out what you’re made of.


Andrew Kuchta of Sigma Chi & Lord’s Boxing Gym smiling after a hard-fought win. ©Charlie Pearce

The first time getting in that ring will be equal halves exciting and terrifying. Often you’ll get paired against a much more experienced sparring partner, who may or may not take it easy on you. Either way, it is guaranteed to be a learning experience for the first-timer.

It takes a certain courage—and foolishness—to step into that ring for the first time. And even more to step in a second. Anyone willing to step into that ring immediately has my respect.

10oz gloves are not the same as 16oz gloves

This was almost never mentioned leading up to the fight. Whenever you spar in the gym, you use 16 oz. boxing gloves. These heavier, more padded gloves are used to not only protect your hands, but also your training partners.

For whatever reason, I expected these to be the weight of the gloves we would use for the fight.

Wrong. In competition, amateur boxers—at least at my weight class—use 10 oz. gloves. I figured that since they’re lighter they would be better. Well, it turned out that the gloves are not so much better as much as they were just different. I didn’t realize until about ten seconds before entering the ring that they didn’t really protect my face as well as the other, larger ones.

Also, the speed of your punches is different. Faster, but not even necessarily in a good way. I had trouble finding my timing with these new gloves, and it took me two rounds to really get used to them. I recommend trying out some 10 oz. gloves at least once beforehand—but do it on a bag. Don’t hurt your training partners.


When you step in the ring, your senses are flooded. You don’t know where to look, what to hear, where to move: it’s a nightmare. And breathing, one of the most important things not just in boxing but in ANYTHING, is always a struggle for new boxers. I was taught to count my punches when I throw them—it helps to regulate your exhaling with the moment you make contact.

Eddie Brown of Lord’s Boxing Gym breathing (and holding hands up) like a champ. ©Charlie Pearce

In practice, it’s the simplest thing in the world. In the ring, however, it becomes one of many difficult things to remember. Between moving your feet, shifting your weight just-so, clenching and un-clenching your fists, moving your head, and so on…remembering to breathe can be hard. Just practice, practice, practice until you find yourself exhaling sharply with each punch.

Where will you go from here?

This was something that never really crossed my mind until after Fight Night.

I trained at Lord’s boxing gym for about four months leading up to my fight on November 1st. I trained hard, and earned a reputation in the gym as a hard worker who would show up regularly, run with the fighters, and get in the ring and fight whenever asked. I always expected my boxing career to end with Fight Night on November 1st.

And to an extent, I suppose it did. I broke my nose during the last 15 seconds of my fight, and had to take a month off from all sports to recover.

Two days after the fight. Still in good spirits.

Even worse than the broken nose, I lost my fight via tough decision. Although I give credit to my opponent, Brian Aninzo—he fought hard, and was in better shape during the third round when it mattered.

Since that fight, and since my recovery, I have only had a brief encounter with boxing, and with Richard Lord’s gym. A week ago, I saw Richard Lord as well as some of my training buddies at the Austin Golden Gloves competition—where they had four champions, and won the team trophy. I was immensely proud of my teammates, and I was at a loss when Richard asked me where I had disappeared to.

Who knows? Maybe a record of 0-1 isn’t the way to end a promising boxing career.


Immediately after my fight. Sometimes the decision doesn’t go your way. But it’s always important to be a respectful sportsman. ©Charlie Pearce

Thank you to everybody who helped make Fight Night 2013 such a success! Special thanks to Landon Mosley, Paul Wagner and the brothers of Sigma Chi for organizing the event. Extra special thanks to Richard Lord, and everybody at Lord’s Boxing Gym for everything they did for me and for the fighters of Fight Night. If you ever find yourself in Austin and you are looking for somewhere to box, look no further than the gym on North Lamar. They are the best.

And thank you to the members of the IFC and the University of Texas. We couldn’t have done any of this without your support.

With the proceeds from the event, over $40,000 were donated to charity benefitting The Huntsman Cancer InstitutePartnership for a Cure, Woolridge Elementary School, and The B+ Foundation.

Title Photo Credit: Flickr