Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friday Tournament: Ladies' Night

I'm told by unreliable sources that female boxers outnumber the males by two-to-one in SL. If that's the case, then they've been sorely underrepresented at Averlast tournaments, at least since I've started attending. My friend jesica has, up until last night, been standing up for the distaff side of the roster all by her lonesome. With Karine having to forsake her heavyweight contention for the time being in order to keep things running (more on that in another post), and others simply not stepping forward on tournament night for whatever reason, it's been lean times for fans of the Sisterhood of the Squared Circle.

Like I said, until last night. Miansha Beaumont and Buffy Soderstrom stepped forward to join jesica on the tournament ladder, equaling in number the males, being DeadMan Ivory, snake5608 Boa, and myself.

Miansha stepped into the ring with snake to kick off the night. It was a lively, back and forth affair, with both fighters giving and getting with vigor. It was honestly too close for me to call. I had given it to Miansha, but when it came down to points, the judges picked snake as the winner in what had to be a close decision. Everyone agreed that it could have gone either way.

jesica was next, having been paired up against DeadMan (yes, whether by chance or design, Hot had turned the lightweight tournament into the Battle of the Sexes). After the "rock 'em, sock 'em" action of the previous fight, this one represented a change in gears. Both fighters were heavily defensive, seldom getting within striking distance of each other. Where Miansha vs. snake was a brawl, jesica vs. DeadMan was a more methodical contest as each fighter tried to maneuver the other into the best position to strike. In the end, jesica came out on top, giving her her first official tournament victory. As the person who had been her trainer when she first came to Averlast, I couldn't have been prouder.

Buffy and I ended the first round of the tournament with our bout. I had met Buffy earlier in the week at the gym while she and her husband main steady, Chak, sparred over who ate the last double chocolate chip cookie. I figured they were either pulling my leg or they had a regard for snacks worthy of the Irken Empire. Well, either way, Chak was in the crowd and Buffy was in the ring, so I have a good guess as to who won that fight.

It was an impression reinforced shortly after the opening bell. Buffy has an aggressive style similar to my own, and she came at me ferociously. Couple that with an unexpected wave of lag, which made mounting any kind of defense a difficult proposition, and it was clear that I had my work cut out for me.

When she knocked me out of the ring halfway through the first round, I knew I was in trouble.

Okay, to review: Lag hindering movement. Hungry, talented newcomer bearing in on me.

This was no time for finesse, and so it turned into a brawl. Buffy and I traded blows back and forth for the next two rounds, knocking each other across the ring, and the occasional pop into the air. We both saved ourselves from KO's, and it was anyone's fight.

Then, in the third round, I repaid her for that first round KO by doing the same. I got the feeling that things were paying off, though it was still too close for me to call.

Choosing to brawl is a risky strategy, and one that doesn't always pay off. It all comes down to who can land the punches first.

So when the decision came down, I was more than a little surprised to learn that it had paid off, and that I had won by three points. That, by the way, is the point value of a single KO. So yeah: Risky, stupid strategy.

I'd like to add here that I think that Buffy is one hell of a competitor, and immediately after the decision was read I told her that she could get a rematch from me anytime. The way she fights, I may not have a choice in the matter.

So that left me with a bye to the final match, to face the winner of matchup between snake and jesica. jesica still played her defensive game, but still got some good tags and a KO on snake. snake, for his part, returned the favor, and scored a KO on jes at the final bell in what I'll term a "controversial" call. But as it's not my call to make, I'll leave it at that.

In the end, it came down to another draw. snake has a knack for these things, it seems.

This left a quandary, though. As there was only one other prospective opponent left in the tourney, the draw couldn't be handled the way it was last week, where both combatants advanced to different rounds. So, after much consideration (maybe a little too much, even), it came down to "pick a number" from Hot and snake advanced to the final.

So that was the end of jes' night, but she completed the event without a loss. Still, I'd rather have faced her, if only for the whole "student vs. teacher" angle.

So it was down to me and snake. Unfortunately, I think his slightly longer journey up the tournament ladder took its toll on him. I KOed him at least twice per round, though not enough to win the match by that means. snake never gives up, and he got in a few good shots, but I never left the ring while fighting him that night.

So that's me at 7-0 now. I had to leave before the middleweight festivities started, thanks to RL and the need for a steady paycheck, so I can't report on them here. But congratulations to Santana for another successful MW title defense.

Before I conclude, I'd like the reader to consider a little something here when going over the results: Of the three women who fought that night, the two novices gave their more experienced opponents the fights of their lives, while the more experienced one won and advanced. And they're only going to improve with time and practice.

Keep sparring, boys. ;-)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A quick step away from the ring.

One of my frequent peeves about SL is how hard it is to find a decent suit or menswear in general.

Well screw that noise.

UPDATE: Then again, maybe not. Guess I'll just have to go and see for myself this weekend.

My good deed for the day.

The link to Cale Vinson's SkirtSitter script in the SLNN story that touches on it takes me to a page full of sponsored ads being held by GoDaddy. I don't know if it's just me somehow or if it's a widespread problem, but fortunately a Russian SL fanpage has posted the script, along with instructions, to its wiki.

The usual butterflies.

Ah, there they are now, right on schedule: The usual performance-anxiety butterflies that hit me anywhere between 24 and 36 hours before the Friday tournament.

Last week, a friend IMed me as we each waited our turns in the ring: "Nervous?"

My truthful answer: "Always."

Really, who could blame anyone for a case of nerves? After all, in sparring, if you get knocked out of the practice ring and wind up kissing the row of lockers in the upstairs locker room, you might feel a little embarrassed, get some coaching when you get back within chat range, and, at worst, a little ribbing from your sparring partner if you happen to be friends (Kev Hastings and I engage in epic trash talk battles that far eclipse our efforts in the ring, and he ain't no slouch in that department, either).

But come Friday, it's your record. Not to mention the strangers in the stands expecting to see something from you, and the possibility of press and YouTube... hell, who wouldn't be nervous? It's the human condition. In my honest opinion, anybody who says they aren't nervous before a fight is either lying or seriously underestimating the other fighter.

So yeah, I understand nerves. That is, I understand right up to the point where nerves becomes the reason for not participating in the tournament at all.

I'm not here to name names, or put a gun to somebody's head and march them into the ring. If someone isn't feeling ready yet, I could write a blog post long enough to fill a Gutenberg Bible and it wouldn't make that person feel any readier. But when you get right down to it, in my opinion, Friday night at Averlast is what it's all about. This is where all of the sparring, all of the training, all of the advice and jokes and coping with lag is leading to: That time under the virtual lights and the simulated roar of the crowd, with your heart pounding in your ears and the sound of leather on flesh as you dodge and weave, putting in every ounce of your best effort.

It's been the lesson of my life that we don't regret the things we do nearly as much as the things we could have done, but didn't. And the people I've talked to after the matches, whether they were "done in one" or took it all the way to the main event more or less described the experience the same way: What a rush!

IM Hot Rockin or Karine Koba and let them know you're in, 'kay? 'Kay.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


So while I was cruising through SLNN hoping to catch Vox Mullen's article on the Friday tournament (I still live in hope), two other items caught my eye, each with a potential to add a new layer to life at the gym.

The first is the appearance of new scripts for flexi skirts. Since my primary responsibility at Averlast is to design new boxing gear, anything that makes clothing drape more naturally on an av is of interest to me. I can already think of a few applications, provided that experimentation turns out like I'd hope.

The second is BioLabs' projected rollout of natural bodily functions and reactions for avs. Boxing, I'm sure I don't need to tell you, is often a bloody sport. BioLabs is working on a system that would allow avs to, among other things, react realistically to injuries, including bleeding. Of course it remains to be seen if the system would respond to a bullet in a different manner than it would to, say, a punch to the nose, not to mention possibly being additional fuel for lag, but the potential is certainly intriguing.


Yesterday I documented my part in the Friday tournament. This time out I'd like to focus on one particular incident that stuck out in my mind. It was a minor one, and the party involved may have just been kidding. But still, it makes one think.

After the match between Rickyy Smit and snake5608 Boa was fought to a draw, the two fighters, now out of the ring, exchanged congratulations for a fight well fought. Not at all an unusual sight for anyone who's spent time in the Averlast gym during sparring throughout the week.

But then an audience member reacted. It was something along the lines of: "What's all this 'good fight' stuff? We wanna see blood!"

Again, verbal irony being notoriously tough to convey online, he might have been joking.

Then again, he might not.

We seem to have developed in America a sports culture that not only demands victory for the winners, but for the losers to be not only defeated, but demeaned, humiliated, and probably assaulted.

You see it everywhere (ask anyone who dares wear a Giants jersey to an Eagles home game), and in boxing it manifests itself in pre-fight interviews that nearly degenerate into slugfests. Incidents like this, of course, guarantee heavy rotation of the clips on ESPN and the local news, thus generating more publicity for the fight. This gives promoters very little incentive to discourage these childish displays, beyond protecting their investments by making sure that the fighters don't actually break each others' jaws while the gloves are still off.

And so, one highly publicized incident at a time, we become conditioned to the idea that this is the norm.

Thus a display of actual (gasp!) sportsmanship elicits a reponse akin to disbelief.

Of course, Averlast has a different culture than professional boxing (in addition to, of course, not being real). Fighters aren't surrounded by entourages devoted only to them, with private sparring partners and managers and press agents and whatnot. We have no way to hone our skills except with each other. Anybody carrying on like Mike Tyson at a bachelor party will soon find themselves persona non grata.

Take, for instance, my relationship with Alma Despres, my division's champion. I make no bones about it: I want her title. Anybody competing in my division, or any division, would say the same about the championship.

But I would have to be a complete jerk to let that be the sole definition of our relationship. We sparred yesterday, for instance. Any fight manager in the world seeing his fighter go up against a likely opponent just for practice would choke on his own bile at the sight, but this is the norm at Averlast. In the process, we talk about different things: Food. Pets. Some politics, even (we both share a loathing of President Bush, but of the two of us I'm the only one to has to share a country with him as well).

If my only thoughts were of the title, I would have missed out on a chance to get to know an interesting and compassionate human being.

Of course, there was trash talk, too. But it was a privelige of friendship, rather than a product of malice.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great Scott! I've been YouTubed!

Well, this is my surprise of the day. SL videographer Rom Ireton secretly filmed my match with Shaun Arliss from the September 14th tournament. Interesting.

Friday Tournament: Be Careful What You Wish For

Well, I said in my last post that I wanted no easy wins, and it's true. But daaaamn, it was a close one this week!

Actually, there were a couple of things unusual about this last tournament, and I don't mean the big preliminary "battle royal" style warm up. No, the real action started once the lightweight tournament got underway... and the first fight, between newcomers Rickyy Smit and snake5608 Boa, went to a draw. The first one at an Averlast tournament. So both men advanced in the tournament, also inadvertently making it a two-tier event.

jesica took on Rickyy in the next bout and acquitted herself well. Rickyy was on that night, though, and probably warmed up from his match with snake5608, so the match went to him on points. But jesica still did leaps and bounds better than her last outing the week before, only getting knocked out of the ring once in the entire fight and coming back very strong in the third round in particular. I honestly think that if it had gone for one more round that she would have taken the whole thing.

Now for the aforementioned "close ones", when I stepped into the ring: The first was against DeadMan Ivory, another newcomer who had picked up on things a lot faster than I had expected. After a couple of unplanned tours into the cheap seats, my thoughts were mainly on the lines of: "I'm in trouble." And I was. Every time I'd knocked DeadMan back, he'd return the favor. Every knock out of the ring I'd deliver, he'd repay in kind. It was just a total hammer-and-tongs affair that I was certain I had lost. I even IMed jesica from the ring to give her my honest assessment: "I'm doomed."

So when the final decision was read, I nearly fell out of my chair: Abel Undercity, by a score of 29-30.


My next bout was a rematch with Dewran Wopat. If you've read my entry on last week's tournament, you'll know about the technical issues that plagued Dewran during our last fight. But he was doing well this time, having eliminated both Rickyy and snake5608 from the competition, in that order.

So, once again, it was down to us. And both of us wanted it done right, to finally see who was the better man in the ring.

This, of course, is when the lag hit us like a runaway truck. Frustrating though it was, it seemed to be inhibiting us equally, and we went at it mano a mano. This time, thank Whatever, nobody crashed.

By that point, though, crashing was the last thing on my mind. Dewran was also giving as good as he'd gotten, and it seemed that where I'd had a lucky escape with DeadMan, the more experienced Dewran wasn't about to let me get off again.

But then I wasn't there to pick daisies, either. Dewran and I rocked each other pretty well in another tit-for-tat contest.

We were a little better at staying clear of each other's punches though, and the affair came to an end with a 14-15 score, advantage me. Cue me falling off of my chair again.

So that puts my record at 5-0 so far, but something that will stay with me as I prepare for this week's festivities is the knowledge that I came very close to losing that perfect record on Friday, by the thinnest of razor edges. Hopefully it'll keep me from getting a big head about all of this, and help me knuckle down for the coming Friday.

Oh, we had another draw that night, too. In the middleweight division Derrick Cult and Len Greenwood fought to a standstill. Unfortunately since the winner of that match would have gone straight for the MW title, there was no title bout that evening, and a rematch has been scheduled for next time.

Two draws, narrow margins of victory, and a four-hour event all together. What a night.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making life more difficult for myself (and having fun doing it)

One of the great things about being involved with Averlast is the seemingly constant influx of new people eager to try out boxing in Second Life. And I'm not just saying that because I get a percentage on the sales of the trunks.

Take, for instance, a friend of mine named jesica Cuttita, whom I referred to in my post about my first tournament. While she's also outgoing, friendly, and generally a good egg, jesica is probably the most flat-out competitive person I've ever met in my life. She picked up on the methods of boxing in SL fairly quickly, but her technique needed work. Especially her footwork. She moved in these long straight lines that made it easy for an opponent to track her movements and get behind her ( big, red flag, disaster-imminent mistake). It led to her being eliminated in the first match of Friday's tournament, but her obvious spirit had put the crowd on her side regardless.

Well, that was then. Today she and I met in the gym for a little sparring, and I stepped into the ring with a changed woman. On reflection, I think the tournament gave her that extra little kick in the hindquarters she needed to motivate herself to put it all together. She was moving in short, precise movements, moving in then backing off like you should in order to keep your opponent off balance, and angling off to keep me from centering on her to land the KO punch.

I had trained her before, and all of that work was finally starting to pay off. As a bonus, I threw in a lesson on a good way to set up your opponent for the KO ("Why didn't you tell me that before the tournament?" she asked).

Her technique has suddenly evolved with amazing speed. And now that I've given her a secret weapon, I think I may have made things more difficult for myself, should I make it in on Friday (I mean to make every effort, but sometimes efforts fall short, y'know?) and find myself staring across at her in the opposite corner. But I still can't help but feel a degree of pride at her evolution.

And besides, why would I want an easy match? Sure things are for losers.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A-Googlin' we will go.

Google the words "Averlast gym" and, as of this writing, my entry on my first tournament comes in second in the search results, after the SLNN introduction to the place.


UPDATE: Alas, no more. Fickle, fickle Google, you have forsaken me.


My job schedule is such that I alternate weekly between three-day weekends and having Sundays off only. This weekend was one of the latter. So today, I'm feeling like I usually do after only one day off work: Cranky, slightly queasy (thanks to the necessity of drinking a full pot of coffee this morning over breakfast), and feeling like I didn't get enough sleep. Which I probably didn't.

The part of me that still believes in karma is suggesting that this is really some sort of balancing for having a really good day of sparring at Averlast. This may or may not be the case. But when one of your opponents (who shall remain nameless here, out of courtesy) starts accusing you of affecting his performance simply by being in the same room, some karmic backlash should perhaps be expected to be heading your way.

Well, anonymous friend, the Universe has avenged you. Right now I can barely muster the mental wherewithal to write three lousy paragraphs. Blarg.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My first Averlast tournament.

I've been with Karine Koba's Averlast Gym for a few weeks now, helping out here and there, helping to make gear and equipment to Karine's specifications. When I first got offered the job of making the Averlast clothing line, I only saw the challenge of doing work for a client for a change. Up until then, anything I made was just to satisfy a whim, a sort of "wouldn't it be cool if they sold..." fill in the blank.

In all honesty, I did not expect to be drawn in to the actual workings of the gym itself, much less become a boxer. When I bought a pair of Karine's gloves and squared off with her in the ring on a lark, I quickly got my first taste of the rafters. The gloves are push gloves, designed to knock an avatar up and away if the av gets hit just right. I am certain that if I took a good look at the ceiling of the old Averlast site (now the main store), I'm certain you'd find an Abel-shaped dent or two as a result of my first in-ring misadventure.

But before long I had amassed a large amount of boxing gear that I had designed, and looking the part was easy. Plus the fact that the Averlast regulars like Hot Rockin, Santana Coppola, and others helped keep the atmosphere of the place relaxed and sportsmanlike. With that environment, it was easy to laugh off further forays into low Earth orbit.

But I never could make it to the tournaments. My work situation in real life is such that I could not always get a ride home to make it in time on a Friday night.

Well, yesterday I finally managed. So there I was, after weeks of growing frustration at missing the gym's big weekly event, at last getting ready for my first public match, in the tournament for the lightweight division.

Prep, part one: I hadn't expected to have gotten there in time, so I was in my regular outfit of t-shirt, pants and biker boots. Upon finding out that I was not, in fact, too late, I quickly ducked into the changing area, and changed into a pair of trunks I had made for Karine's vendor: Yellow with black trim, thinking of Philly's fictional hometown hero, Rocky Balboa (and forgetting, in my nervousness, that Rocky's trunks had actually been black with yellow trim; well, my heart was in the right place anyway). For better or worse, the fightin' city of Philadelphia was represented.

Bout One: Listen to the song Also Sprach Zarathustra. After the first big fanfare of trumpets comes a few measures on the timpani drum: Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom. My heart. Sparring doesn't prepare you for some things. It doesn't prepare you for the knowledge of hungry eyes watching you, eager for action and ready to judge harshly if you don't deliver. It doesn't prepare you for the thought that this time, it counts, and will be marked down for as long as any who care to remember whether you stand or fall.

And it sure as hell doesn't prepare you for the hellacious lag that accompanies any large group of people assembled in one sim. What a nightmare. It was like watching a movie where two out of every three cels of film had been removed. The only thing that saved me was probably the fact that my opponent (apologies for not naming all names here; I write this on a computer that is not my SL machine, and I have no way to reference names that momentarily escape me Kev Hastings) was suffering through the same thing (UPDATE: He has confirmed this). I can only imagine what we looked like lurching about the ring trying to find each other.

But we were both game. In the end, I won by decision, by one point.

Prep, part two: Obviously this thing with the lag would not do. So between bouts I dove into my Preferences screen and summoned up every lag-reducing trick I could think of: Shiny off. Sun and Moon as light sources only (I half expected the whole place to go dark on me, but this didn't happen). Particles off. Every detail slider down to dead minimum. If it promised performance in trade for blockiness, I zeroed the damn thing out.

Thus, now in a world belonging to a previous generation of 3D, I found myself able to move again.

Bout two: My opponent this time (dammit, Shaun Arliss something; I'll fix this when I get back to my computer, 'cause this is unacceptable) had his own cheering section. Good for him, especially since they were more focused on cheering on their guy instead of laying abuse on his opponent (thanks for being on my side, jesica). The butterflies were gone by now, and I think I was moving with more confidence and focus. Shaun (or Jae, as he seemed to prefer) and I went at each other pretty good for the first two rounds, and I think it was my best match of the night. In the third round I think I had his number, and sent him flying out of the ring at least twice. That left me 2-0 so far.

There was one weird moment where he had just gotten back into the ring, and we were standing there for a moment when the TKO bell was accidentally rung. This led to some confusion, with us, just standing awkwardly in the ring looking at each other, wondering if that was the fight or what. Like I said: Weird.

Bout Three: Versus Dewran Wopat (his name I remember off the top of my head because I had a talk with him this morning, and he's a decent guy). Honestly, the biggest disappointment of the night, but not because of anything Dewran did or didn't do. I had been looking forward to fighting him because he was more experienced than my two prior matches. The first round showed real promise, but at the bell his client crashed. One of those "long walk" crashes that had him out of the ring and wedged up against the wall of the gym. So we waited for him to get back on, which, fortunately, wasn't long. He stuck with it, even though he was clearly having trouble. He lost, but really it was more due to SL going haywire than anything I did. An honest opponent deserves better than that, and I'll gladly give him a rematch when he wants one.

So that was my 3-0 record established. After the lightweight tournament was over, I had a chat in IM with the division's champion, Alma Despres. During the course of our talk, I felt that, while I'd won, and it felt good, I hadn't yet proven myself. One night doesn't mean a title shot.

But there's always next week.

Hi there!

Good day and welcome to my Second Life blog. My SL name is Abel Undercity. I live in the Greater Philadelphia area and have been in Second Life for over a year now. In that time, I've been a droid, a bartender, a beach bum, a merchant, a superhero, an amateur graphic designer, a boxer, and a slobbering fanboy (the one point at which my Second Life and my First Life intersect).

Well, that's introductions out of the way. Time to blog.