So Friday was the object of every bit of stress in my life for the past two weeks: The video card burning out, thus exiling me from SL for the time being, ordering its replacement through my favorite online vendor (forget buying one in a store, prices being what they are), the waiting, and the struggle to get it properly configured to my system once it got here. Normally I'm good with hardware, but this thing was beating me 'round the barn and back again for a good three hours.
All told, that left me, oh, a day and a half to get back in the swing of things (so to speak) before the fight. Not the rosiest of scenarios.
And given my penchant for getting the screaming heebie-jeebies (yes, that's a technical term) on fight night, it really made what happened that evening even more extraordinary. I found myself being calmed and talked down from my case of jangled nerves by the unlikeliest of people, if one tends to view what goes on at Averlast through the lens of conventional competition: My opponent in the main event, Alma Despres.
As I've blogged elsewhere, Alma and I have talked before, and I find her to be an interesting and likeable person. And that night, while waiting our turn, we just talked and talked.
Now, if there's one thing that I've been told about my approach to fighting at Averlast, it's that I take it too seriously. Hence the knotted-up stomach and pounding heart at 4 PM SLT on a given Friday. I was also told that it was a trait I shared with Alma, but she was in a good place that night. Calm and collected. The more we talked, the more she passed the feeling on to me.
We weren't silly. We didn't talk trash. When we talked about the match or its possible aftermath we didn't say "when I win", but rather "if I win", and even "if I lose".
And, most importantly of all, we promised each other two things: That when the bell rang, we would give each other our best, and that when it was over, whatever happened would stay in the ring.
Oddly, the prospect of beating the snot out of each other made us better friends.
When the announcements were made, a final calm seemed to wash over the both of us, a sense of inevitability. And when the bell sounded at last, we went to war like lifelong enemies.
I had to do my best against her. It would have been an insult not to. She responded in kind, and we even managed to knock each other out of the ring at the same time.
In the second round, I had accumulated the eight ring-outs required to score a win by KO. I think I was as surprised as anyone that I had done it. I was the new Averlast Lightweight Champion. The final bell rang, the announcement was made, and I put on the belt.
And then Alma and I went back to talking. We had kept our word, and left it in the ring.
I like Alma. More importantly, I respect her, both as an opponent and as a friend.
She's hit a bad patch of losses of late thanks to an inconvenient layoff from the ring, but I know now that she's made of sterner stuff. With time and practice, I know someday I'll be facing my friend again, and we'll again keep our word to give each other our best, and leave it in the ring when it's over.
I don't think I'll be getting a second KO off of her.