Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Friday Night Tournament: The Exact Moment of My Undoing

There are a lot of reasons why I didn't blog about my first matchup against Derrick Cult. One of them has to do with the fact that my will to blog was at a rather low ebb at that point, all creative energy being effectively sucked up by other projects. Another possibility is sour grapes at my first loss, but I'd like to think I'm a little bit of a better person than that.

But when you get right down to it, I think, the biggest reason I didn't want to revisit that night on this page is the simple fact that, more than just losing, I just didn't do that well at all. Derrick danced around me and seemed to knock me out of the ring at will (this was under the old Averlast rules, where five KOs in a middleweight match meant a knockout win instead of three). I went the distance, but announcing the decision was a formality. Derrick had beaten me like the proverbial redheaded stepchild.

So yeah, not exactly the stuff of pleasant reminiscence. The fact of the loss didn't gall me nearly as much as its manner.

But since then I've grown as a fighter, learning new strategies and techniques (some of them taught to me by Derrick, in fact). Memory of the loss still lingered, though, and I wondered how I'd fare against the guy who is still the best active fighter at Averlast.

On Friday I got my answer, as Derrick and I were called to the ring once more.

As we went through the preliminary instructions and returned to our corners, I'd describe my mood as determined but nervous. I was better, but was I better enough? Did the night portend another thrashing?

The bell rang, and I pushed those thoughts aside. Time to fight.

I don't know Derrick felt about it, but I was shocked to find myself not only not taking a pounding, but actually keeping pace with him. I even managed a good two-point pop on him in the early going, but it was still more of a back-and-forth affair.

Derrick is a hard charger. He goes in and never moves out very far, attacking from as many angles as he can while still staying in close. I tried to counter that by staying wide and looking for openings. It was a contrast of styles that I think the crowd appreciated.

I really dropped my guard only the once, during the second round, but that was all Derrick needed. I didn't even see the punch as I went flying out of the ring at an entirely unrecoverable forty-five degree angle. Derrick had hit me with what I could only call a perfect punch, one that ensured there was no hope in hell that I'd save myself from the ring-out.

I got back in quickly, and the back-and-forth dance resumed. Derrick and I traded blows and, while I managed to get him off of his feet a couple of times, I couldn't answer that second round ring-out.

It was, if I may say so, a hell of a fight, with real doubt in the voices of the announcer and the crowd as to the winner.

Finally the decision came, awarding it to Derrick by one point.

It's easy to get caught up in thinking about how it might have gone differently, and that second round ring-out is the focal point when I do. After all, ring-outs are three points, I lost by one. Do the math. If not for that ring-out, all other things being the same, the reasoning goes, and...

But let's be real here. "Coulda-shoulda-woulda" is a pointless game. Derrick outboxed me, pure and simple. The difference now is that this time I was able to keep up with him. I'm much more satisfied with my performance last Friday than I was the first time we faced off.

So now I stand at 11-2-1. Both of those losses to the same guy.

But between those losses, a world of difference.

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