Michael survived his first boxing match.
And I watched the entire thing.
We drove through the snow and arrived about half an hour before his fight. Johnny blew passed the ticket area, yelling over his shoulder that he needed a drink of water. We presented our tickets and walked into the ballroom.
The ballroom is on the 7th floor of the student center which overlooks the football field. The empty stadium was awash in fresh snow, providing the perfect setting for the evening.
The atmosphere was electric. People stood shoulder to shoulder, straining on tiptoe to see the fights. Notre Dame does not have sororities or fraternities, so student dorms become similar tight-knit communities. Groups of men from various dorms were there to cheer on their hallmates.
A large group from Siegfried Hall was there to support Michael. As well as his Ultimate Frisbee teammates (appropriately named Papal Rage). Not to mention his family.
As we sat and watched other fights, my phone lit up with my family’s group chat. They had gathered at my folks’ home in Texas to watch the competition. An ice storm prevented my sister’s return to South Bend which was the one disappointment of the evening. I absolutely love this picture. That’s the heart of family right there: gathering together to watch you compete, no matter the outcome. I know Michael’s Michigan grandparents were watching too, as well as many others. The Gold corner of Match #22 was overflowing with support.
Eventually, I moved into the front row with Becky as my support person. And, yes, I wore a giant Michael button. I never had the chance to wear it to an event because his high school drill seasons were cancelled due to Covid. Now was my chance.
Before each fight, the two opponents take a brief moment for prayer and receive a blessing from the team chaplain.
In short order, it was time for Michael’s fight. As the graphic flashed on the screen overhead, I learned both Michael’s boxing name (“Crispy Chicken”) and that his opponent is from Saudi Arabia. Which added some international flare to the proceedings.
Michael stepped into the ring and I thought I might have a heart attack.
It was over in 9 short minutes. If you want to see it, here’s the official video from the match. Michael is wearing the gold trunks.
Afterwards, Michael went to the medical room for a concussion evaluation. He had to repeat a string of words and answer some questions. He also had to count backwards from 100. By sevens. I’m not sure that I could do that after a good night’s sleep and coffee. He cleared the protocol and joined us for pictures.
We walked across campus to grab some treats and play in the game room. Michael joined us and we analyzed the fight. While he lost by unanimous decision, he was pleased with his efforts. Although he has the physical strength and stamina, he realizes that he needs more coaching. My brother noted that Michael is an 8-round fighter. But in a 3-round fight, he’s got to get started faster.
He really came into his own by the second half of the second round. A little too late. Next year he plans to stay after practices to get more coaching. He had so much left in the tank after the fight. The other guy was gassed and Michael was just getting started. Honestly, if there had been one more round, I think Michael would have won.
We piled back into the car and made the snowy drive home. We listened to the soundtrack from the movie Gladiator which seemed appropriate. It was a memorable evening.
Michael did the training. He stepped into the ring and took the punches. He lost.
But it felt like a win.