Virani Spars, Gets a New Fight and Trains

After the Riya Valen fight….

After a week of vacation, I got right back to training. Thomas worked hard on my defence, knowing that it was the part of my game that needed the most improvement.

About a month after my fight with Riya, I was sparring with Mechelle, one of the newer girls in the gym. She was 3-1 as an amateur and showing some promise to become a good fighter. But, today was going to be my day. I was getting bored of not training for a fight, so Mechelle was going to be my ‘competition.’

Frankly, I’m better than Mechelle. Nothing against her, she’s young and she tries hard, but her growth has been stunted by training at a gym and with a coach that is worse than Thomas. The thing with Mechelle is if you get her out of her comfort zone, she starts flailing a bit. She doesn’t adapt well. She throws the same combinations, good combinations, no doubt, but if you’ve seen them once, you’ve seen them a thousand times.

As Thomas puts on my headgear he quietly whispers instructions, “Let her go a few rounds at the normal speed. Then, once you feel ready, up the tempo. Pressure her. Land a few good punches to the body. Make her react. I want her to stop freezing when things go wrong.” I nod. Time to spar.

Virani Mechelle Sparring 1

With Thomas’ words in my ear, Mechelle and I spar for three rounds at a normal pace. Mechelle, when she’s doing what she wants to do, can look really impressive. More than once, she whacks me with a good punch from an angle I had not been expecting. The nice thing about sparring with Mechelle, was that she knew how to pull her punches so that they still came out fast, but didn’t do their full damage. They still make me take notice that I’ve been hit though. For the most part, the three rounds are pretty even, just letting us get in a little work.

For round four, I up the tempo. I start moving faster and take the middle of the ring with authority, pushing Mechelle backwards with my jab. The girl in the odd looking skirt skirt hangs with me for a time, and then she starts to fall apart. Her combinations fly wildly, without setting her feet. So I smack her with a nice left hook. That makes her even more skittish. Time to tone it back down. I keep the centre of the ring, but throw nothing but basic combinations. A couple of 1-2’s and then a nice 1-2-3 where I dig my left hook into her exposed side. When Mechelle grabs me for a clinch, I don’t fight it. This is sparring after all. The rest of the round is pretty uneventful.

Round five. Thomas gives some instructions to Mechelle while he just nods at me. That means I need to keep the tempo up. I try to get the center of the ring, but Mechelle fights me for it. Good. I try to jab, and she takes a quick step back and clips me on the side of the head with an overhand right. It’s a really good punch and I feel it. But now, this is really on. I throw a double jab and then change target, throwing a sweeping right hand to the body that lands clean. Mechelle tries to fire back, but I can already sense her punches coming. I’m locked in. I’m completely in the zone. I’m Neo in the Matrix. It’s a great feeling. It feel like every punch I can land clean, while she can’t hit me at all. This isn’t the truth. I’m still getting hit, but it feels like I’m in control. This is the best feeling in boxing.

I let Mechelle take the center of the ring and drop my hands a little. It’s a dare for her to attack, so Mechelle does. Mechelle’s right hand goes wide, and instantly react, putting my weight onto my lead foot, stepping to the side and unleashing my left hook which lands perfectly. I know my left hook is my best punch, maybe not for its power, but for its speed and timing.

Mechelle stumbles a bit after that left hook as she heads towards the ropes. I’m so in the zone, that all I see in front of me is a hurt opponent. I forget to process that I’m just sparring. I see another opening, so I pivot and throw an uppercut that lands underneath Mechelle’s chin just as I hear Thomas yell “STOP!”

Crap. I shouldn’t have thrown that last punch. I should have pulled back. That felt great…until I went too far. Sorry Mechelle.

Virani Mechelle Sparring 2

After landing that uppercut Mechelle, I grab Mechelle in a sort of impromptu clinch to make sure she isn’t going to fall over. She isn’t, but she looks thankful for the reprieve.

“Sorry, you okay?” I ask

“Yeah. I need a minute though.” Mechelle replies.

I let Mechelle go to the corner and look over at Thomas, “I got too excited I guess.”

“You guess,” repeated Thomas, who looks completely annoyed.

“I said, I’m sorry,” I mumble.

Thomas rolls his eyes and turns his attention to Mechelle, “You okay, Meche?”

“Never better…Just let me take a nap on this canvas for a bit,” she jokes. “Ten seconds should do it.”

“Such a sense of humor. Anyways, good workout,” Thomas says to both of us. “Virani, you gotta be able to take your foot off the accelerator. That last uppercut was unnecesary, got it?”

“Yes, coach.”

“I dunno,” said Mechelle. “It kind of taught me a lesson. Remember to hit Virani hard when I get the chance!”

I laughed and went over and gave Mechelle a quick pat on the back. The girl in the multicolored skirt was a good sport with a good sense of humor. “I’ll let you have one free one, next time.”

“If you let me have one free one, I’ll knock you into next Tuesday,” she replies.

“I could use a vacation,” I deadpan.

Everyone laughs, even Thomas cracks a smile. “Mechelle, that’s enough for the day,” says Thomas.

“Virani,” said Thomas, as Mechelle left the ring quietly. “You have to dial it down a little. I wanted you to pressure her, not hurt her. That was one punch too many.”

“I know. I just got in the zone, and I forgot about what I was supposed to be doing.”

“You were boxing brilliantly, and it was because Mechelle pushed you harder than you expected. It was good stuff…right until the end. Lets have less of that,” he said.

“Yes, sir.”

“Go get changed. I have something to discuss with you. We have a fight offer.”

Thank the stars. Another fight. Just what I wanted for Christmas.

Virani Mechelle Sparring 3

****************************************************************

I got changed and have a shower, after all that is done, I met Thomas across the street at the little coffee shop that is there. It’s a little more private then even Thomas’ little office in the gym, because at least here, no one bothers him to review his or her training. Thomas already has my drink waiting for me (green tea), while his cappuccino already appears to have been sipped from.

I felt my heart beat faster as I slip into my seat, “So. Finally, a fight offer. What did Mr. Ken Georgia find for me.”

“Not him,” said Thomas. “Another promoter from Halifax contacted us directly.”

“We are still under contract with Ken Georgia. I know you aren’t a lawyer, but that’s a contact, Thomas.”

Thomas smiled slightly, “The Halifax promoter has agreed to buy out the remaining fight on your contact if you accept the fight.”

I was surprised by that. That meant that they must have seriously wanted me to have this fight. A better question is why someone would want an unremarkable 2-0 fighter so much that they would buy out the remaining fight on my deal. “Who would I be fighting?”

“A 3-0 fighter. Rachel Harmon. From Ireland originally, but fighting out of Halifax.”

My mouth dropped open a little, “Undefeated?”

Thomas nodded, “And coming off a KO victory in her last fight.”

“Sounds like a challenge,” I observed in a neutral tone. My heart started beating a little bit faster. I was confident in myself, of course, but also cautious of potential challenges. No one was invincible.

“I hope it will be, but not as much as you are thinking,” said Thomas, after he took a sip of his drink. “The fighters that Rachel have beaten were not very good. Combined their records are 3-10. And even in the fight she won by KO, she got put on the canvas first. I’ve seen bits and pieces of footage from her fights, and I think her record flatters her.”

“So she’s a paper tiger,” I mused. “But isn’t she offering us this fight? I don’t get it. Why me? Why not someone easier?”

“Ah, yes. Here’s where we get to the part that you are going to hate. This promoter out in Halifax, Justin Fields, he’s a thirty something local kid that made his money in the tech industry. The shows he puts on are called ‘Ladies Fight Night.’ It’s popular with the local University crowd and the local young people.”

“Because its an all-female card,” I said bluntly, guessing at why it was named that way.

“Yes…and he likes to have the girls on his card be attractive, because attractive girls equal money. Hence why he wants you to fight Rachel. He’s just interested in putting cute girls against each other. He doesn’t particularly care for anyone’s record.” Thomas winced at the end, and the slight rosiness in his cheeks indicated that he was embarrassed about this whole thing.

“Charming.” The wonderful world of boxing, Ladies and Gentlemen!

“Look,” said Thomas, trying to find his serious face again, “This is a good fight and for good money. I think we should take it.”

“Good money?”

“Justin will pay you more than what you would have gotten from Ken. More than a thousand dollars more.” Thomas hesitated, “There’s also a bonus if you wear a skirt when you fight.”

All I could do was laugh, “Is that in the contact?”

Thomas bit his lip, “Yeah.”

I shook my head, “By the stars. Is there a bonus if I fight topless, too?”

“Come on, Virani. This is on the slightly sleazy side, but it’s on the up and up.”

“And how do you know this?”

This time, Thomas’ face went red, “I may have attended a few of the shows, a while back. With Jessica,” he added quickly.

I suppressed a laugh. Thomas’ small town honesty continued to be really amusing. “You still can’t get her to turn pro?” I asked. Thomas’ fireball of a girlfriend was one of the gym’s better young fighters. I often sparred with her and found her to be a good challenge.

Thomas shook his head, “She wants one shot at the Olympics. Can’t say I blame her, even though she’s probably not going to make it. Then I can maybe convince her to go pro.”

“She’ll be a good pro,” I said. “She hits hard. I feel her punches and she’s below me in weight. That’s something you can’t teach.”

“Let’s not get distracted,” said Thomas. “You want this fight or not? I think it would be good experience for you to travel a bit for a fight. You aren’t always going to be able to fight in Toronto. It’s good to learn how to fight by being the ‘away’ fighter. It’s a six round fight, which I don’t think you’ll have a problem with.”

“I can spar for eight rounds no problem, and shadowbox for twelve.” At the end of both of those sessions, her arms had felt like they were going to fall off, but she got through them. Her body didn’t add muscle all that quickly, but it turned out that her body was nicely built for endurance. Not a perfect trade off, but such was life. You couldn’t totally win the genetic lottery.

“One last thing you won’t like. The event is in seven weeks.”

I groaned, “I hate these waits between fights.”

“You need a hobby, Virani.”

“I have one, boxing.”

“That’s your job. You need a hobby. Maybe take up law or something,” Thomas said with a smile.

“Maybe I’ll take up basket weaving.”

“That’s the spirit,” Thomas said, deadpan.

“You think I’m ready for this fight, Thomas?” I asked getting back on track.

“Rachel isn’t going to know what hit her,” Thomas said with a smile.

“Then let’s do it. I’ll go find a nice cute skirt to wear. I’ve always felt that the boxing trunks are a bit plain. Something pink maybe.”

“What is it with you and pink?”

“Pink looks good on me.”

“Lots of colours look good on you,” Thomas replied.

Those words, said by any other man on the planet might have constituted the start of flirting. With Thomas…not so much. My coach was so unflinchingly honest, that he just said what he meant without sugar coating it. “We’ll see. I like pink at the moment. Maybe one day I’ll wear something else”

“Just don’t buy too short a skirt,” he said.

“Thanks, DAD.”

“You wound me, Virani. Now go home. I’ll let the right people know that we accept their offer.”

I finished my drink and went home. Rachel Harmon, you are going down.

*********************************************************************************

3 Days before the fight with Rachel Harmon – Last Training Session

There are some days that i think I must be crazy.  Waking up early in the morning just to go running. Keeping on a stict diet so I can keep my weight down.  And that’s not even training, not really.  That’s just the stuff that needs to get done.

Sometimes, I think to myself…why the hell am I doing this?  I don’t need the money.  I have enough that I could buy a beachfront property somewhere and just…chill out. I don’t need to prove myself.  I went to one of the best law schools in Canada and worked for one of the top law firms in Toronto.  There’s no one left to prove myself to.  Except, as it turns out, I like challenges.  And boxing, well, everyday is a challenge.  Every day is a battle against my willpower to just stop, or take it easy.  Every day, I have to fight against taking the easy way out.  Every day I win.

There’s something therapeutic to hitting a punching bag.  I think that every gym in every school should have one.  As a way to release emotion, there’s nothing better than hitting something with all of your power behind it.  I’m not a ‘I am woman, hear me roar’ sort of feminist, but I wonder why we let the stereotypes of the dainty, perfect, princess exist.  Women are powerful.  Maybe not as powerful on a pound for pound basis as a man, but still, powerful.

I will never forget that I am powerful.  Thank you, boxing.  Thank you for letting me discover myself.

Virani Training 1

The oldest cliche in boxing is that the first fight you have is with yourself.  It’s true, in a way.  I just hate how simple it sounds.

I like to shadowbox.  I can box in front of a mirror until my arms fall off.  Partially because I have a very strong imagination and I like to imagine how my next fight is going.  It’s partially why I hate it when I don’t have a fight upcoming.  I need a goal, I need something to fight against.  Sometimes I like to imagine myself as Alesia Schumann, fighting against Lilly Sanchez (It’s hard to imagine myself as Lilly, she’s just..more endowed than I am.)  Sometimes, I like to imagine that I’m Thomas “The Motor City Cobra” Hearns, one of my favorite fighters to watch.  He’s a fighter I love to watch on YouTube.  A classic, a throwback.

But shadowboxing isn’t fighting with yourself.  It’s learning to fight within yourself.  I’m starting to see myself and understand who I am as a fighter.  I don’t have that many weaknesses.  In turn, I don’t have a ton of strengths either.  But I have my left hook.  It’s a punch that always feels natural to me.  Thomas sometimes says that I probably could have been a southpaw.  But I have a hard enough time learning the orthodox footwork.  What that means is that  My left hand is certainly not weak, it’s a weapon.  A weapon of the Cobra.

Virani Training 2

In my imagination, its the 6th round of my fight against Rachel. I’m winning. In fact, I’ve won every round. I’m going to end strong though. There is sweat dripping down my skin, but that’s normal, that’s good. I’ve fought for five, two minute rounds, with a minute break, and now I’m going for the sixth.

I’ve seen pictures of Rachel Harmon. She’s a pretty young woman, which is almost certainly one of the reasons I’ve been matched with her. Looks matter in women’s boxing, it would be stupid to deny it. But a pretty fighter doesn’t mean a bad fighter and I’m not taking her lightly. Rachel’s undefeated, so she must have some skills.

Even though I’m just shadowboxing, I like to imagine that my opponent is still able to hit me. I dodge and weave of course, but its never one way traffic. In my imaginary fight, the sixth round is the closest and most action packed of the rounds, as a desperate Rachel tries to go for the KO that she needs to win this fight. My jab keeps her at bay and when she tries to get inside, I greet her with a flurry of punches.

Towards the end of the round, its time for imaginary Rachel to go for broke. She lunges in wildly and misses. Here’s my chance. I land a right uppercut and then a left hook, and the imaginary Rachel’s eyes go glassy. I shift my feet and throw another left hook. This time my imaginary opponent goes down! Even though in my mind, I’ve knocked down my opponent, I keep my hands busy, throwing quick flurries of punches, as I imagine Rachel struggling to beat the count ‘1,2,3,4,5,6,’ Rachel’s on her knees and she glances over in my direction. I smile and throw another flurry of punches ending on a left hook, a silent promise of punches to come. Rachel stays down on the canvas, ‘7,8,9,10!’

Virani Training 3

Having finished my shadowboxing, I strike a victorious pose and let out a feral yell.  The few people that are in the gym at this hour give me odd looks.  I ignore them.  Let them think what they want of me.

I’m coming for you, Rachel Harmon.  I’m going to extinguish the ‘Irish Flame’

Virani Training 4

Virani MacVicar
Current Featherweight champion. A Canadian puncher known for her knockouts that has developed a more all-round style.
Virani MacVicar
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