They split training drills into three sessions per day to better work on speed, endurance, agility, strength and technique. Amber progressed remarkably in training camp, showing Hanna the kind of motivation she never seemed to have before. It must have been a combination of a title fight and a happy private life after a period of uncertainty.
Amber and her boyfriend Andrew took off for a weekend after a grueling week of training. Hanna used her free time to make calls to find sparring partners for the most decisive phase of the camp.
The next Monday is a busy one at the gym, with a special guest for the week. The fighters get together at the front door and enter the premises, to be met by a new face. One that Amber has seen before. It’s Mercedes Carter, the Olympic athlete who is already stretching and warming up.
Amber and Hanna go to see her.
Mercedes: “Thanks for invitin’ me! It’s nice here.”
Small talk precedes a warmup for Amber herself to start the session in which they work together.
Skipping rope, circuits, technical work; nothing is left to chance and the coach is demanding. A couple of hours of moving and sweating are followed by a lunch break, giving the fighters the chance to talk.Click on pics for HD size
Late in the day, the parties get together again for the second session. This time, Amber and Mercedes will have a light spar.
The two pugilists are cautious. They hold back and study movement, working for seven rounds. Amber can’t help but notice that the heavier Mercedes is faster on her feet and more agile. Her hands are also faster. It’s a productive session in which Amber sees daring moves that none of her opponents ever made.
At the end, the blonde is all smiles.
Amber: “Thanks for coming. I hope I’ll see you again later. At least at the fight, if you can come.”
Mercedes: “Wut? We ain’t done. Gunna be back here for da whole week. See y’all cheesecakes tomorrow!”
Amber is stunned by the new information and amused by the colourful language. She looks at her coach, who laughs.
At dinner, Hanna explains to Amber that Mercedes didn’t come over from Detroit only for one day. She’s here to stay fit because the Olympics were postponed to 2021, and to push the Russian-American to the limit during camp.
Training goes well but Amber is getting antsy by Wednesday. She wants a sparring match, not just technical work, with Mercedes. The idea of trading real shots with a super-talented Olympian is too interesting not to ask for it. The coach agrees after some discussion.
Hanna: “Gear up. I want you both to give everything for a few rounds. Maybe 7 or 8 of them.”
Before she resets the timer, the coach has a word of advice for Amber.
Hanna: “Be alert. Mercedes moves fast, makes abrupt changes and she’s a solid puncher.”
Her words are met by a confident wink.
The early session goes well. Both fighters are quick and unpredictable. It seems like Amber can control the center of the ring while Mercedes has no problem dealing with her reach.
Paying the price
In the fifth round, Amber becomes a lot more aggressive to try to gain the upper hand. Mercedes, like any experienced fighter, responds with increased pressure to stay in control. Fast jabs take the middle of the ring away from Amber, who has to back up to maintain her proper range.
Hanna warns Amber that a little lack of discipline makes her eat too many punches and use too much energy early. She could run out of gas late. In a fight, it means at least conceding the decision, if not getting knocked out.
Mercedes dominates Round 6 clearly. She finds holes in Amber’s defense, with a smooth, natural and speedy release against a blonde who is slowing down.
It’s only a matter of time before Mercedes traps Amber in a corner. She lands solid punches in a porous defense, making Amber buckle under pressure and fall to the canvas.
To make her understand the consequences of her mistakes, Hanna acts like a real referee. She sends Mercedes to a neutral corner and gives Amber a full count of 10. Then, she helps her back up while Mercedes waits.
After recovering from the knockdown, Amber leaves the ring in silence, picks up her stuff and goes straight home.
Mercedes: “Um. I went too far, huh?”
Hanna: “No, you didn’t. Amber wanted to make herself look better than you. This should remind her how important it is to stay humble and avoid messing with partners who have more experience. I’ll talk to her tonight. Can you come to our place for dinner?”
Hanna: “Great. I’ll ask Andrew to make one more portion.”
Mercedes: “Make it big. I eat like a motherfucker!”
Amber’s silence at the dinner table makes Andrew worry. After the meal, he and Hanna go to clean up the kitchen. It may be best to let the two boxers talk it out.
Mercedes sits down with Amber on the sofa.
Mercedes: “Ya okay, cheesecake?”
The blonde smiles.
Amber: “I’m okay, but this sparring knockout bruised my ego if I’m honest.”
Mercedes: “Grrrrrl! I’m a Welterweight and yer a Super Lightweight. I did more rounds of competition than you did sparrin’ and competin’ combined! I often fought every week! Ya ain’t got nuthin’ to prove with me.”
Amber: “Well, I thought I was better because I was a pro.”
Mercedes: “Ya sure fell like a pro!”
The laugh is contagious enough for Amber to catch it and chuckle.
Mercedes: “Look, dawg. Yer a good boxer. Yer workin’ really well this week and I’ll help ya get even better. Work hard with me, stay humble, enjoy yerself and yer gonna win dat American title. Alright?”
Amber: “Got it. I’ll do it.”
Mercedes: “Dats mah dawg!”