THE STRIKER STRIKES BACK!
NATALIA GONZALES vs YUMIKO KAWAKITA
It's the day before the fight. We're gathered at the arena in Tokyo for one last interview junket. The press are asking me a thousand questions and my interpreter is having trouble keeping up. "Why the long break?" "Why would you fight Yumiko?" "Do you think you can win?" "Will she knock you out?" These question swarm around me, a plague of locusts looking to ravage my mind and spirit.
I will not let them.
I raise my hand, a gesture for silence. The questions stop. "It has been nearly a year since my last glamboxing match," I begin, "when last I stepped intot he ring, I lost my European Title to Kathrin Wagner. That had been my third lose in one year - including a brutal TKO loss to Heather Revels. Needless to say, I was not in a good place mentally. I was racked with doubts and insecurity. I was questioning myself and sank into the duldrums of self-pity. I didn't know how to climp out of the hole I had sunk into.
"Four months ago, I figured it out. My entire glamboxing career has been defined by wanting to be the best, and coming up short. I came up short for the World Championship twice and fights that should have been a cake walk, were tougher than anything I had experienced to that point. I can't do that anymore. I can't define myself by my disappointments, by my 'so close' moments. I am defined by what I accomplish each and every day.
"Every time I lace up the gloves and step into that ring, win or lose, is another accomplishment. Win or lose... man that's hard to say. But it's the truth. Tomorrow I box Yumiko and I'm going to box her hard, hard as I can. And when the final bell rings, I'll have accomplished something great. Thank you." I politely excuse myself as I head out.
As I near the exit, I spot Yumiko answering questions of her own. Our eyes lock for a second and we both glare. We're two predators checking out our prey. She turns back to the reporters and confidently answer their questions. She's speaking in Japanese, so I turn to my interpretor for a rough translation.
"She's talking about re-claiming the World Championship. 'After I beat this foreigner, I will beat that American paper champion once again.'"
She's not even thinking about me in this fight. She wants her belt back, that's the only thing on her mind.
"You're going to regret that," I mutter and head out the door.
I lightly bounce on the balls of my feet in my corner. The crowd is firmly in their compatriots corner, so I do my best to tune them out. I shadow box to loosen up and I can feel my joints and muscles resist the once natural movements of the jab and the cross.
"Damn," I whisper to myself, "need to shake this off." I bob and weave my upper body to the side, work a couple hooks and uppercuts. It helps, but I can still feel the rust in me. Not good. I'll need to shake this off by mixing it up with Yumiko... which could hurt, a lot!
We meet in the center of the ring for final instructions. She stares through me with cold dispassion. Beating me is not her goal, being World Champion is. I'm just a stepping stone to that. I can feel my heart get angrier and angrier. I am being ignored in my own fight!
I will NOT be ignored!
We touch gloves and I back up to my corner where my second slips in my mouthguard. I slip down into my stance and get a feel for pushing off my feet. Still tough, but I know I can do this.
The bell rings. Here we go!
Yumiko charges out of her corner and starts pumping her jab at me. She's not lightning quick, but I can feel her power as her fists slams into my raised gloves. I start moving around her, trying to find a favorable angle, but the spring in my step isn't what it used to be. I start throwing jabs and combos that come up short as Yumiko dodges back. She swings forward and connects with a big left hook to my cheek.
I stagger a little, but stay in place. I keep my guard up, but she starts working more twisting punches at me. I try and mount an offense, but up close, my reach is useless. I work my short hooks into her sides and jaw, but this gal is sturdy.
The fight wears on and she pummels me with short range shots that hurt like hell. By the end of the second round, my face is a bit swollen from her strikes and my second is frantically icing me down. I take deep breaths to clam down. She is much much stronger than I anticipated. And I am way more rusty than I thought.
Dammit, I'm a striker! Why the hell can't I hit her like I used to... Used to... It hits me. I'm trying to fight like my last match was a month ago, not a year ago. I can't do that.
The next round starts, and I go back to the fundamentals. This tough Japanese chica wants to throw hands with me. No way. I'm here to show I can outbox you and anybody else I get intot he ring with. I start sticking her with my jab, my gloves slams through her defenses. I start working my combinations into her head and body.
Her tough hooks land a couple times, but I know I can take it. I've stood toe to toe with tougher women than you. I can take it!
I work my way in closer for a few hooks of my own as the next round starts. She's always going to feel more comfortable infighting, but I'm starting to feel just as comfortable. My left and right hands slam against the sides of her head. With each punch my confidence grows. By the time the bell rings, she's a little groggy and we're both catching our breath.
We draw on the penultemant round, and I stay on the outside, working my advantage. Yumiko plays it smart and stays at a distance too. I'm a bit suprised. I thought you wanted to brawl my dear? But she's got a sly look on her face. I try and work my way past her gloves, but I misjudge her reach and start running head long into her fists.
I know I'm taller than her, but I didn't expect her reach to be this far. She's following my example and going back to the fundamentals. Her slower punches are easier to dodge, but she's quick enough to land a few and they hurt. A lot!
As the final round draws closer, I take a dep breath in my corner. This is it. I have 90 seconds to show this former world champion that I'm on her level. 90 seconds to show the audience I'm not some washed up punk. 90 seconds to prove to myself that I deserve to lace up a pair of boxing gloves and slip my feet into this ring.
90 seconds... that's all the time I need and not enough at all.
The bell rings and I throw myself into the final round. I never forget my form, but I look for every opening I can get. I keep my head moving and slip and dodge the missle like fists that are coming for me. I look into the eyes of my opponent and I see how tired she is. Exhausted. We both are.
I start working my way closer, slipping her inside punches and rocking her head and iron like abs. They start to do their job. She goes flat footed and stiff, so I make her pay for every mistake she makes in the ring. My gloves snap her head back. I'm not looking for a KO. I don't think I've got it in me yet. I'm showing her that I can still box. That I'm still "The Striker"!
DING DING DING!
The final bell rings and I drop my gloves, completely drained. Yumiko is too. I offer a glove tap and tell her "Good match" with a weak smile. She returns it in kind with a short bow. I head back to my corner. I ignore the praise from my seconds and the cheering from my few fans in the audience. Not because I don't appreciate it, I'm just so tired.
The dred of hearing the final results terrifies me. I tap my feet and take more deep breaths than I can count. But then the announcer says eight words that re-ignite a roaring fire in my heart.
"Your winner, by Unanimous Decision... NATALIA "STRIKER" GONZALEZ!!!"
2 posts • Page 1 of 1
Fight Reviews and Opinions about upcoming fights
- Advanced Member
- Joined: 27 Nov 2006, 22:23
The Striker is back. She fought with great determination and heart. Hopefully she will keep busy and once again attain her elevated status as a world champion. In the case of Yumiko she has to redefine her career potential after a second consecutive defeat. If she is half the fighter I believe her to be, she can came back better than ever. This sure adds some exciting possibilities for the featherweight division.