I was writing a very long post about my journey to my first amateur boxing match when I realized I needed to break it up into two parts. The first part felt like I ended it abruptly, please forgive me as I had no idea how to break it up and still have it flow. I am far from being a good writer, but at least I have stories to tell. So let’s continue where I left off which was 9/11, the cancellation of my fight in that same week and where I went from there.
Needless to say, my fight was cancelled. Bernard Hopkins eventual historic beating of Felix Trinidad was postponed two Saturdays later due to the same national tragedy. My coach got me on another fight card in November. My excitement and commitment was not what it was for the September 15th fight. I had gotten a very bad cold at during this period. Then on my first day back to the gym, still not feeling one hundred percent, my coach had me spar Dean Williams. I should have said no, but once again, I do not say no to my coach. So through the ropes I went. I sparred only two rounds with him. They were two punishing rounds. I couldn’t move my head and my legs felt like stone. I simply could not get out of the way of his punches. Right before the end of the second round, Dean threw a punch which I rolled under, but as I came up, my hands were down low and he landed a hook to my chin. I dropped to my knees. It was the first time I was ever knocked down. I rested on my knee for a few seconds then got back up to a rushing Dean Williams. Luckily for me, the bell for the round sounded and Coach Angeles pulled Dean out of the ring. I was about to get out too, but he stopped me and put another fighter in there for me to spar. The last thing I wanted to do was spar some more, but I did.
That knock down bothered me for a little while, but I got over it. I continued to train, but I didn’t have the enthusiasm that I had before September 11th. However, I felt really good that my coworkers were very interested in my boxing and were very supportive. I received a lot of encouragement from them.
My fight was scheduled for Saturday November 24th, two days after Thanksgiving. Needless to say, I didn’t eat much on that holiday: I had to make weight. When Saturday came, the nervousness that had plagued me all the way up to this point got worse. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me; I looked calm, because I didn’t want anyone to know how terrified I was. Honestly, I’m nervous before any fight. I even get nervous before sparring. After all, there aren’t too many sports where the goal is to beat, literally beat your opponent. Death is always sitting ringside, waiting for his next client.. I apologize for going dark, but that is the reality of boxing. It is not for the faint of heart, cowards, or the weak-minded. Going into a ring to do battle without a single team mate, face guard, or designated hitter, has to be one of the bravest things in sports. Anyway, back to my fight night.
My room mate, Amy, drove me to the fight. I was fighting at what used to be called Montage Mountain, just outside of Scranton. Sports reporter for The Wayne Independent, Kevin Edwards, met me inside the building. I had mixed feelings about him being there. While I was happy he was there, wanted him there, I was afraid of what he may have to write. In other words, I didn’t want to read an article titled, “Justin Salvato’s boxing debut ended terribly.” In reality, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, because I did prepare for this fight. The real reason I got Kevin Edwards involved in my boxing journey was to help me stay focused. I knew people were reading about me and that gave me more incentive to follow through, train harder, and never back out.
My aunt and cousin also came out to see me fight. I had myself a cheering squad now. Coach Larry Angeles wrapped my hands with gauze and tape for the very first time. Geezus, the time to fight was getting closer. I went into the rest room and changed into the black trunks and top I had purchased. I laced up my Adidas boxing shoes. I warmed up for a while. I grabbed the gloves from the USA Boxing officials and headed back over to my coach. I didn’t have my own competition headgear at the time which meant I had to use one from our gym. Gross. That white headgear has been used many times by other amateur boxers under Larry’s wing. At least it was dry…
It was time to get in the ring. I climbed what seemed like a mountain of steps to get to that ring canvas. The referee said a few things to me while I was still in my corner then called us to the center of the ring. I touched gloves with my opponent, turned around and went back to my corner. My coach padded me on the gloves then sat down outside the ring, not far from the canvas. The bell sounded and my heart finally stopped racing. I don’t remember much about this fight; can’t remember what my opponent looked like, what he did, what I did, but a few things I will not forget. First, the sound in my ears was that of heavy breathing. All I could hear was myself breathing. I couldn’t hear the crowd or my relatives cheering me on, that is until the bell sounded for the end of the fight. The lighting stood out to me; seemed the brightest lights in the place were directly overhead. I couldn’t see anything but my opponent in front of me, everything past him was dark. Lastly, time seemed to have stopped. This was scheduled for 3 rounds at 2 minutes each for a total of 6 minutes of fighting. That first round, those 2 minutes, seemed like they would never expire. When that bell finally sounded for the last time, at the end of the 3rd round, it sounded like an angel performing having a virtuoso performance on the sweetest sounding instrument in history.
I was relieved to have my first fight over with. My coach told me to walk over to my opponent’s corner and touch gloves, basically shake hands to show respect. After which, Coach Larry Angeles took my gloves off. A few minutes later, the referee announced that Victor Lopez was the winner. That didn’t matter to me. I was just happy with the way I fought. I gave it my all, but knew improvements could be made. I knew the headline of the article wouldn’t be too bad, which it wasn’t. Click on the photo below to read the article.