“You’ve got this. Just relax and have fun.”
I let my coach’s reassuring words wash the anxiousness off my body as he finishes wrapping my hands, reminding me why I love boxing. I hear the soft ripping sound of the last piece of tape and I make a fist with both hands to make sure it’s secure. It always is. After 60 years of wrapping hands, he’s just about perfected the art. He rubs Vaseline across my face to prevent any potential scratches from my opponent’s gloves and straps my headgear in place. He hands me my mouthpiece with a small gulp of water and I begin my walk to the ring. I look around at all the people in the crowd cheering my name. I’m amazed at how many people in Lexington, Kentucky love boxing. As I make my way up the steps, a calm overwhelms my spirit—I am home.
I step to the middle of the ring with my opponent and the ref starts to recite the rules of competition. I hear him talking but all I can think about is that initial exchange of punches that’s about to take place at the sound of the bell. Excitement rushes through my bones at the thought and I feel a smile creep across my face. I’m ready. I was born for moments like this one. I touch gloves with my opponent and trot back to my corner. My coach gives me a fist pump and a pat on the headgear—he’s not worried either. I say a quick prayer for safety and get in my boxing stance, impatiently awaiting the sound of the bell.
FINALLY I hear that distinct “DING, DING”
And I immediately pounce into action. Punches flying, head bobbing, feet moving. I feel the wind from her hand wiz past my face as I slip a punch and hear the crushing sound of leather as I make contact with hers. What a rush! The final bell rings and we make our way back to our corners for a final time. Headgears are removed and we find ourselves back in the middle of the ring awaiting the results of the match. The ref reads off the scorecard judge by judge. “And the winner is…out of the blue corner—Samantha Kinchen!” Applause erupts from the crowd and a joy consumes me that is indescribable.