PARENTAL ADVISORY: From Boxer to Fighter… Uncensored Story By FTEC2015 Fighter Leslie Ehm
Excerpt from the book ‘Swagger – The BS-Free Guide to Keeping it Real in the Business World’ coming 2018
It’s May 30th, 2015. I’m standing outside the vast wooden doors of a posh hotel ballroom. Inside I can hear an eager crowd and the thumping of music that sounds only slightly louder than the thump of my heart in my ears. I probably should mention that I’m wearing headgear, boxing gloves and the most unflattering shorts on the planet. I’m 51 years old and am about to fight my first sanctioned amateur boxing match. That would be enough to intimidate anyone. But no. I can’t just take on a small challenge like entering into the ring and facing off against another trained fighter. I have to make my debut at an 800 person black-tie fundraising event, with plates selling for $500 a pop.
Let me back up here a little. I discovered the sport of boxing in 2014. Don’t get me started, but suffice to say that its the most incredible sport on the planet. There is nothing more liberating than knowing that you can take a solid punch in the face, smile through it, and keep planning how you’re going to land your own shots. The boxing community is also the finest bunch of humans I’ve ever had the pleasure of hanging with. You gotta love some who lets you hit them in pursuit of your own excellence.
I endured the most grueling and humbling regime of my life, for the next six months. Although I’d already had a year of training under my belt, my plan had never been to go in the ring. Yes, I was fascinated with boxing skills, but I had not even considered taking a punch at that point. All that was about to change and then some.
I had some of my best and worst days in the gym. I was on the receiving end of some serious beatdowns where only the sweat pouring off my face could mask a flood of tears. I faced the spectre of confidence every single day – which was utterly fleeting and even more unreliable. The second I thought I actually had some ‘game’, someone would catch me in a rookie move and put me in my place – like on my ass. Other days I felt like freaking Rocky and would strut around the ring with my fists raised, complete theme song playing in my head. I doubted my stamina, my technique, my resolve and even my body. Through it all, I was aware that I had never felt so vulnerable and revealed. My sh*t was truly laid bare on a daily basis and my trainer, Virgil, would hug me, school me and scold me through it. I wanted to quit about five times and fortunately recovered six. Time marched towards the inevitable and every morning I awoke knowing the day of reckoning was fast approaching.
You should know that I’m an incredibly competitive person. I wanted to win my fight so badly it made my teeth hurt. I visualized, pep-talked, pumped up and focused my ass off. I pushed any possibility of failure from my mind (only to have it creep back whenever the hell it chose and was least welcome). My fundraising efforts had reached almost $25,000 and by fight day, I knew I was as ready as I’d ever be.
Back to standing outside the doors. Inside were friends, family and work colleagues. There were CEOs and politicians, celebs and community leaders. I was about to step into the ring with all eyes on me. To say it was incredibly hard to hold onto my center at that moment would be a gross understatement. I was sh*t scared. Not because I was afraid of the fight. That I was ready for. I was afraid to lose. That was the truth of it.
Even though I’d worked so hard to shut it out, the possibility was still there. I could feel that fear debilitating me – even at that moment. I wanted to ‘show up’ so badly that I’d forgotten one of the most important lessons I’d ever learned. Fear is limiting. If I was afraid to lose, then the only way I could face it was to accept it. Sh*t. I really didn’t want to lose.
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The wooden doors swung open, and the flashing lights and the roar of the rowdy crowd sent my already jacked up adrenal system into overdrive. Virg was in front of me swinging a towel to lead me through the waiting crowd. Behind me, the assistant coach rubbed my shoulders as I bounced from foot to foot, making my way to the ring. LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” blasted from the speakers. I vaguely heard cheers and felt the pats of supports as I went by. Up the stairs I went and Virg held the ropes to ease my entry into the ring. My heart hammered. I heard my opponent making her way to the ring with equal ceremony. And then it all got quiet in my head for a second. I took in the room, the excitement, the faces. “Holy sh*t” I thought. “This is it. I’m really doing this.” That’s when it hit me. I wasn’t just “doing this.” I had already done it. Getting to that moment had required me to be fearless, real, and to let go of any ego bullshit I was carrying around. My swagger was complete and it didn’t matter whether I won or lost. The only difference was that after the bout, I’d go from boxer to fighter.
The referee called us to the centre of the ring for rules of engagement. I stared up at my opponent and I mean UP. S he was at least 5 inches taller than me and had arms the length of a freakin’ ball player.
Then the bell rang.
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Six minutes later it was over. She’d clearly taken one round and I’d squeaked through one myself. The third was up for grabs. Back in the centre of the ring, the ref held each of our arms as she waited for the judge’s results. And you know what? I didn’t care. I don’t think I’d ever felt the kind of elation I felt in that moment. I was a total BADASS. I had done it – jiggly cellulite hanging out from my stupid shorts and all. I could hear my mom, my husband, my friends screaming for me. I was so alive and totally, completely, unapologetically me. I had already won.
I saw the ref raise my opponent’s arm and I swung around to grab her in a huge hug. We held on for a bit as the crowd cheered.
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In that moment, I was completely and utterly content. I knew if for one second of the journey – from making the team to stepping into the ring – if I had been anything other than 100% myself, I couldn’t claim my personal victory. The persona of Leslie wouldn’t have deserved it. But the real me sure as hell did.
The real me was a officially a fighter.
Learn more about Leslie or sponsor Team Combustion: Read More
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The Fight To End Cancer (FTEC) is a year round initiative carried out by ambassadors, sponsors and volunteers worldwide. Funds raised by FTEC are donated directly to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. Each year we celebrate the incredible hard work and dedication of our FTEC family with a black-tie charity boxing gala. This gala showcases 10 men and women who represent our Official Fight Team. More About Us or Join The Fight!
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