Going to the Fights

May 21, 2015

BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

Two realities I am dealing with right now:

I am not racing anymore, and boxing is my favorite sport.

I am fanatical about boxing. I love watching boxing, used to write for boxing magazines. I love prying apart boxing facts with my boxing nerd buddies. I love going out for the big Fight Night dinner, betting hundreds of dollars on boxing matches for cash with friends or fight night strangers and typically winning. I love going to real boxing matches. TV does not do these events justice — live, in-house boxing matches are a severe rush.

Bike racing is a rush. You get to a point where you train, and then you race, and then you race to succeed, and then you are training to perfect one performance, to keep progressing.

5-21-15KLDI’ve been around professional athletes since I was in college. As a credentialed writer, I’ve interviewed and become friends with professional athletes at press conferences, in training camps, in their homes, at the venue, and post-event. You become a real insider, you are a part of the athlete’s world.

As a person who’s career was pointed towards coaching, I was driven to a raw education, able to interview and pry into the minds of so many successful athletes and really see how they exist.

When you meet a boxer, the experience is different.

Let’s imagine the B.B. King’s jazz club lounge in NYC, the venue for your typical initial boxing press conference for a big HBO Boxing event. 9 o’clock in the morn, the energy is already there — the superfans are granted entrance early by security professionals who know most of them by name. The boxing community is very tight, a pack of old friends. The writers, the promotional staff of Top Rank, the HBO employees all floating around an open room, a huge first-class buffet on one end, the energy is incredible, easy conversations for everyone, a growing murmur hovering throughout.

The world of boxing, this atmosphere is full of excitement, and prizefight press conferences are uniquely happy, buzzing environments.

And then – through those double doors – in walks one of the fighters, his mesomorph trainer just make a wisecrack, his girlfriend is smirking. Just like that. Right from the sidewalk, no entourage, no commotion.

You are one of the first to realize he has soundlessly entered the room and as you’re realizing this, the linear bullshitting cloud of the room evaporates.

The fighter just standing there, center lobby, smacking his gum around, wearing a worn leather coat.

A near-soundless murmur from the belly of the room, and there is something exceptional going on. The fighter is simply waiting, hands in his pockets, and for a real moment the room is very still – to this day, I can clearly feel this quiet, muted approval.

At other athletic pre-events, the celebrity athlete gets Ooohs and Aaaahs, instant snapshots, chaos is rising fast, attracting instant handshakes from fans and reporters.

No one rushes a fighter.

When a fighter walks into the room, there aren’t Ooohs and Aaaahs, no huge smiles from an audience.

What a fighter earns is respect, something primal and exponentially deeper.

Working press for boxing events is electrifying, being part of the cacophany and trying to find an edge you can write about, to make your profile or feature or preview better.

Today, watching boxing events is excitement I get away from sport. On fight night, when the fighters come out, the building is trembling with anticipation — two athletes are stepping into a ring to fight. The movements of boxing are an art and a science, but boxing is also the hurt business.

One fighter will win. One fighter will lose.

Cycling is my life and what I do for a living, I take my job very seriously. To succeed in endurance sports is not easy, never easy, you need to find a way to perform. It’s you or them, moments in a race, you need to always find ways to elevate and improve. My career is committed to breeding success for athletes of all types.

When I go to races, I am going as a coach, but I am also going as a superfan — grassroots and regional racing is everything, and I am rabidly interested in seeing how these races shake out.

I mean, the reality is very simple: cycling competition is Fight Club on wheels. There is always one champion, and there are also constant improvements to be found all the time and a consistent obsession for home — ‘home’ is pushing yourself to the limit of what you think is possible, consistently pushing these boundaries.

Superfans love boxing, I feel, because they fully understand what conditioned and professionally-trained fighters bring into the ring.

The show is incredible.

Watching Elite Endurance athletes compete, in the flesh — it makes me really, really proud. I wrote all of that to say that.

(Homepage photo is of Elite Endurance athletes Jessi Kruze, Kristine Contento-Angell, Stacey Barbossa, and Laura Slavin, who swept the top four places in the Pro category at the Lewis Morris MTB race on June 28th, 2015 in Morristown, NJ)

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Thursday, May 21st, 2015 | | |