One and a half weeks remained before Fight Night when I sat down to observe a training session – to an ignorant eye, it might have appeared like the night before.
The atmosphere at the Venue was explosive; each spar, shadowbox and press up filled to the brim with intensity. I watched on for over an hour as the fighter’s veins bulged, their sweat pouring to the tune of heavy breathing and the motivational voices of the coach and team captains. ‘Hit me as hard as you like, I don’t care’ I heard at one point. But these sessions are not necessarily about hurting the opponent or puffing your chest to those watching; rather, they serve as an immense psychological preparation, a training of the muscles, to ensure that any lingering self-doubt is eradicated in favour of an inordinate confidence – one that peers into the future and whispers in your ear – ‘This is your fight.’
I spoke to several of the fighters present and learned their views on their own progress, their opponent and, of course, the 21st of February.
“We don’t need the judges for this one.”
“I’ll float like a butterfly and smack like a bitch.”
“I’m better at landing punches than scoring goals.”
“If my game was as good as my boxing, I still wouldn’t get any girls.”
“Aditya doesn’t believe in charity.”
“No matter what happens, I’ll be so proud of myself.”
“It’s all about who lands the first blow. It won’t be Pete.”
“It’s no coincidence there’s two ‘KO’s’ in Kovalenko.”
“Most of the fight took place in the kitchen.”
“I’ll save you guys time and write all I have to say on Jerome’s face.”
Mark Jerome Valencia:
“TBE of the LSE.”
Both Sham and Naveed have told us to expect fireworks – as a fellow outsider looking in, I’d bet my student loan that fireworks is the least we’ll see.