“Don’t let Eddie in the ring with Jules,” Coach Ron insisted.
There’s no bad blood here. Jules and Eddie train side-by-side, every day. They’re friends. But during their first sparring session, Jules knocked Eddie out and it damaged him, within.
“Trust me,” Coach Zach responded.
At 14, Eddie’s a spunky little gym rat. Occasionally, he’ll show you how to throw a left hook with your body (instead of your arm), or the proper technique for a double-end striking bag. Getting fight tips from a teenager is humbling, yes.
So is his story.
Before joining the Clearwater Boxing Center, Eddie was an easy target for bullies. Gangly limbs, husky center, a frame that's still filling out; you can imagine his motivation spurred from a lack of self-confidence and an “I’m not taking this sh*t anymore” attitude.
Some people don’t change until they’re hurt enough that they have to.
After some time in the gym, Eddie slimmed down, grew in stature and grew in confidence. Unless you were there during that first sparring session, though, you couldn’t tell something was brewing deep within him for over a year.
While Eddie worked to get his step back, Jules dug the seed of fear deeper by knocking him out four more times in separate sparring sessions. Finally, Eddie threw in the towel and stepped away from the ring for a while.
When he returned, he was cautious and timid. Sparring with other teammates, he’d tense up and flinch at haphazard punches.
That’s what happens when we make bold steps in the arena of life. We think, I’ve got this, or I’ve trained enough, or I can handle it, but there’s no telling what happens until the lights come on and the bell rings. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Sometimes we learn, sometimes we get our teeth punched in. When life lays you out, you can get back up but that doesn’t mean you won’t second-guess your next bout.
“Don’t let Eddie fight,” Coach Ron repeated at the 2016 Fight Night. Every fighter and their mother shared Ron’s sentiment that night. Except Coach Zach.
“Trust me,” is all he said.
Zach saw something others couldn't. That Eddie was ready. He had come to himself. He had made up his mind and that made him a contender against any opponent.
On March 19, 2016, Eddie ended his yearlong battle with fear, demanding Jules stand in the other corner. Win or lose, the kid showed brass. Maybe there's no scorecard for courage, but the only decision that mattered that night was his decision to fight. And yes, Eddie stayed on his feet.
Learn more about the Clearwater Boxing Center here.
"It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt