The rapid-fire air horns and stomping feet of the crowd were just background noise to me, nothing more. It was my first fight in Puerto Rico, and I was there to beat my opponents no matter how loud the people rooted for their fighter; they were not in the ring, only the other guy. I was going to win. I may have been in a new place, sleeping in a different bed and without my coaches in my corner, but that was part of the reason I went to fight in Puerto Rico: to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, to follow my game plan regardless of where I am. I am me no matter where I go.
I was invited to join the 2013 California vs. Puerto Rico boxing team and jumped at the chance to show my skills and get valuable experience. The Puerto Ricans are known for being big on boxing, so I knew that their fighters take it dead serious. Besides getting experience by fighting three of their national-level boxers, I had to adjust to the fact that my dad was not able to go with me. My dad has been my main coach since day one, and had been in my corner for all my previous twenty fights. He wasn’t there this time. In fact, I was without all those things that gave me a sense of security — the right food, the same language, my bed. What I learned was my training and my preparation was all the security I really needed. In the first fight, I fought too angry. Being called a “gringo” and not being taken seriously can make a guy angry. However, I gave them a good fight, an exciting fight. And when it was all done, I earned a new nickname, “White Lightning.” My second fight was against the Puerto Rican national champion. Home town, home gym, the champion — I knew that I had to fight my fight and show my worth. I boxed from a distance to use my reach, made the objective to hit and not get hit, and frustrated my opponent so much that he threw multiple low blows. I did not follow the game plan perfectly, but better than I had the night before. The local champion was awarded the win by decision. When I got back to California and watched the fight with my dad, I realized that I had fought well, and that to get a national champion frustrated was a good thing, no, a great thing.
I won my third fight in Puerto Rico, ending the trip on a high note. In the airport on the way home, I bought a t-shirt that says “Puerto Rico: Relax and Unwind”. I did not realize the irony until I got home, and now it is one of my favorite souvenirs from a trip that gave me invaluable experience.