The Waiting...is The Hardest Part
Tuesday, September 15 2015
Erin Newman is wide-eyed as she looks around the gym at the Nonantum Boxing Club, where she and her sister boxers—all fighters in the 2015 Belles of the Brawl— have come for a trial spar to confirm their matches. It’s a steamy August Sunday and the air in the gym is thick with humidity and intense anticipation.
“It’s so exciting,” says Newman, with a smile. She’s not nervous about sparring but only because she’s not sparring. Her opponent’s team has asked for more time, so Newman, along with a few other fighters, must wait a week to test her match.
It’s an ironic twist in Newman’s journey to Haymakers, considering she was preparing to fight in last May’s Rock ’n Rumble at the House of Blues, when the trial spar revealed that the match was no good.
“My opponent was very skilled, very advanced,” says Newman, who’d joined Redline Fight Sports in Cambridge for the “great boxing workouts” in 2012, but had never sparred until January of this year. “It wasn’t about winning or losing. My trainer just felt it was for my safety. We had to pull out.”
Newman was disappointed, but Julie Kelly suggested she wait and try for the Belles event, because a match would be more likely with an all-women’s show. “I realized it just wasn’t my time. It made a lot of sense to me to wait.”
Still eager to participate in the event, Newman asked if she could volunteer. ‘That’s when they invited me to be a Ring Card Girl,” says Newman. “That was awesome! So that’s what I did!”
At Haymakers for Hope events, the role of Ring Card holders is saved exclusively for people who are fighting cancer or have beaten it. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, Newman went through surgery and treatment and has been cancer-free for seven years.
That night, as Newman sat ringside and watched her almost-opponent’s fight, she felt some sense of relief. “That fight! She was just incredible!”
Still, Newman, a social worker and yoga teacher, is clearly not one to back down from a challenge. She endured cancer treatment and her subsequent divorce in fairly short order, and then trained for the 2012 New York Marathon—only to be put off by Superstorm Sandy.
“I trained so long, and then it was cancelled!” she laughs, perhaps realizing the trend of these delays. “So I trained again and ran it in 2013.”
When that was done, Newman went looking for her next challenge. Back at Redline, she was watching a few girls train for Haymakers events, and she was inspired.
“I remember watching Nikki Chu and Jess Gerber train, and I thought, ‘I want to do that.’ It was so cool. And knowing Jess was also a cancer survivor, I thought I could do it, too.”
Training with Wahset Tafari has made all the difference for Newman. “I’m just hooked on his positive energy,” she says. “He is so steady, so constant. He reminds me not to take myself so seriously. I can get in my head too much, and he’ll tell me, ‘Don’t think too much, this is fun.’ He puts things in perspective.”
As the trial sparring gets underway, Newman takes pictures and cheers on the other girls from her Redline team who are also fighting on Oct 7. At the end, she prepares to head downstairs, where each fighter will be filmed and photographed for their fundraising websites and fight-night videos.
“After watching the sparring, I think my teammates did great! Everyone did great! And I feel less nervous, compared to when I was driving over here,” she says. “I just met my opponent, too. And I think we’ve had a similar experience of having been matched previously and not being able to do it, so I’m hopeful that it will be a good match.”
While there’s no doubt it has been an emotional rollercoaster for Newman, she says this fight is not about her.
“I think less about my own experience and more about my friends who are living with cancer—and especially those who have passed,” she says. “I kind of channel their energy and want to fight because there’s a lot they couldn’t do towards the end of their lives. A good friend of mine passed away last April. She was such a badass. She was a snowboarder, and lived in Colorado. She had cancer for many years, but still lived such a full life. So, I feel like I’m really dedicating this whole experience to her.”
Looking ahead to fight night, Newman couldn’t be more ready.
“I feel good about it,” she says. “It’s starting to feel real now. I’m starting my fundraising, and I just got the email about tickets going on sale, and oh my God—it’s really happening!”
After her trail spar a week later, Newman and her intended opponent were re-matched to more suitable opponents.
*Margie Kelley is a mom, freelance writer, master gardener and sometimes boxer. She fought in the 2013 Belles of the Brawl, and managed to convince her husband Chris to fight in the Rock ‘n Rumble in May. Settling arguments has taken on a whole new meaning in their house!