Tuesday, October 27 2015
It’s been almost three weeks since the Belles of the Brawl and Liz “The Grill” Weber is still a little bit high from the whole experience.
“I expected it to be really good, but it was even better than that. I loved it!” says the soft-spoken, petite powerhouse, who stands at just 5’1” and weighed in on fight night at a lean 124 lbs.
In what some have dubbed the “fight of the night,” Weber and her opponent, Erin Newman, both fought with power, speed and seemingly boundless energy for three solid rounds at the sold-out House of Blues. Weber, though, came through as the unanimous victor, having performed with the kind of confidence and intensity that is rare in a novice fighter.
That was a huge shift for Weber, who had hit a rough patch in her life about two years ago that left her on shaky ground. That’s around the time she tried boxing at Striking Beauties, in her hometown of North Attleboro.
“When I walked into the gym, my self-esteem was on the floor and my weight was through the roof,” she says, calling boxing a “game-changer”.
After watching other girls in the gym train to fight in the Haymakers for Hope events, Weber wondered if she could do it. But her teammates in the gym had no doubts and gave her the push to start training. Weber never looked back.
“As tough as the training was,” she says, “I really enjoyed it.”
Working with trainer Zach Reay, who has brought nine other fighters to Haymakers over the last four years, Weber spent a grueling summer “doing everything he told me to do” including road work, sparring and conditioning, and, perhaps the toughest part: eating clean.
“Then, on the morning of the fight, after so much build-up, Zach made me do nothing, just rest,” she says. “It felt so weird. But I did get my hair braided and wrote some thank you cards, so I stayed occupied.”
The fight night experience is one Weber says she will never forget. From the moment she arrived at the House of Blues, she says her team, which included Reay and H4H alumna Kim Peltier, kept her focused so she never had a chance to get nervous.
“Getting my hands wrapped was much more serious than I expected,” she says. “Zach is very precise about it. It was clear to me then how much this fight meant to him. The whole time he was wrapping my hands he was coaching me. He talked me through every step of what was coming next. Just lots of instruction and encouragement.”
Waiting in the wings for her bout to start, Weber says she never had a chance to let her opponent “get in her head” because Reay was coaching her the entire time.
“He talked about what I would do when I got in the ring, that he would put in my mouth guard (a custom guard painted like a grill) and help me through the ropes. Then he told me to open my mouth so everyone could see my grill and go around the ring with my arms up with confidence. It felt so cool to do that and it really got me excited,” she says with a laugh. “But looking at some video of it now, it’s pretty funny. I was hesitant about it at first but it dawned on me that this is the only time in my life that I would get to do something like this, so I did it. Then I felt so focused.”
Looking back, Weber says that once the fight started she realized she couldn’t hear her trainer’s voice over the cheering crowd.
“But I didn’t panic,” she says. “I felt like my training just kicked in. I realize that’s why we train so hard and so much. It just took over, which was pretty cool. I know it wasn’t perfect, and I really couldn’t gauge how I was doing. I just thought to myself, ‘go hard the whole time’.”
While she says she couldn’t feel them at the time, Weber knows she took some solid hits and still has a sizeable bruise on her arm to prove it.
She also can’t remember hearing the final bell of the fight, only that she was suddenly back in her corner getting her gloves taken off, and walking over to shake hands with Newman’s team. The next minute, she was standing in the center of the ring with the official holding both fighters’ hands, waiting for a result.
“That was such a weird feeling, to wait,” she says. “I told myself that either way, we gave it our all. But of course, when he raised my hand, it was pure relief. All of that hard work paid off. “
Weber spent the rest of the evening celebrating with her team, family, friends and gym family. “Zach was so happy and I was beside myself. I was shaking, in a happy way. It took a long, long time before I could calm down. That whole night couldn’t have gone any better.”
In all, Weber raised well over $5,000 for Haymakers for Hope. She wore a handkerchief under her headgear that was filled with the names, given to her by donors, of family and friends who have faced cancer, as a way to quietly honor them.
“I have to say, it was very surprising to me how willing people were to give to this cause,” she says. “People I didn’t even know gave me donations. It was humbling, really. People also thanked me for doing this. It clearly meant a lot to people, which makes it even more special for me.”
After a short break in the gym routine, in which Weber briefly enjoyed an unrestricted diet and went to her high school reunion, she has jumped back into training with an abundance of confidence. It seems fitting that when she stepped back into the ring to spar last week, it was to initiate two first-timers who were inspired by her fight.
Weber recently summed up her feelings about her Haymakers journey in a post to friends online. “The physical change in me is obvious,” she wrote. “And I can't even explain the mental/emotional shift, except to say that two years ago I felt like a loser, and now I feel like a fighter, whether things are going my way or not. That's why I love boxing.”
What happens next is anyone’s guess.
“I really enjoyed this whole experience,” she says. “It was fun. Stressful, but fun. It’s hard to explain. I don’t know if I will fight again, but for now I’ll keep training as if I will.”
***Margie Kelley is a mom, freelance writer, master gardener and sometimes boxer. She fought in the 2013 Belles of the Brawl in Boston, and managed to convince her husband, Chris Fitzpatrick, to fight in the Rock ‘n Rumble in May. Settling arguments has taken on a whole new meaning in their house!