Tuesday, May 16 2017
Most of us are taught from a very young age that the best way to make a friend is to seek out someone that you have things in common with. A kindred spirit. Another human being with similar interests, shared passions, and comparable goals to your own.
Someone you can talk with for hours.
Someone with whom the hours can fly by, as if mere minutes.
Someone you can just, you know, punch in the face real hard.
“Don’t go befriending the enemy.”
This is the advice given to most boxers. To empathize and have compassion for your opponent yields little to no competitive advantage. This too was the general counsel given to both Lydia Davis and Tammy Schuetz Cook by their respective trainers, Marc Gargaro and Sione Tu’uKofe Finau, prior to arriving at the Haymakers For Hope’s “Orientation Night”.
Here, each fighter would get a look at his or her opponent for the first time. Generally the fighters don’t interact before or after sparring; it’s all quite serious business. However, once Lydia and Tammy found themselves in the same room, they couldn’t overlook their obvious commonality.
Of all the fighters, they were the only two women in the room.
From this, they were both able to deduce two things. First, each would obviously be fighting the other. Second, in a situation such as this, it would be pretty rude not to at least say hello.
“I knew I would like her,” Tammy recalls about seeing Lydia. After a brief conversation, her fears were confirmed. “I was immediately like, crap. I like her.”
“It really felt like fate that we came together to fight,” Lydia adds, having felt the same way upon meeting Tammy.
Things only got worse when they later found themselves sitting side-by-side for over eight hours at media day. While most of the other fighters didn’t allow for the interactions with their opponents to venture beyond the superficial and polite, Tammy and Lydia dug in.
What each of them found in the other was a person so similar to herself that each knew this would be more than just a passing acquaintanceship. Both were fighting for someone who had lost their battle with cancer in the months that had preceded their meeting. Both were writers. They held the same political views. Both were driven by creative endeavors. Both suffered from acute tardiness. Both liked to talk. A lot. They had both managed to marry men that were pretty similar, and they even realized that Tammy’s first day ever visiting London coincided with Lydia’s wedding day there. Everything about their friendship felt serendipitous and predetermined.
No, this wouldn’t be one of those commonplace, dime-a-dozen friendships where a person just knocks their friend unconscious and moves on.
Fate had brought these two together to meet each other.
And then, to beat each other.
And beat each other they did.
For two people with such affection for each other, both put all they had into destroying the other in the ring. During the match, there was no sign that these two were BFF’s, unless it stood for Bloodied Female Fighter.
“I don’t think people expected us to go full tilt, punch for punch,” Tammy remembers. “I think on fight night most fighters perform at a level their trainers had already seen in training, but I think we both took it to a level we hadn’t before.”
“That was definitely the hardest I had ever gone,” Lydia confirms. “Afterwards people in the crowd said it was by far one of the most intense fights of the night.”
What the crowd didn’t get to witness was just how savagely the two treated each other in the moments before their fight.
“I heard that the day that would follow our fight was Lydia’s birthday, so I snuck into her dressing room and left her a little gift,” Tammy says.
“My trainer wouldn’t even let me open!” Lydia laughs. “I remember a great moment right before we went on where we caught each other’s eye and smiled at each other even though we knew we shouldn’t!”
So, now that the fight has come and gone, how do Lydia and Tammy feel about their choice to embrace, rather than vilify, their opponent?
“I think that being friends made the fight night itself much easier,” Lydia says. “No matter what happened, it was going to be a good experience.”
“I have no regrets about how our established friendship affected the experience,” Tammy agrees. “It was a big part of the joy of it all. I had made a really good friend.”
More than anything else, the two fighters agree that their friendship allows their Haymakers experience to extend far beyond the fight itself.
“It’s difficult for someone to understand the Haymakers’ experience who hasn’t gone through it,” Lydia says.
“It was the hardest thing ever, but we did it,” Tammy adds.
“It’s wonderful when people come up to you and say after seeing you fight, I want to do this,’” Lydia says.
“It feels really good to be an inspiration to someone,” Tammy agrees. “And the fact that we were able to raise so much money to fight cancer as part of it is better than anything.”
Recently, the two fighters continued to be role models for others within the context of their friendship, demonstrating together in Boston for the Women’s March on January 21st, 2017. Tammy donned her boxing sweatshirt with the added message “#fightlikeagirl” proudly displayed on her back. Both women are committed to making sure their voices and the voices of other women are heard by those in office and they don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“I just love the symbolism of our friendship,” Tammy says. “We came together to fight against each other. Today, we stand and fight together.”