“Everybody has a plan until they get hit in the face.”
For Brandon Douglas of Salt Lake City, those words ring true. Brandon, at age 30, is a contender in the World Boxing Commission (WBC) featherweight division (127 pounds). He turned pro six years ago, has a 9-1 record, and after a qualifying match on May 13 in the Bahamas, he seeks to win the WBC Latin Championship Belt later this year in Mexico.
Boxing has grabbed our attention for 3,000 years, beginning with the ancient Olympians and continuing through to the recent Rocky/Creed movie franchise. It is simple enough for anyone to understand. There are no fancy plays. “You want to hit and not get hit. That’s the formula,” Brandon says.
But it resonates on a deeper level because boxing strips away any semblance of a comfort zone. A glaring spotlight shines on the 18×22 foot canvas ring.
“There is nowhere to hide. You cannot lie. Every one of your strengths and weaknesses will show. You have no excuses whatsoever. It is a chance for a man to free himself,” Brandon explains.
Brandon has accepted this brutal freedom for 15 years. As a teen in Oklahoma, he set his sights on becoming a professional athlete. He originally pursued football until fate intervened. “I was in a fight and got kicked off the high school team. The next day, my mother drove me to the gym and I never looked back.”
After amateur bouts that included Golden Gloves and the quarter-final tryouts for the 2016 Olympics, he decided to turn pro. But it was not an easy transition. “I could not get a fight,” Brandon recalls. “The day I was going to join the military I got a call from Eddie. ‘You’ve got a fight,’ he said.”
Eddie “Flash” Newman, himself a four-time world kickboxing champion, owns the Flash Academy in Holladay and trains Brandon for his pro bouts. Promoters arrange matchups and Brandon has received between $4,000 and $30,000 for a fight. This equates to $4,000 for a three-minute round, or more realistically, 37 cents per hour when factoring in the training schedule.
Brandon’s day begins at 8am. Breakfast consists of two eggs. Chicken and rice are lunch and a salad is dinner. A morning five-mile run is followed by 200 pushups, 240 squats, 400 sit ups and 80 pull ups. The evening workout includes shadowboxing, pummeling the light and heavy bags, jumping rope and actual sparring. Six days a week. Fifty-two weeks a year. As for how he spends his afternoons? Brandon just completed an HVAC degree from Fortis College.
This intense self-discipline creates the will to win. “It is really lonely,” he says. “I have to 100 percent believe in my own ability and become my own best friend.”
Brandon’s quiet demeanor belies a competitor’s heart. When he enters the ring he sizes up his opponent. “If I see someone acting tough, I know I have him. A true fighter knows this will not work.”
His two corner men, retired fighters themselves, analyze every round. During the one-minute break between rounds, they coach him on the strategy to follow.
But for those three minutes, Brandon fights alone. The square circle warps time. If a boxer lands on the ropes, those three minutes stretch into eternity. “The fundamentals of jabbing, head feints and footwork will carry you through to the end. I train so much so as to not tire. About the fifth round I get a second wind.”
He likens a round to speed chess with fists. “You have to act and react instantly.” Hit and not get hit. Brandon has nine KOs in his pro career. A moment of fatigue, a missed feint, and an opponent lies on the canvas not hearing a referee’s 10-count. “It’s exhilarating and I get caught up in the adrenaline rush of ‘I won!’ But you want the other boxer to be okay.”
Some boxers are not okay. They do not get up. They die in the ring. “You can’t play at boxing,” Brandon says.Brandon has strong backing from his friends and family and is devoting his prize purses to getting his mother a house. But there is more to it than money. “Nobody can make you do this.You have to love it and make the journey beautiful.” He is climbing a mountain that has a name ― The Champ. “A lot of people have called me this,” he says. “Now I’m out to earn it.”