The Sun Shines Through The Fog: The Makings Of An Amateur Boxer
The Backstory Behind Sydney "Sunshine" Reeves' First Sanctioned Fight
Inside The Mind Of A Fighter
It didn’t take long in the 24x24 foot ring for Sydney Reeves to realize that she had a tall order ahead of her, but she had come too far to give up.
The other thought in the back of her mind was that she had to be resilient for herself and for everyone who drove hours to see her first sanctioned amateur boxing match on Jan. 23, 2022 in Cincinnati.
After getting hit in the face in the middle of the opening round, the contact lens in her left eye shifted out of place.
However, she was more concerned about how her battered jaw would hold up for the rest of the fight. She has dealt with a lingering jaw pain for the past few months, so she came into the fight with a weaker chin than she would have liked.
It seemed like everything that could go wrong, was actually going wrong.
This was only the first of three grueling two-minute rounds. All she could do was try to get her game off until the bell rang. Her vision was spotty at best.
“Under the lights changes everything,” Sydney said. “It didn’t happen like I wanted it to … I’ll take everything as a learning experience.”
The first round of any fight generally serves as a feeling out process, but both of the fighters were eager to strike as soon as they touched gloves in the center of the ring. They wanted to put on a show.
Sydney’s opponent, Joselyn Johnston, said she was shocked by Sydney’s improvement since the last time they sparred, which was over a month ago. They trained for over three months together leading up to the event. Joselyn noticed immediately that Sydney was stronger, faster and more calculated than ever, so she was going to have to pack more into her punches.
Joselyn won the opening round fairly convincingly by outlanding Sydney in volume and damage. The main factor in scoring amateur boxing fights is damage done to the opponent. She controlled the pace of the match through one. She was the aggressor, she had her right where she wanted her.
Sydney admitted that she struggled to keep her hands up in the early goings and it became a recurring issue in the other rounds.
Sydney lost the most important round in all facets: physically, mentally and on the scorecards. Still though, she had an unwavering confidence in her ability to get through any situation, even if things might have been heading south.
Second (Round) Thoughts
The second round presented some new issues for Sydney. Luckily, the contact lens fixed itself before the start of the round, so that wasn’t a problem.
Sydney said she has dealt with her share of bloody noses and bruises all over her body from training, but being in an actual ring was a different beast.
“My brain and my body just weren’t connected,” Sydney said. “I wasn’t in the zone like I wanted to be.”
After four long fight minutes, the jaw pain returned. The pre-fight adrenaline had worn off. This was not a good sign. She wasn’t necessarily tired physically, it was the mental hurdles that she had to overcome.
Even though Sydney would end up losing the second round, it was far more competitive than the first one. She landed more strikes than she did in the previous round, but she still wasn’t really causing much visible damage.
Joselyn out threw her again and had Sydney close to the ropes a few times. Joselyn said she was trying as hard as she could to knock her out, but that was proving to be an impossible task. She gave all the credit to Sydney for staying on her feet.
Refusing To Succumb To The Darkness
Cardio has never been a problem for Sydney like it has been for other fighters, that is her strong suit.
She often runs upwards of four miles on the treadmill and she once did 30 rounds of sparring in a single day, which is a remarkable feat. Conditioning is key for boxing and she was in the best shape of her life going into this fight.
None of that matters, though, when you are getting repeatedly struck upside the head in a match that counts.
Within a minute in the final round, Joselyn finally strung together a good enough punch combo to force the referee to give Sydney a standing eight count. The referee stepped in because he believed that Sydney took too many punches consecutively without a valid response.
Sydney didn’t appreciate the timing of it, but she didn’t give up. She just had to shrug it off like nothing happened.
Right after the round resumed, both fighters traded blows. This was Sydney’s chance to make a last-minute push. She landed her best combo of the fight, but it was not enough.
Joselyn responded with some jabs and forced another standing eight count.
Both calls were discouraging for Sydney, but she said she now understands the justification behind them. It is the referee’s duty to interrupt the fight when he thinks that it is unsafe for one to continue.
Sydney used the eight seconds to recalibrate each time. She refused to let an outside force stop the fight. She would not be defeated mentally. There was less than a minute remaining after the second stoppage and neither fighter did much after it.
After the fight, Joselyn said she was frustrated that she didn’t land the knockout blow. She ended up winning all three rounds, but it was far from easy. She was quick to give credit to Sydney for fighting through all the obstacles in her way.
There is a lot that Sydney can learn from the match. She has already started adjusting her fighting style. She took a beating and is still feeling the damages today. The jaw pain seemingly won’t disappear. Bruises come with being a boxer, they are battle wounds.
The two have developed such a great friendship outside the ring that they are unsure if they will ever fight each other again in a sanctioned match. They still train and spar together.
“To fight Sydney was a challenge because I love her,” Joselyn said about her feelings on the fight. “I was thinking about my kids … I had to win.”
A Ray Of Light: How Sydney Became Sunshine
The 23-year-old novice boxer doubles as an assistant general manager at Currito, a regional burrito chain with six franchises in Cincinnati.
Sydney has worked there on and off over the course of the pandemic so she could pay her way through college and make a living. It was easy money and the hours were quite flexible. She recently became the first person in her family to graduate from college.
It was an arduous journey to get to that point though. Like many college students, she changed her major multiple times before finishing with a bachelor’s degree in communications and a minor in psychology at the University of Cincinnati. That degree has opened doors for her. Her professional job search is well underway. She is set to work her last shift at the burrito shop on Feb. 28.
Sydney is currently in the process of applying for jobs at local hospitals in the Cincinnati area to work with children in a behavioral health type role. Her mission is to pay it forward, having once been one of those children who struggled with mental health problems.
On Sept. 17 of last year, Sydney was working an evening shift at Currito and a group wearing matching shirts walked in. She was curious, so she asked them what the “B.O.O.M.” in bold letters on their shirts meant.
The group explained that they own a combative training gym in Norwood, a large suburb in the northeastern part of Cincinnati. They had a great conversation and actually ended up scheduling an appointment on the spot for Sydney to show up to the gym two days later. The rest was history.
B.O.O.M. Stands For “Bettering One’s Overall Movement.”
The fitness center is owned and operated by Robert Edward James III, who was recognized by the city of Norwood for receiving the GEM of the Community Award on Feb. 24. He oversees the development of all of his fighters and puts together boxing promotions at multiple levels of the sport. He cares most about his amateurs, but is committed to helping everyone become a better boxer.
James III won the award for his efforts in creating a gym that has been loved by the fighters and the community.
For Sydney, it felt like home the moment that she stepped inside the gym. It would later become her happy place, one where she could drown out the noise and escape from the outside world.
She said she originally wanted to use boxing as a way to get in shape and lose weight. She had no idea that she would actually end up in a USA Boxing sanctioned event.
Her first few training sessions in September of last year went really well. During one of them, she heard the trainers mention that the gym was putting together the card for B.O.O.M. Belt Battle Eight, which was to be held on Jan. 23, 2022.
At the time, they said there wasn’t a fair fight for Sydney because they couldn’t find a similarly skilled fighter in her weight class. She just put her head down and kept training until she found a worthy opponent.
Eventually, the gym told her that they found a fair match in Joselyn Johnston.
Shortly after Sydney learned who she would be fighting, she intensified her training to start preparing for the fight. She began going to the gym at least five days a week, sometimes she would go multiple times a day. She loved the results she was seeing. She lost over 45 pounds in less than four months, which far exceeded her original goal.
Sometime before they fight, James III sits down with all of his fighters and chooses a nickname for them that gets displayed on their waists when they fight. The first nickname they settled on for Sydney was “Showtime.”
They realized that name wasn’t going to work, so they had another meeting, and it was swiftly and aptly changed to “Sunshine.”
Sydney has a glowing, happy-go-lucky personality and she’s always smiling — that’s how they came up with the moniker. They could not have chosen a more fitting nickname. It perfectly represents who she is as a person.
Through all the pain, the experience of getting to compete in the promotion’s eighth belt battle made it all worthwhile, Sydney said she had “an ecstatic time.”
Every fight on a B.O.O.M. card is always for a belt. Although she didn’t win one this time, she was grateful to get the opportunity. She will be better off for it.
“I want to give the amateurs the chance to earn a belt,” James III said about why he started doing belt battles. He boxed at the amateur level and after winning his biggest fight of his career, he was disappointed at not getting the recognition he thought he deserved, so he vowed to give his fighters as good of an experience as possible.
He is making a difference at all the levels of boxing. Along with hosting amateur boxing promotions, James III helps train fighters at other levels and has promoted fights for world-class fighters, most notably Adrien Broner.
Combat Sports Help Fortify Siblingly Bond
The inception of Sydney’s boxing journey can be traced back to the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, when she spent nearly three months living in Kent with her 21-year-old younger brother, Korey Reeves. During her stay in Kent, their bond became stronger than ever before.
Korey was watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) card on his laptop one Saturday in the Ides of March and it caught her attention. She started asking him question after question to learn more about the world of combat sports. He filled her in on the little nuances of the growing mixed martial arts scene.
As the weeks progressed, she kept watching UFC events every weekend with Korey. They also watched boxing fights together when those came on. Then, she started listening to the mixed martial arts podcasts that he put her onto. That is how her love for fighting grew exponentially by the day.
The siblings used to watch WWE every week growing up until their teenage years, so she wasn’t a total stranger to combat sports.
Sydney knew exactly who she wanted to be in her corner on fight day, her brother Korey. They always consulted each other for life advice and she figured this was right up his alley, so why not ask him to be her cornerman. They had been through thick and thin. This was certainly a huge task, but they were built for the moment.
In the hours leading up to the fight, Sydney had to make sure that everyone who came to support her was sitting in their assigned VIP seating sections. She also had to make sure that Korey was ready for any possible scenario that could happen over the course of the three two-minute rounds.
He sat in on a few of her training sessions to learn what to do on fight day. Sydney was used to practicing in an 18x18 foot ring, so it took her some time to adjust to that. There were stark differences when it comes to sparring and actually being under the lights.
Korey’s responsibilities included getting her headgear ready, setting the stool in the ring between rounds, holding the water bucket and giving any advice he could think of.
“Walking out with her was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Korey said. “I just wanted to do the job, then feel the emotions after. Helping people is always fulfilling, especially because it was my sister.”
Sydney and the other fighters on the card spent nearly six hours setting up the recently purchased steel ring the night before the promotion.
Aside from B.O.O.M promoting its own cards on social media and through word of mouth, Sydney sold almost 30 tickets to people she knew. Her family showed up in droves and they were quite vocal.
Korey added that it was an honor to be out there with his sister even though they didn’t get the result that they had hoped for.
They both knew that the bond they’ve built in the last two years was far more important than anything that happened in the ring. He just wanted to be there for her — and like always, he was when it counted.
The Sun Always Shines the Brightest After the Darkest Hour
Sydney could not have imagined just a few months ago that she would be where she is now. She has a fight under her belt and is hungry for another opportunity.
“I am looking for redemption,” Sunshine says. “B.O.O.M. does extra for their fighters. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
She is unsure if her jaw will ever be 100% again, but remains optimistic that if she takes it easy for a few weeks that it could ease the recovery time.
She got her feet wet. The experience should later prove to be invaluable, assuming she puts in the work to get to the next level. She knows that anything in life that is worth having is worth working for.
Sydney says she is ready to move on to the next chapter of her life — one that hopefully includes combat sports — but she stresses that she is more than just a fighter.
All she wants to do is make a difference in the lives of others and she is well on her way to doing so. The path is carved out, she just has to stay the course and good things will follow.
Sydney took one of the more unconventional journeys for an amateur boxer. She can only go up from here. She is past the lowest points of her life. She knows what to expect now and what not to do in the ring.
The sun will shine through the fog, literally and figuratively.
You know the adage that the sun always shines brightest after the darkest storm, that saying has become the embodiment of her life. She has experienced that feeling so many times now that she has lost count.
The Full Video Of Sydney And Joselyn’s Fight On Jan. 23, 2022
Video: Season Thoma
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