Fighters forum: My first knockout and the first trophy I ever won

Shawn Porter won his first boxing trophy when he was 8 years old. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

For almost every fighter who has ever stepped into a ring, the first knockout victory is one of the most meaningful moments of their career. The first time they won a trophy, medal or title is a similarly memorable experience. For some, it happened when they were kids or competing as amateurs. For others it was as professionals. For others, it happened in a completely different sport.

ESPN spoke to a number of fighters -- including Shawn Porter, Terence Crawford, Avril Mathie, Xu Can, John Riel Casimero, Jerwin Ancajas and Cecilia Braekhus -- about those key moments in their lives and their feelings at the time.

What was the first trophy/medal/title/sports award you ever won?

Terence Crawford: I won my first tournament, the Ringside nationals in 2002. I had just come back to boxing after taking a five-year break. I had only been back for a few months and I still won. They gave me a belt for winning that I still have.

Shawn Porter: I have the trophy right here with me, I'm looking at it, right now -- the very first boxing match that I had back in Cleveland, Ohio. I believe I was 65 pounds, I was 8 years old. It was the very first fight of the night. At that point you'd only see people win things on TV, the medals and trophies. I remember two things about winning the trophy: When I walked into the gymnasium, you see all the trophies sitting out, and that trophy was the biggest one, and I just remember thinking, "Oh, I want to win that."

And the other part of it is, when I won the fight, I held the trophy up over my head -- and it's almost as big as I am. I remember thinking, "These people are going to root for me and cheer for me like they do on TV." And that absolutely did not happen. It was awkward when I did that. I still have the very first trophy that I won in amateur boxing.

Cecilia Braekhus: It was in soccer, actually. It's funny because that's a team sport. It was with all my teammates in Norway in a local tournament, which was a big deal for me. It was amazing to win something with all my hard-working teammates, so that's a very fond memory.

Jerwin Ancajas: A gold medal in a national amateur youth tournament in 2004 in the Philippines. I also won best young boxer. At that time I was 12 years old and I was very focused on training because I wanted to help my family. My father had no permanent job, and hardly fed us. If I got money from my fights, I gave it to my father to buy food. We had no electricity in our house and we did not have a permanent house. And we stayed in the jungle. In my mind, the only way to get out of this hard life was focusing on boxing. I was blessed because I had so many people around helping me.

Avril Mathie: My first memorable win in sports was when I was in the fourth grade, so I was 9 years old. I was in an 800-meter race and I took off fast at the start, and I was ahead of everybody. With about 300 meters to go, I started to walk because I was so tired and everyone overtook me.

And after a little bit of walking I was dead last. I saw the closest person in front was way ahead, but I got the second wind. I said, "You know what? I'm going to finish this as hard as I can." From the 300-meter mark I started sprinting to the finish line and I passed the next person, and the next person, and the next person. All of a sudden I'm coming down to the last 100 meters and there are only a couple of people in front of me.

So I just gave it everything I had, I shut my eyes, sprinted towards the finish line and I ended up winning. I think I got like a ribbon -- it was like a primary school athletic carnival.

Xu Can: I won my first belt in 2015 in Australia, when I was 21 years old. It was my first intercontinental title fight and I was invited to challenge Kris George, for the WBA Oceania junior featherweight title. Most people didn't think I could win, because I moved up two weight classes and my opponent had a 7-0, 5 KOs record and I was 5-2. I remember clearly that the atmosphere was nice. The first time I heard the news that I would challenge him, I felt a little nervous because if I lose the fight, I might quit. You know, if a rookie boxer lost three fights, he has no value anymore. That's why I put all my energy in training. When fight day came and before I walked in the ring, I said to myself that this was gonna be my best shot.

At the beginning of the fight I tried to use good defense because my opponent was bigger than me. After two, three rounds I felt I could carry it and started to force [the action] and throw more punches. I can feel Kris becoming weak and I [dominated] the fight since Round 4. I started to believe I could win the fight even though it was away from home. Finally, I won.

John Riel Casimero: My first award that I remember really well was my gold medal and best boxer award during the national games in Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines, as an amateur boxer. That victory made me realize that I was really ahead of everybody else around me as a boxer.


What was your first KO, at what level, and how did it feel?

Crawford: My first KO other than sparring was when I fought Brian Cummings in my professional debut in 2008. He was 2-0 with two knockouts. He came out aggressive. I clipped him with a hook. I remember him falling to the ground, face forward, knocked out cold in the first round. I remember thinking that I didn't hit him that hard and wondered what happened. When I saw the replay, I saw that I hit him right on the chin.

Porter: The one I recall the most was when I was 15. I hit this kid in a tournament, it was a left hook and he went down. I knew he was not getting up. And sure enough, it took some time for them to get there and get him together, and get him up off the canvas.

Braekhus: Oh, my God, my first knockout, that was on the futbol field, too (laughs). I was a pretty young girl, I was a big girl for my age. So I definitely knocked some girls out on the soccer field. I'm ashamed to admit it. I didn't hit them with a closed fist. I just got so eager when I got the ball. I would just rush out and not pay attention to anyone who was standing in my way. I would kick them away. I don't know, I guess that's why I had to start with individual sports. I was not the greatest team player.

My first knockout in boxing, I felt good in winning, but I also felt a little bad for my opponent.

Ancajas: In my amateur days, I got my first KO win in my second fight. I was 9 years old. I hit my opponent in the stomach. And in my professional fight, I got my first KO win on my first fight with Senator Manny Pacquiao promotions. I was so excited and very determined because I know that was my time to shine, that was what I wanted in my life and it was a dream come true that my idol was also my promoter. I hit my opponent hard in his stomach and he was down. It was an amazing moment because Pacquiao was ringside and he was the one that gave me the trophy.

Mathie: It was my fourth amateur fight. It was a TKO because in the amateurs it's hard to get an actual knockout because the referee always calls it when you have someone backed up in the corner. But yeah, it was my fourth fight against a girl back in Australia. The first round I scored two standing eight counts on her, in the second round I got one standing eight count. I thought that if you got three standing eight counts, then the fight's over.

But after the third standing eight count they didn't call it. So I said, "Oh, OK, maybe it has to be three in one round." Anyways, we went into the third round and I was like, "I have to get the three standing eight counts in one round. I know I can do this." But after one standing eight count, the ref called it a TKO. I didn't know what the amateur rules are, I just went in there to win.

It was exciting. It's always a good feeling because you already know the decision and it can't be taken away from you, and there's no anticipation of having your hand raised.

Xu: My first KO was on Oct. 3, 2017. My opponent was former WBA junior featherweight world champion Nehomar Cermeno. Cermeno had beaten my teammate, Xiaojun Qiu, twice before I met him in the world title fight. Before this fight I was in the 130-pound division. It was my first fight at featherweight.

How did it feel? It gave me more confidence because I knocked out a world champion. Confidence is very important to a boxer. And my promoter started to believe that I had the ability to challenge for the world title. After one year, when my world title fight opportunity came, I made my dream come true.

Casimero: I won a lot of my amateur and professional boxing fights via knockout.

During my fights, I defend myself and throw hard punches at my opponent, and when I feel my punches connecting with the target with heavy impact, and my fist feels like it is penetrating the body of my opponent, I know then that he might be going down soon.