Training hard and working hard came easy. I enjoyed the challenge. Work fast, move fast, sweat and keep your nose to the grind. The challenge was keeping peace with my new wife, I was young, so was she. New baby, new walk in life and full of challenging times, we both got to each other. I was still seeing a probation officer weekly. It was now called a Parole Officer. That didn’t make things easy. I was working local and not far from home. I was on parole for a period of time. I still had prison hanging over my head. I kicked it into gear. Training Daily! Working hand and feet combos on the bag, sparring when I could. Working my new job was great. Things seemed to be working out well at home. My little girl was starting to grow. Changing diapers, being a full time father and a husband. “I can do this!” I often thought to myself. I’m free like a bird, so that’s how I first came up with my Ring name Freebird! I had a good opportunity to work with a good solid community of people at Skyline. Working around the Amish and the English. The English is the base name for not being Amish in their book. We built mobile homes, it was all piecework if you were not cut out for line work, and you wouldn’t work there long. I was stationed on sidewalls and shell roof. I made it in both areas. It seemed to be a cutthroat line of work. I just kept my peddle to the floor. Worked hard and learned more about the trade of building a home. I really enjoyed working with B$King. He showed me a lot about laying out floors and plumbing. You wanted to be well versed so when they laid off, you could fill in where ever they needed a guy. This hard work ran side by side with my training for my first tournament. I was always taught that hard work pays off in the end! Tournament time was here. We were grouped up in light heavy weight and heavy weights. 155-185 was light heavy and 186-275 was heavy weight, I was in the heavy weight spot. I weighed 205lb. I wasn’t cutting that weight. Besides, I just wanted to fight! The bigger the better. All the basic training and sparring with the locals was over. Stage time! Our bracket had around 20 guys fighting for the Stark County Bad A$$ title. $1,000 cash and a Bad A$$ Jacket for first place. That’s all I wanted. I pulled one of the biggest guys first. 6’5 255lb. He looked scary! Big, mean and long hair. I was too pumped to think of anything else except “He drew the wrong card that day!” Too much anger built up in me for this guy to handle. I was able to land enough kicks to his ribs to set him out after the first round. He said he couldn’t breath mid way through the round. I was guessing those hundreds of roundhouse kicks my dad had me doing in the basement from age 12 on were now paying off. I didn’t look around much at the other fighters. I wanted to get this next fight out of the way and get ready for the following day. I drew another big guy. A little rounder this time. It didn’t mean anything, always be ready for everybody. I used a signature move off the rip. Bell rang and we met in the middle pretty fast. I threw a rear front kick as low as I could on his mid section as possible. Followed up by my money maker left hook. Both landed! Fights over! That fight pushed me into the semi finals. You always seem to hear lips move a lot in a hometown. “Freeman can’t win it. Don’t even know how he made it this far.” I was fighting for me. Not for other people. The negative energy worked for me. It was like throwing coal on my fire. I already had a lot to prove to myself. I didn’t doubt what I was doing or why I was there. I knew if I didn’t follow up with my plan, I’d fall back to my old ways. I finally relaxed a little. I had 2 fights behind me now. I started watching some of the other fighters I’d face in the semis and then the finals. The 2 guys I was watching were doing well. The Irish Shamrock and Mark The Shark both won! They would never set out a bracket to see whom your fighting. It was always announced as you were coming to the Ring! By the way they both looked, I has a couple tough fights ahead of me. Kenny was warming me up; we had a lot of local friends and ex-fighters from our area there. Chuck and Ferby were at ringside. Mike Keiser and Scott were warming up Ryan the Lion. We were all packed into a small area. I had to listen to jokes but stayed focused. Kenny helped a lot. He kept people at bay. Semi Finals were here! They pulled Irish Shamrock. Jason Freebird Freeman to the Blue Corner. Irish Shamrock to the Red Corner. We both walked in together. Leaving our trainers behind. It was him or me on this draw. I already knew I could take a hit. Most of the guys I trained with were 40+ lb’s over me. We strapped on 16 oz. gloves and headgear. The smoke from the English Mafia was the only thing I didn’t care for, since they took up every VIP seat in the house. Ding Ding! Round 1 seemed to come and go fast. Not much head movement or moving at all. Just fists flying. I was enjoying it. Getting hit and hitting someone back. 16 oz. gloves and headgear. How could someone get hurt? Break! The ref split us up. The round was over. Corner guys worked fast on us. The minute break seemed so fast. I couldn’t catch my breath. The damn smoke was so thick. Ding Ding! 2nd Round. We came in this time circling each other. That didn’t last long. I entered with a front kick and away we went with fists flying again. I loved the spin punch! I used it, he came in with a punch and I spun around and it landed. I backed up and he fell. The crowd came to their feet screaming, he’s knocked out! I was taken by surprise for a few seconds. It was hard to go from fight mode to being relaxed, the fights over mode. I took the bait. I fell in love with the stage right there. My 3rd win and I was shaking hands on my way out of the Ring. Just what I needed. A little boost of confidence. In life that was, I felt like I was in a whole new world and it was me up there. Creating a new name for myself. Instead of that guy you don’t want to be around. I seemed to be heading in a different direction and life did a 180 on me. This tournament was going well for me. Besides the Mafia chain smokers in the front row. Finals were after intermission. I was on a roll but still focused. My friend Kenny that had been beside me for the last few months had to rain some Bad news on me at the last minute. Kenny “Freebird, I’ve got to be the one to tell you this. You can’t go in not knowing. This guy, the one your about to fight.” As he grabs my shoulder. “Not to scare you because your not, but he’s the 7 time returning champion Freeman. But you got this and I have faith in you, your more than ready.” It was almost like he knocked the air out of me then blew me back up in the same 3 minute conversation. All he said was right! I told myself this guy was tough but this is my day. I watched his fight! He won and won fast. The Shark vs Freebird in the Finals. I was too focused and had that edge of bottled up anger from my life long choices of bad mistakes. It has to start here I told myself. This is all I got. The Fight Center was packed. Smoke filled the air. By this time we had a lot of drunk people trying to hang around our little and now smaller corner to warm up in. A few of my closer friends helped keep people away. This was it, crunch time. Him or me. I knew it wasn’t to the death. It just felt like my life was riding on the line. Here we Go! Jason Freebird Freeman to the Red corner. Crowd was going crazy. I could feel myself getting excited as I entered the ring! And now Returning Bad A$$ Champion Mark The Shark Beggs to the Blue corner. I kept it in my head to use my feet to keep distance and round house kicks mixed with punch combos while we were close. I was the underdog, expected to lose this one. New guy off the streets. No true formal training like this guy had. He was my size so nothing to worry about on getting hit too hard. Gloves and headgear were placed on and we were in our corners. Sizing one another up. When the bell rang it was as if you just let 2 killer animals go at it. I remember landing good kicks that would slow most people down. Not this guy. I know we both didn’t slow down. These fights were based on aggressiveness and hard hitting combos. The ring announcer was always talking to the crowd to get them pumped, that turned us up a notch or 2. Round one was over. I survived! I knew I was in the fight now. 2 more rounds to go. The small arena reminded me of The Pit. Claymont High school’s gymnasium. Everything was so loud that it was as if there was no noise at all. 2nd round we both came out just as hard. I slipped in a spinning back hand and he dropped. He jumped back up. That gave him an 8 count. He tried saying he slipped. That worked in my favor. I knew I won that round. Ding Ding! 10 second bell. That meant give it all you got. You always heard the ring announcer “Get it get it get it get it” for those last 10 seconds. Everyone always wanted to see a knockout! The knock out wasn’t coming in this fight. Round 2 was over. We had event staff corner men. I always seemed to draw the same corner guy. He was always so ready! I loved it. He helped with quick corner tips of what I needed to keep doing or what I wasn’t doing. We were heading into the Final round of a great fight. The crowd was on their feet as I gazed across the packed house! Ding Ding! I stayed with the same game plan. We knew going in to the fight that he was a boxer. I had a mixed style when I first started out. You didn’t know when I was going to use my feet. I thank my dad for the skills learned as a kid! I knew he was in the crowd and I was making him proud, as I am today. I know he was looking down over us as a family with his head held high. I continued keeping the Shark at Bay with my front kicks. Followed by straight punch combos. That’s all I heard from my corner men. Besides being hit in the body multiple times, my wind was good. The fight was non-stop full go. If one man paused it was to set the other one up for an attack. Ding Ding! 3rd round was over. All I saw was being a success that I could build off of to change my walk in life. This was the beginning of a new start. Tournament was over. It went to the Judges for this final fight. All 3 judges called it to my corner. I flipping won. I won the whole tournament. I couldn’t believe it. All of the past bad choices and time away seemed to fade as I received $1,000 cash and a Bad A$$ jacket. This part of my journey of Fighting My WAY OUT!
Jason “Freebird” Freeman