The cheering crowds are gone, the rigor of training is a faint memory, and the thrill of competition has vanished. What now? What runs through the mind of an old ex-fighter?

I’m an old ex-fighter. And because I was only an amateur, (34-1), I feel a bit pretentious lumping myself in the same category as Eder Jofre, Muhammad Ali, or Jake Lamotta, and all of the other great ex-fighters. But I will. If you have a problem with that—punch me.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you find yourself always shadowboxing in your bathroom mirror at home.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you experience random surges of anger.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you secretly wish that the other guy would do something stupid so you could, in self-defense, punch the life out of him.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you still harbor a secret desire to make a comeback.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you fantasize about calling up the guy who beat you and set up a rematch.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you’re proud of the way you’re still quick and automatically duck left or right when debris hits your car windshield.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you can’t pass a store window without glancing at your reflection and throwing a few soft punches.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you watch some of today’s fighters and smirk.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you still have a trophy, a belt, photos, or a necklace prominently displayed in your home.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you still have boxing dreams at night. Your dream is one of the following four:

1) You’re in the dressing room and you’ve forgotten to pack your boxing trunks.

2) Your trainer is not there—you’re alone.

3) You haven’t trained properly.

4) You fight a great fight—the crowd cheers you.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you enjoy when people still call you Champ.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if some of your family and friends rib you by calling you “Canvasback” or “Punchy” or they squish their nose down with their thumb and talk funny to you. You smile good-naturedly, but you want to smack them.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you continually make boxing analogies, like “I’ll throw my hat into the ring,”  “She’s a knockout,”  “I went the distance” or “Keep punching!”

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you watch Rocky or Million Dollar Baby and tear up.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you (and you’ll never admit this) think the real reason you became a fighter was because you were fearful…fearful of fighting mentally, or verbally.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you secretly have doubts about boxing. You suspect boxing is just plain stupid, and that it’s a brainless sport created by unhappy people. But since you’ve invested so much time in boxing, since boxing has become a pillar of your very existence, you can’t turn your back on it. So you hear yourself saying sentences like: Boxing is art, or Boxing is a physical chess match or Boxing is a sport to which all other sports aspire.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if when you forget simple words like door or telephone, or forget where the car is parked, you suspect you might be suffering from brain damage.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you’re secretly proud of your broken nose, or scar over your left eye, or missing front tooth, or broken pinkie knuckle.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you look into the mirror at your soft paunch and sigh.  Then do 50 sit-ups in the bedroom.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you look at the pumped-up bodybuilders in the fitness gym, or karate guys jumping around in their white pajamas, and wonder if they could take a shot to the jaw.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if in your wallet, you carry some picture or identification establishing you as a former fighter.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if when you’re watch a boxing match on TV, you find yourself looking at the trainers and cornermen as much as the fighters.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if your address book has the names of at least two deceased boxing trainers, or cornermen.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if you understand the parallel between a fight manager and his stable of fighters, and a pimp and his stable of whores.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if there’s at least one painting in your house hiding the hole in the wall that you punched.

You know you’re an ex-fighter if this morning your wife, or girlfriend, told you for the umpteenth time, Stop shadowboxing in the damn mirror!

(Peter Wood’s two books, Confessions of a Fighter—Battling through the New York Golden Gloves and A Clenched Fist—The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion, published by Ringside Books, will both be released this October.)