Friday, October 28, 2005

Four Rounds

Hattie came in to the gym tonight, along with J.R., another new person. J.R. is a nicely built young man who moved into the city from the suburbs recently. He and Junior sparred tonight, and he looked good. That's not easy against Junior, who has the fastest hands in the gym.

Hattie worked on the punch mitts with Steve. She was tired, but she hung in there. She told me that she also takes kickboxing classes and yoga. Still hard to believe that she is a grandmother to two kids. Hattie doesn't make it into the gym regularly, but when she is there, she is eager to learn.

Can't say the same for Cassandra, who followed her regular pattern of showing up on Wednesday and skipping Friday. Normally, I'm very helpful to others in the gym, but I wasn't interested in dealing with her that night. I've never felt comfortable around her, and that was long before I got the full low-down on her shaky life. I spy her on the streets around the neighborhood often, and she's usually mumbling to herself. She showed up 30 or 40 minutes late, poked around without a purpose, then asked me, "What did I miss the last time?" Steve had taught the new people the day she went missing, so I told her what he covered. I did not offer to show her anything like I normally would do. Cassandra poked around a little more, then I noticed a couple of the guys attempted to give her advice about the speed bag. I was glad the place a bit full on Wednesday, because she couldn't monopolize the speed bag. Once she gets on that bag, she gets fixated on it and doesn't touch any of the other gym equipment.

Steve commented that he saw Josh once since he won his match at the fieldhouse's boxing show in September. "Some people are like that," Steve said, "They have one fight and that's it." Steve has a drawer full of boxing license books belonging to guys who had few to no fights. A drawer full of guys who apparently showed interest in the sport but dropped off, never to reach for the golden ring again.

Every so often I look at my boxing license book, and I have no fights listed. It is not for lack of trying. If I didn't spar or work the punch mitts, I wouldn't see any action at all. I spent four rounds in the ring today working with Steve on the mitts, and I felt like a turtle. I'm too heavy and too slow. Some of the slowness I can't do much about--that's due to age. My weight loss is at a glacial pace. I can't seem to get beyond losing three to four pounds, and they seem to come back as soon as they are gone.

I saw myself on a videotape of the fieldhouse's boxing show and I thought, "Man, I'm built like my father." He was a husky man. I've only seen one picture of him when he was thin, and that was a picture taken of him when he was in the Air Force during the Korean War. Every picture after that shows a solid guy who just got bigger as the pounds piled on over the years. My mother comes from a family of short curvy women. Mom is petite; she's not more than 110 pounds. I often wish I had inherited more of the genes from her side of the family. Sure would help me be lighter on my feet.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Competition Blues

Got my hopes up when I saw an annoucement that the 2005 National Female Golden Gloves are next month. As usual, they were dashed to the rocks when I saw the registration form that stipulated it was for fighters between the ages of 17 - 34.

The only major arena where boxers over the age of 35 is the Ringside Amateur Boxing Tournament that takes place in Kansas every summer. They have a section for Masters boxers there. Myself and some of the folks in the gym were planning to go this past August, but we neither got our individual schedules or money together.

Won't be long before the Chicago Golden Gloves are up, but I can forget about being a participant there. For the past couple of years, they've eliminated the Masters championship due to lack of participants.

Another option would be White Collar Boxing, which is catching on in popularity. I would have to check on age and weight requirments, but that may be a possibility.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Missing The Fight

Didn't go to the gym this past Friday because I had promised an acquaintance that I would see him in the musical he appears in. The guy looked cute in his makeup, bra, and high heels. It was a different kind of musical, believe me.

When I was there on Wednesday, Steve gave me a lesson on how to hold the pads. I seldom hold pads for anyone. I'm glad he gave me some pointers, because now I realize there is more to it than holding them up and calling out punches. My arms were a little sore afterwards; Steve pounded the pads very hard. I accidently got hit in the mouth at one point, too. Good thing that punch wasn't at full power or I would have been missing some teeth!

I don't like missing my time at the gym, whether I miss the entire session or have to leave early for any reason. I really need the workout because I can't afford to be totally inactive anymore. Once I start slacking off on any exercise routine, it is a hard climb to get back to whatever improvement level I was at before. I am very good about regular gym attendance, even if I don't keep up on the exercises I do at home, however. I was supposed to lift weights today, and got sidetracked by other activities. No excuses tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Protect Yourself At All Times

I remember that scene in "Million Dollar Baby" where the female boxer forgets to watch her back during a match and ends up in a bad way. She forgot the mantra, "Protect yourself at all times." I forgot too, during a sparring session with Lan.

Didn't have my head gear on secure, either. Each hit I took upside the head knocked it loose. I told Steve later that I didn't get why my performance was so bad. I do every thing right on the bags, but when faced with an opponent who can, and will hit back, it appears that I forget all technique. I was trying to get some uppercuts in, trying to throw hooks. . .nothing worked. I felt like I couldn't get close enough to do anything without being clocked.

Kept throwing the jab low. Since Lan and I are about the same height, I didn't feel the need to throw the jab high, like I would have to do if I was sparring Steve or one of the other males. Left myself wide open for combinations, and was caught by some good body shots, too. Lan is very quick on her feet, something that I'm not, at least not like I used to be. Age plays a big part in that. None of my reflexes are what they used to be, no matter how hard I work on making them faster. I look at Bernard Hopkins, who is only four years younger than me, and think, if he can move around with grace in the ring, so can I. Ain't happened for me yet.

Guess some of the guys' predictions about the new people showing up regularly were right. I believe only one of them showed up last night, a lanky Hispanic kid who is eager to get into the ring. I wish Hattie (I keep calling the woman Pattie) had showed up. She's got a vibe about her that I like; reminds me of my feisty aunts. I didn't miss Cassandra. I looked at the class roster and noticed that there was no phone number next to her name. That tells me she's probably still living here and there, as usual. I don't know why some people never get tired of being urban nomads. Sarah came in this past week. She had been in the class before, and was a good sparring partner for me.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Hamlin Killers

A guy who used to come to our gym switched over to the Hamlin fieldhouse's boxing program. He could get more days of training there. He told me that there was an expectation that everyone who worked out over there was going to compete. "That guy is training killers over there!" he told me. I thought about that while some of us were there this evening for a boxing show.

Bill, the coach at Hamlin, is well respected. Several boxers have come out of there and done well, including Fres Oquendo, who was a National Golden Gloves winner. He boxes professionally as a heavyweight these days. The boxers who are there now are a tough lot. However, tough doesn't always make for victors.

The most exciting fight took place between Jovan, one of the guys in our youth boxing program and one of Hamlin's guys. Jovan is similar to Junior in that he is very fast, but while Junior can be a little restrained sometimes, Jovan is wild. It was as if he was trying to permanently put his opponent down. His opponent wasn't a slouch--the kid had won a Golden Gloves championship. He wasn't going to be intimidated. Jovan's left hooks were dangerous, the other boy went down, and Jovan ran off with the trophy.

Neil was solid in his match earlier, catching his opponent with some sharp jabs. Neil showed signs of being tired in the third round, and it looked as if it might have been all over. The judges gave the win to Neil. Lan taped the last round, and Neil said, "But that was my worst round!"

Lan got a fight, which was surprising. She was so happy to hear that. Steve was looking for her and said that there was a possible match up. A few minutes later, Lan arrived and went to be weighed in. She came back out very excited to hear that she was going to fight. Unfortunately, she did not win. She was up against Jessie, who is one of the Hamlin women.

Becca, another Hamily fighter, received an award for Most Outstanding Fighter at that fieldhouse. She is a pediatric doctor by trade, and a tough fighter. A local news station did a profile on her around the time the movie Million Dollar Baby was nominated for Oscars. I congratulated her, and she told Lan and I that we should stop by more often for sparring. I would love to do that; the last time several of us came by, none of the women were on hand, and I missed out.

Unfortunately, Larry, Alex, his brother Kevin, and Sam didn't get matches. Little Diego did, and I helped Barry out by videotaping it. That fight was a crowd pleaser, with Diego and his opponent putting on a good show. Diego got a trophy for his efforts.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Went to Steve's house to watch the second clash of Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales. That was really bogus that Castillo did not make the 135 weight by fight time. Because of that, the lightweight title belt was not on the line. It was supposed to be. Someone must have given Castillo some instructions, because he came out of his corner hard. Corrales was ready for him, then he did something crazy. Dropped his right hand just as Castillo was coming up with a fierce left hook. Corrales honestly looked like he didn't know what century he was in. He was up by the count of ten, but referree Joe Cortez wasn't buying his wobbly stance. The fight was stopped 47 seconds into the fourth round. There has to be a third match.

Erin was one of the people also at the viewing party, and she asked some very intelligent questions about the fight game. I wouldn't say that she was a fan, but she tries to get an understanding of what happens and why it happens. Neil showed up later, and Steve was disappointed that he didn't bring his newborn son along. "He can't bring that baby out into this air," I told Steve. It was a bit nippy last night. I'm sure Neil's wife wouldn't have wanted him to take their son out, either. "Babies and boxing go together," Terry, Erin's man, joked.

I love Steve and Ellen's little pug, Ozo. Anytime someone goes to their house, Ozo happily greets them in the stairwell. He's got this big sad eyes that seem to get bigger when food is around, and he can't have any. Pizza was ordered, and Ozo was staring at all of us, waiting for someone to drop a morsel so he could lap it up.

David came by, without his wife, Michelle. The last time I saw her was at a Halloween party Steve and Ellen hosted last year. David and Michelle are a nice couple who look very nice together.

Everyone chipped in for the pay-per-view. I have found out that is how boxing gatherings at homes are set up. Not long ago, The Ring, the major boxing magazine, ran an article about watching pay-per-view fights. They offered two choices: go to someone's house and help pay the cost of them ordering the fight, or go to a bar. It seems they leaned more towards going to someone's home based on how much more comfortable it would be than being in a crowded bar. I'd rather go to Steve's house than be jostled around in a bar and be expected to pay for drinks (I'm not a big drinker) that may be watered down.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Name Changes and New Sparrers

I was telling Coach earlier this evening that I'm running out of monikers to refer to everyone in and around the gym that appears in these blog entries, so from here on in, I'm using real first names. No last names--still gotta be like "Dragnet 1967" and protect the names of the innocent (smile). Let's catch up with the players first.

Coach is Steve, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology. He is married to Ellen, who is also pursuing a doctorate in the same subject. They are expecting a child next year.

College Man is Josh, who is an undergrad student who recently returned to the Midwest after a year of study in Europe.

Youngster is 19 year old Junior, who has his own window washing/maintenance business. Jamaican Boy is Mort, a childhood friend of his who hasn't been in the gym for awhile.

Petite Warrior is Lan, who is very good in the ring, especially at seeking out body shots. She is also very focused.

Litlle Scrapper is Kevin, who is nine years old, and Scrappy Brother is his 14 year old brother Alex. Little Man is Fred, and Little D is Diego. All of these boys are in the youth boxing program.

CoolMex is Raphael, who has aspirations to be a professional boxer.

Head Woman is Mary, who is the superintendent of the fieldhouse where the boxing programs are. Pug is Barry, the kids' boxing coach.

Old Pops is Nate, who was a professional boxer in his younger years. His son, Nate Jr., boxes in the youth program.

Pony Tail is Samantha, a good teenage boxer who trains at another fieldhouse.

Con Woman is Cassandra, whom, not surprisingly, did not show up to the gym tonight. She used to hang around my church a lot. Never became a member, but was always talking about getting her life "together".

Future Champion is Montrell, the star of the youth boxing program.

Others regulars in and around the gym are Joe, a quiet, soft-spoken sort; Neil, who just became a dad for the second time; Andrew, a newbie who resembles actor John Cusack; Patti, another newbie who is a grandmother; Larry, who doesn't come by often because he goes to school and lives way out in the suburbs; Ben, who videotapes our matches; B.K., Gilberto and Jose, who are park district staff members; and Sam, who is another kid in the youth boxing program.

The guys had some fun ribbing Leon, a buddy of Junior and Mort, about his technique after he sparred with a newcomer (I can't remember his name right now). Poor Leon received a beat down, but I give him credit for stepping in the ring. Steve gave him an eight count at least twice, and finally had to stop the match. Patti, one of the new women in the gym, was cringing as she watched the slugfest. "They look they are fighting on the street!" she said. Who really surprised me was Danny, who agreed to spar. I've never seen Danny in the ring before, and he's been there at least a year. He gave up after a couple of rounds, and looked a little hesitant in the ring. Hopefully, he'll want to spar again soon and improve his skills.

Danny has a buddy, Jermaine, who hasn't been in the gym much because he goes to college. Jermaine graduated from the same high school I attended, and he was on the football team there. I remember him saying that his dad disapproved of him boxing. However, Jermaine shows up to the gym whenever he can. He could be a good heavyweight. We can't seem to keep the big guys around.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Friday Night Rumbles

I arrived at the fieldhouse for our boxing show last night around 6:30 PM. Two of our guys in the adult program, CoolMex and College Man were already there. I saw Youngster strolling by the window, and Coach motioned for him to hurry in. Hopeful boxers were being weighed in. One of the guys, Big Guy, beat one of our former boxers, Military Guy, for the Golden Gloves championship a couple of years ago. Big Guy comes out of a fieldhouse boxing program known for turning out killers.

Unfortunately, CoolMex struck out again in getting a match, and so did Petite Warror. However, Youngster, College Man, Little Scrapper, Scrappy Brother, and Little D got matches. I was surprised and pleased to see that Little Man also got a match. He used to sneak into the adult class all the time. Military Guy took a shine to him and would work with him. We had to shoo Little Man out when the other kids insisted on coming in too. Little Man was told to go to the youth boxing class, which is coached by Pug. Glad to see he took our advice. After I sang the National Anthem, the fights were on.

Little Scrapper was handed his first loss by Little Man, who showed a lot of confidence. Old Pops and I were working his corner. Unlike some other coaches I've seen who berate the boxers in the corner, Old Pops quietly encouraged Little Man. His tone never changed, even when Little Man was in the ring. Scrappy Brother, Little Scrapper's older sibling, not only lost his match also, but hurt his shoulder in the process. Little Scrapper did get an award near the end of the night, a sportsmanship award. His mom, a young looking woman, accepted it for him as he was not in the area at the time it was announced.

Little D got two trophies that night--one for winning his match, and the other for being the most improved boxer of the year. Another guy, fighting as a heavyweight out of our fieldhouse, beat Big Guy during a match that was hard to call.

The guy that College Man was up against looked at him like he wanted him for dinner right before the bell rang. College Man measured his movements, and when the other guy couldn't figure out his game, he became unnerved by the punches he took. I was helping Coach in the corner during that match, and it really looked like the opponent was scared of College Man during the second and third rounds. College Man won the bout, and afterwards, his little brother, a cute kid with braces, jokingly ran off with his older brother's trophy.

The highlight of the evening were two separate matches. Youngster quickly gained his confidence back during a bout in which his opponent folded like a deck of cards after a hard shot to the face. The guy wobbled to his feet, and Youngster caught him with another fast shot. The referee stopped the fight, and the crowd exploded with appreciation. Needless to say, Youngster was very happy about his win. He really needed that.

The second match featured a star of the youth boxing program, Future Champion. He generates excitement whenever he has a bout. His opponent played dirty a few times, popping Future Champion right after the bell rang at the end of one round. The audience was unhappy with the referee, Swifty, who they felt was admonishing Future Champion constantly, but not saying much to his opponent. I heard Future Champion say after the match that he was near losing his temper a few times, but composed himself. Good thing he did, because it helped him to win his match.