Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Interview

Today, I met with Laura, a nice young woman who is a journalism student at Northwestern University. For about an hour in a nearby coffee shop, she interviewed me about my involvement in boxing.

She asked many interesting questions. One was about how I feel about the salaries that professional boxers receive. Pros who have worked their way up deserve the big paydays. Boxing is not an easy sport, and the potential for injury is higher than in most other sports in my opinion. Unfortunately, some pros have become so selective and/or careless about protecting their reps, that some of them just take a bout for the paycheck. Once the love of the game is gone, they should hang up the gloves and leave with dignity.

Laura also brought out something in my subconscious that partially fuels my interest in the sport. I told her how I had been the kid who was picked on unmercifully in grade school (and to a lesser extent, in high school). I was always the smallest, always wore glasses, a source of jealousy because I was a good student, and in grade school, I was a big crybaby. I didn't win most of the schoolyard fights back then. If I had the skills that I have now, I would have sent a lot of kids to the nurse's office. In a weird way, knowing how to box somewhat evens the score, even though those days of peer persecution are long gone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sprints On Older Legs

Last night, Steve and several of us went across the hall to an empty basketball gym to run sprints. We usually do five in a row. Steve counts down to ten, then we dash to the other side, touch the wall, and speed back to start as fast as we can. I came in dead last the few times I ran. I could do sprints twice, then I would have to slump against the wall for rest.

There is no way I'm going to outrun the younger guys, especially Junior, who is 19 years old. When I was a kid, I loved to run. I would huff and puff, because before I was 11 years old, I could not breath out of my nose. Had bad adenoids, so I had no choice but to breath out of my mouth. But I was a fast little dart. My kindergarten teacher would always warn me, "Hillari, don't run so fast and so much!", but I would keep speeding. My mom wasn't crazy about me running all the time, either, especially if I was running from her to keep from being spanked. Of course that never worked. When she caught me, the beating would be worse. "What have I told you about running from me!" she'd yell as the strap came down across my legs.

These days, I turn my nose up at running for the buses and trains. That's mostly because my hatred of public transportation has been high since I lost my car to an accident over the past summer. The other part of that is, I have lost a lot of the joy I had for running. It's a sure sign of getting older when you're thinking, "There'll be another bus in awhile. I'll let that one go."

Steve stood in the middle of the floor with the heaviest medicine ball in the gym and said, "Let's play chase the chicken!" Lan and I looked at each other. "Uh, we think we'll skip that one," we said. Mike was the only one who was up for it. The game is, one person throws the medicine ball, and the other person chases after it, brings it back to the thrower, and the process is repeated. Mike's in good shape. He was chasing the ball for awhile. I did that once some months ago in the ring. I was as tired as I would have been if I had sparred with someone.

My endurance level is strange. Some days it is very low. I'll be in the middle of the second round of a sparring session, trying to find energy to keep my hands up, praying for the bell to ring. Other days, I can do eight or nine rounds on the heavy bags and be ready for more. Maybe it has something to do with my iron levels, or not eating enough fruits and veggies, or seldom getting eight hours of sleep (I'm a major night owl). I worry that if I ever get a real fight, I'll fade early, get pummeled, and suffer the indignity of having the referee stop the fight.

Comments On My Boxing

Last Thursday, one of the choir members, Paulette, dropped me off in front of my apartment after our rehearsal. I had told her that I was very sore from participating in boxing class the night before. "You know what you have to do to keep that from happening," she said. She meant that I should stop boxing. She's always telling me, out of great concern, that I should leave it alone. In true mom fashion (she has two daughters, and is a grandmother), right before I went inside the building she said, "Make sure you take some ibuprofen!"

Margaret, the choir director, and her husband, Glynn, were on me for a long time about taking up pugalism. Margaret would groan and say things like, "What about your face? Your head?" Glynn took it one step further. We always stand in a circle and pray after choir rehearsal. For weeks he would burst out with, "And I pray that Hillari stops boxing!" Now when he sees me, he greets me with "Hey, Champ!" Others at church have taken to calling me that as well. The pastor even used me as an illustration in one of his sermons. He was preaching a series of sermons on the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah went off on some nobles who were exacting usury from the people. The Scripture reads, "I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles". The pastor gave an illustration of what contended means. "When our dear sister Hillari steps in the ring with an opponent, she contends with them!" The congregation got a good giggle out of that.

Now I wouldn't say that Roger, the pastor of my church, is a champion of women's rights. We were in a deacon's board meeting a few months ago, and the wife of the chairperson came in briefly to speak with her husband. Roger joked, "Alex is giving her his dinner order!" He has made other comments that place him on the anti-feminism side. However, he has never said to me that he thought I should not box. In fact, I invited Steve to church one Sunday, and on his way out, Roger shook his hand. When he found out that Steve was my coach, Roger asked, "Is she any good?" "She's gotta stop dropping her left hand," Steve smiled.

I remember when I told my boss, Les, that I boxed. I hadn't been working where I'm at now for very long, and I don't remember how the subject came up. However, I'll never forget the look of concern and shock on his face. "But Hillari, you could get hurt!" he exclaimed. Another time he told me, "You really should find another sport to participate in." I think I had been dragging around the office because I had a hard sparring session the night before. "But Les, I like the sport," I protested. "Why don't you go into martial arts?" he suggested. "It seems to be more civilized than boxing." I had been involved in martial arts, long enough to receive a yellow belt. I often went home sore after those classes, as well. "People hit each other in martial arts class, too," I said, looking at him over my glasses.

After listening to him attempt to warn me away from the ring several times, I grew curious about his aversion to boxing. "Have you ever been in a fist fight?" I asked him. "No," he replied. "Not even with your sisters?" I queried further. "Oh, no! If I had hit one of my sisters, I would have been in big trouble," Les said, in a serious tone. I had to investigate further. "Not even in grade or high school?" "Nope. Guess I was too chicken," he chuckled. I have known other guys who have never used their fists on anyone, but it's still a surprise to me when I hear that. Guess I'm a little old fashioned about men and women's roles sometimes, and I should know better. I tried to invite him to a boxing show last year, when I thought I would have a match, but he shook his head. "You're not that squeamish," I teased him. "No, it's not that. I just don't want to see you get hit," he explained. Well, he's a peaceful, mild-mannered man, and that is to be respected.

What tickles me is when kids in the fieldhouse see me in the gym, especially the little boys. A couple of weeks ago, I entered the gym, and two grade-school age boys were sitting and talking to Steve. I greeted Steve, and the boys gave me odd looks. I heard one of them ask Steve, "She boxes?" I thought to myself, "Yes I do!" The kids seem to get over the idea of a woman boxing rather quickly, though. I'll often stop and show them around the gym, then ask them to stop in again when Barry, the youth boxing coach, is present. I remember three kids, two boys and their sister, who used to hang around the gym a couple of summers ago. The girl was interested in boxing, and I used to let her wear my bag gloves sometimes.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Broken Noses and Other Mishaps

Discovered that Josh apparently broke his nose during a sparring sesson with Junior some time ago. Josh had some problems breathing, went to the doctor, and discovered he not only had a blood clot, but that his nose had been busted. No wonder he hasn't been in the gym for awhile.

Then I learned that a couple of boxers in the youth program have had troubles. One is currently in jail for having sex with a minor, another appears to have a drug problem. It is perplexing how boxing is a savior for so many young men, but some still manage to get caught up in bad situations.

Mike showed up last night with his wife. Cheryl is her name, I believe. She boxes also. She was in the ring against Ben, who had a time with her, and with Junior, who did his usual fast moves. She moves very well. I overheard her husband say they had attempted to spar in their living room, but it did some damage to the new carpeting, so they had to abandon the idea.

Hattie came in, and I showed her how to do some exercises with the medicine balls. I like the medicine balls, although I don't use them as much as I should. I even have a 10 pound one at home. She told me her arms were still hurting from hitting the heavy bags. It takes time to get used to working with both the light and the heavy bags. The new persons always complain of sore muscles and raw knuckles. I had the same thing when I first started four years ago.

After the big show he did on Wednesday, Mort was no where to be found last night. I understand he works a lot, so it is difficult for him to come to the gym. As usual, Cassandra was a no-show. Sometimes I wonder if she knows the class meets on Friday.

The other night when I was on my way to choir rehearsal, I ran into Kim, who used to come to the gym a couple of sessions ago. She had said then that she wasn't long for the class. I noticed that she let her hair grow out; she had worn a short cut while she was attending the gym.

I was a little surprised that Kevin didn't come in last night. He seems so eager to learn the game.
My muscles were still a little sore last night, but I did several rounds on both heavy bags, plus a few on the light bags. There was plenty of sparring last night, but I don't believe I would have been up to it. Sometimes I do have to remember I'm in my 40s, not my 20s.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Just Like Old Home Week

It appeared that most of the people who hadn't been in the gym for awhile decided to stop in tonight. Mort, Junior's friend was there; Mike, whose wife boxes at Hamlin; Giovanni or Joe, as we call him, came in; Neil, who had been off a few days; Jose and his friend, who hadn't been there since last session dropped in. There was also a new guy there who hadn't seen before. Big dude with glasses and a bald head.

Cassandra showed up very late. It was darn near 8:00 PM when she slithered in. I first saw her in the washroom. I heard her talking, but when I finished with my business in the stall, I didn't see her holding a cell phone. Odd. She didn't stay long.

Very good workout tonight! I was popping the heavy bags. Steve opened the weight room, and Lan, myself, and Junior went in there to pump up. Finally, Gilberto had to put us out. We stayed in the fieldhouse until 9:30 PM. "The cops come by, see the building open, then complain to Mary that it's open past closing time," he explained.

The day after Thanksgiving, Junior and Neil have matches waiting for them in Waukegan. Lan said she could drive them up there. Steve asked if I could go along to help them out in the corner. I don't have to work that day, so I think I'll be able to go. Steve can't go--he'll be in Boston. It'll be fun to work the corners for them.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Slow Wednesday Workout

I was at the gym, but I felt like I wasn't working hard enough. Some days, I feel more sluggish than usual.

Kevin came back to the gym. I heard him say he was gone for a minute because he had to catch up on his schoolwork. A few others of the new people came in as well. I wasn't surprised that Cassandra didn't show up.

There is a show fight tomorrow downtown. Sure wish I could go, but the choir director would beat me down. It's too close to the church's talent show, and I need to practice the song I'm going to sing.