Monday, February 26, 2007

Missed Sparring

I was supposed to spar with Racquel this past Friday, but time got away from us. Plus, I was waivering back and forth about it because of my right knee, which still doesn't feel 100% steady. This week, if the opportunity comes up, we'll spar. I just worry about hurting Racquel. It's silly, I know. As long as I have been in boxing, I should have gotten over the fact that people get hurt a long time ago. It's just that Raquel is very pretty, and I'd hate to throw a wild punch and cut her open. It doesn't matter if I get hit in the face. My younger sister and brother were the cute kids, not me (smile).

Speaking of missed opportunities, I forgot that Steve had opened the gym this past Sunday. I could have gone over there after church. Instead, I went to Evanston, hunting for a CD I didn't find (until this morning on the Internet). Then I went home, complaining about the wet and sloppy weather, got in my pajamas, and puttered around until the Academy Awards came on. Lord knows I need the extra workout.

The week before last, Steve drove Junior home and I walked home at the end of the night. I was crossing the street, when I saw Danny dashing down the alley. He had just gotten off work and was rushing to the gym, but it was too late. It was one night that Steve decided to pack it in early.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Gym Set Up

This past Friday was a quiet night as few showed up to work out. It's nice when it's not as crowded, especially since it is a small space. The gym is tucked way in the back of the Loyola Park Fieldhouse, near a back door that is only supposed to be used for emergencies. Sometimes I think people aren't aware we're back there except for the sound of the bell. Unlike the other programs I've noticed, particularly the ones the kids are in, we're not roaming up and down the halls incessantly.

To the left when you walk in is Steve's desk. I've never seen that desk when it was completely clear of boxing magazines and catalogs, flyers for boxing events, notes to and from Barry, photographs, coaches' guidelines, etc. The drawers are filled with tools, old boxing licenses, pens, pencils, paper, etc. A TV/VCR combo sits on the far right side of the desk. It's a little tempermental, but is useful for its purpose. A cabinet sits to the left of Steve's desk. It is filled with boxing magazines, tools, cleaning supplies and various other items. To the right of Steve's desk are a few lockers. My locker is the last one on the end. I used to share it with Junior and with Sadiq, but neither of them keeps their stuff in there. Steve's locker is the first one on the other end. I'm not sure to whom the other lockers in-between belong to, but they are always locked.

To the right of the main door is a coat rack and a garbage can. There's always shirts and jackets and other clothes on there that I assume belong to the kids -- who come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays -- accidently leave behind. Underneath the coat rack is a box filled with miscellaneous clothes. A board of photographs from days past in the gym are behind the box.

The main floor has two heavy bags hanging. One heavy bag is leaned up against the cabinet where the bag gloves, cups and chest protectors are kept on the left side of the gym (if you are facing the main door). Three mirrors -- two mounted on the walls, and an oblong one in the middle that sits on the floor -- are to the right of the bag gloves cabinet. Various jump ropes hang off of of the cover to the second mounted mirror. To the left of the bag glove cabinet is a speed bag. The speed bag platform is very old, and can't be adjusted. I always have to stand on one of the step risers nearby to reach it the bag. The bell sits on top of an old heavy bag that has been turned on its side. It used to sit on a little table, but that broke several months ago. A T-shirt sits in front of the bell to muffle some of the loudness. A few free weights sit on the floor nearby.

Next to the speed bag is a door that leads to the basketball gym. That door is kept locked most of the time except if we have to enter and exit through it. Sometimes, the main door sticks and doesn't open, or if Steve is not in, staff doesn't always have access to another key to open it. Usually, an old tire is stationed in front of the door, if it is not on top of the speed bag platform.

Next to the basketball gym door, on the left, is a bulletin board. Pictures of current and past boxers, in the gym, at boxing shows and at tournaments, dot the board. Pictures of Steve's little boy and Neil's little boy are up, and there's a picture of me at my job wearing headgear and boxing wear. A diagram of how to wrap one's hands is posted near the bottom.

Below the bulletin board is the sparring glove table. Underneath the table are two step risers. Next to the table is a headgear tree, and a little cabinet with water bottles and Vaseline. On the other side are a couple of spit buckets.

The ring sits flat on the floor and takes up the second half of the gym. On the right side are chairs for observers to sit. On the left side are two more equipment cabinets, plus a radio/tape/CD combo that is always tuned to the popular music stations. Behind the ring is a blue mat, a hanging uppercut bag, and several medicine balls. In the far corner to the right is an old, worn out stand-alone heavy bag which no one uses. A set of double doors behind that bag lead to the weight room, but it is always locked. In order to enter that room, we have to exit the gym into the basketball gym, walk a few feet, and go into another door.

In front of the ring to the left is a double end bag. Usually, a couple of chairs are nearby, either by the ring or in front of the lockers.

There are two fans in the gym, neither of which gives a lot of relief when it is hot. One fan is very old, and was probably there when the building was first built decades ago. The second is a box fan that I donated. It had belonged to my late sister, and I already had a few fans in the apartment. There are windows in the gym, which have to be opened with a hook because they are high up. We're careful to close them at the end of the night, or else Barry will have a fit.

Boxing posters and annoucements about matches cover the walls. One of my favorites is a Nike poster which shows Muhammad Ali during a match with Sonny Liston. Liston is not shown in the picture, but the shot was taken after Ali -- then Cassius Clay -- knocked him to the canvas and yelled, "Get up!" The caption on the poster reads, "Impossible Is Nothing". There's a boxing match announcement with a picture of Erin's uncle on it when he was a contender back in the day. One match from years ago announces that Mike Tyson would be fighting at a local church gym. I'm assuming that was long before his fame/notoriety. A signed poster of Roy Jones Jr. sits near the basketball gym door. There are also articles about local boxers and boxing matches up on the walls.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Squats and Schedules

I managed to do squats for the first time since I injured my right knee over two months ago. Oh, yeah, it did hurt somewhat, but not as bad as it did weeks ago. Maybe in another few weeks I can go back to jumping rope.

Steve had schedules for the Chicago Park District's City-Wide Boxing Tournament, as well as the schedule for the fieldhouse boxing shows. I added them to my datebook at work, and I need to put them in my personal planner as well. Of course, chances of me getting a match at those events is nil, but I can still help out.

Didn't know until last night that Muhammad had broken his leg a few years ago. He was riding around in a car in Saudi Arabia, and got into a bad accident. Broke his femur in two. "My insurance didn't work with the private hospitals there, so I had to stay at a US-run hospital. The service was terrible," he told me. I had heard stories about Americans who needed urgent medical care while overseas before; none of the stories were pretty. Thank God his situation turned out okay.

Just last week, someone at church asked how I could I still box with arthritis in both knees. Now I have to train with another medical condition: mild diabetes. My doctor told me about it this morning when I went in for my physical. I'm still trying to figure out what is "mild" about diabetes. My dad and both my grandmothers had it, and they suffered with it the most before they passed away. My maternal grandma lost one of her legs and some of her toes before it was all over. I was not happy about having to drop a chunk of change at the drug store for a blood glucose machine and several different types of medications.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Boxing Vs. MMA and Coaching

I went to Mike's condo on Saturday night to watch a match between Sugar Shane Mosley and Luis Collazo. Two of Mike's buddies, Nate and Bill were there; none of the guys from the gym came by. We watched several MMA matches including the inagural ones that Showtime aired. Bill commented as we watched the Mosley-Collazo match that it was sort of a come down after the excitement of the MMA bouts.

Well, yes and no, in my opinion. MMA fighters generate a lot of heat with their kicks, takedowns and grappling, but boxing has the better bang for its buck. MMA bouts have longer rounds of five minutes, and only three or four rounds are done. Everything can be over by a submission or knockout in the first round. A fighter can be knocked down and out in the first seconds of the first round in boxing, too, but it doesn't happen all the time. MMA fans get cheated out of good fights a lot, while boxing fans get their money's worth when two great fighters go the distance. It seems that fighters have to be just about dead before referees will stop a match in MMA. Refs and coaches appear to look out more for their fighters in order to keep real damage from being done.

For example. . .Frank Shamrock jammed his opponent, one of the famous Gracie family, in the back of the head twice with his knee before the referee stepped in. Gracie had a concussion and couldn't go on. The fight was aborted unnecessarily, and after a big build up, fans were left hanging. The best MMA bout of the night took place between two women, the first MMA match with females that had been aired on TV. Those women were tough; that could have gone on more than three rounds.

Steve told me Friday night that there was a coach's clinic in Harvey, IL the following morning. If I had known about it earlier in the week, I would not have scheduled a church gospel concert rehearsal Saturday. I'll have to ask him how he finds out about the clinics, so I can put the next one in my calendar.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Junior's Return

My week has not been that good -- yelling at undisciplined (and perhaps, thieving) kids at church, dealing with the fifth anniversary of my younger sister's death, struggling with planning Black History Month events at work as well as a gospel concert at church -- so to see Junior back at the gym this past Wednesday was a very good thing. He met heavyweight champ Calvin Brock while he was down in North Carolina. He also said it appeared Brock's manager took an interest in how he was working out at a gym down there.

Today, I re-ordered the Ringside hat that I believe one of the young hooligans at church took on Super Bowl Sunday. I figured I might as well order a DVD too, so I got one about mastering the punch mits. I always feel so awkward whether I'm the person holding the mitts or the one punching them. I really want to learn how to use them better.

Danny shook my hand before he left the gym and commented, "Wow, you have a hard grip!" Guys in particular always comment on my firm handshake. It's funny to me. I guess I have hard hands.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Senior Moment

I must be slippin. . .I showed up at the gym this past Friday, opened up my locker, and gasped because my gym bag wasn't inside. Then I realized that I had left it at home. Normally, I take the bag to the gym on Wednesday, leave it in the locker, then take it home Friday. I totally forgot that the gym was closed last Wednesday. Fortunately, I was wearing workout clothes. There was an old pair of wraps in the locker. Not sure if they belonged to Junior or Sadiq, but I used them to protect my hands.

Betty took videos of some of the guys working in the ring, and she told Steve she would upload them to YouTube. The camera she had was a nice compact job that she got for a deal. I made a mental note to get a similar camera in the near future. Betty had a good idea. The boxers can view the videos later to get ideas on how to improve their game.

I told the guys about the Super Bowl party that I was coordinating at my church. They made some good jokes when I told them no alcohol was going to be allowed. Stuff about people drinking in the pews, etc. If only that party had turned out as mirthful as the mood in the gym was at that moment. I spent the entire Super Bowl party yelling at a group of unruly, undisciplined, thoughtless kids. I had snapped at the same set of kids -- in the sanctuary --earlier for disrupting the church's services earlier that morning. This past Sunday was most unpleasant. Seeing how the NFL is cracking down on churches and other organization advertising Super Bowl parties, there's a big possibility that there will never be such a party at church again. That's fine with me.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sadiq At The Sabre Room

The gym was closed last night, and I didn't go to Sadiq's fight at the Sabre Room. Went to the movies instead, got a bag of free popcorn (you bring your own bag or bowl on Wednesday nights and get free popcorn), and saw The Queen, which was a good flick. When I got home, I watched "The Janet Dickenson Modeling Agency" and did my physical therapy exercises.

Today, I got an email from Steve about what happened last night, and it wasn't pretty. He said that Sadiq's mind wasn't on the fight. It appeared that Sadiq didn't want to fight, but Steve told him he couldn't back out at the last minute. Sadiq's wife wanted to come along at the last minute and that was a 40-minute wait for Steve while they got themselves together to gather their stuff and get in his car. "The Nigerian Nightmare" appeared to be nervous and slept most of the way out to the Sabre Room.

Sadiq's opponent, a kid from Windy City Gym, didn't appear to be that much of a threat to Steve, but in the first round, Sadiq was caught with a body shot. It appeared he had been hurt. Then the other kid pushed and cuffed Sadiq all around the ring. During the second round, the kid caught him against the ropes and threw a lot of punches that weren't answered. He won part of that round, however, and won the third round, but not in a strong way. In-between rounds, Sadiq was throwing up in the bucket in the corner. It was a close decision, and Sadiq lost. Steve said it could have gone either way, but Sadiq looked lethargic, and didn't appear to be in control inside the ring.