Monday, April 30, 2007

A Different Perspective On It

I ended the work day upset this past Friday, thinking about how diabetes has cost me hope of ever having an amateur match. Initially, I didn't want to go to the gym that night, and I waivered back and forthwards with that thought. Finally, I pulled myself together and went at the last minute, because, after all, I need the workout. It was tough going for the first half-hour or so. My heart was not in it.

Near the end of the evening, Muhammad did a sparring drill with Steve. It wasn't long before Muhammad began to complain about being tired. Steve directed him to continue, but Muhammad kept leaning on the ropes, reclining in the corners, and not keeping his hands up. Muhammad told Steve at one point that he felt like he was going to die. I leaned over the ropes and said, "Look, Muhammad, I'm 45 years old with diabetes. If I can do this, so can you. You're a young man!" I spent the rest of the drill encouraging him to keep going, and others, like Tommy, joined in to keep him going, too.

As Steve drove me home later, I asked if he had any amateur fights. I knew he had mentioned it before, but I couldn't remember. He never had any, but he had a lot of street fights, and had trained a lot in different boxing gyms. "Some people say you can't be a coach if never had any fights, but that depends on the person," he said. Our talk made me feel better about continuing in boxing, albeit behind the scenes. Next month, I'll buy a book on coaching and study it in preparation for getting a coach's license.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I almost backed out of going to the Sabre Room for JJ, Mort and Erin's fights last night. Earlier yesterday morning, a doctor I went to see for a second opinion confirmed the worst: I actually have diabetes. The A1c blood test made it very clear. According to USA Amateur Boxing rules, I can no longer be approved to box in competitons.

It was very hard watching Erin during her fight, knowing that I will never get a chance to do the same thing. I spar from time to time in the gym, but that's not the same thing. The upside is that I can apply to be licensed as an amateur boxing coach, and no medical restrictions play into that. I'm not going to choir rehearsal tonight, as I have reservations to see a cabaret show. It's just as well. . .I'm not in the mood for Glynn gloating over me not being able to compete. He always said he was praying to me to stop boxing. I guess he got his wish to an extent.

Mort appears to be experiencing the same thing JJ did when he won the Golden Gloves last year -- not getting fights because guys are afraid to fight him. His opponent actually showed up last night, but turned around and said he was too sick to fight. JJ won against his opponent, but he was throwing a lot of wild punches, and dropping his hands a lot.

Erin's uncle John, a former professional boxer, helped Steve out in the corner during her fight. Her opponent was a 17-year-old girl who regularly spars with the guys at the boxing club she attends in Harvey, IL. Erin didn't get hurt badly, but the other boxer just kept putting pressure on her. She also lost one of her contacts. Erin had an 8-count called on her three times. Steve was stepping into the ring to stop the fight after the third time, but the referee stopped it first.

Earlier, Steve pointed out that I made a mistake thinking Erin was the first woman out of Loyola Park to get a fight. I forgot about Lan, who had a fight at Hamlin; Sara, Mike's ex-wife, who had a match at Brooks; and teens Essence and Crystal, who had fights. "Trying to make Loyola Park look like it's against women fighting?" Steve laughed.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Friday Night Quiet

I arrived at the gym around 6:20 PM, and Mary let me in. For about 45 minutes I was alone, so I didn't turn the bell on so the ringing wouldn't attract people in. I knew with the weather being a little warmer and Steve being out of the gym that night, somebody would roam in just to look. One teenaged boy peeked in, did a double take when he saw me, and left.

Tim came in eventually, followed by Tommy, Graubien, and Muhammad. Tommy explained he had been very sick for three weeks, which was why he was gone for awhile. He was surprised to find the gym so empty.

Sometime later, five little boys came in. As usual, I had to tell them to get off the bags. One of the kids I recognized as having come in before, so he knew he wasn't supposed to fool around. Fortunately, I didn't have to deal with them long. Jose followed them in and put them all out of the fieldhouse. "They were messing with Robert, then they were playing around in the woodshop, and then I saw them come in here," Jose said.

I was nodding off near 11:00 PM, when my phone rang. I got up to get it, and it was JJ telling me that he won his fight at the Hollywood Casino in Aurora, but Keith lost his because he gassed out early. He and Steve were in the car, still a half-hour out from Chicago. JJ told me the gym would be open this Sunday. I'll go, but I'll have to cut the workout short. I've got reservations to a cabaret show later that afternoon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Okay, That Was Hard

Erin sparred with Mike first last night. She has a fight lined up at the Sabre Room next week. I believe she may be the first female out of Loyola Park Boxing Gym -- at least since I've been there -- to get a fight. Mike, as usual, was being helpful by giving out pointers. The others in the gym, with the exception of Kate, Sarah and Tim, were not paying attention to the sparring. That is, until they noticed Steve cleaning blood up from the canvas.

Erin bloodied Mike's nose, and he stood in the middle of the ring for several moments with a tissue up to his face. I got the bleach for Steve, and he used an old shirt to clean up. Mort was the first to notice. "What the hell happened?" he said. They all looked at Erin with new respect after that.

I also sparred with Erin, and dealt with the possibility that I might get bloodied up, too. I got rocked instead. The first time her left hook connected, I thought to myself, "I almost got knocked the hell out. Okay." Then I was caught with a jab, as I moved in and put pressure on. Like everyone else, she's taller than I, so I kept focusing on her mid-section as opposed to trying for her head most of the time. The third time, she smashed me in the head with a left hook, and I tried to play off the fact that I became unsteady on my feet.

Steve gave me a suspicious look and asked, "Are you okay?" "Nothing's wrong with me. I'm fine," I lied. "You sure?" he asked. I kept reassuring him I was, and the sparring continued. Later when he drove me home, he told me he was not only concerned that I might get hurt, but that Erin might feel nervous about getting into the ring again if I did. She knocked out Crystal several months ago. If I had been laid out in the ring behind Mike having his nose jacked up, it might have been very hard for Erin to feel comfortable about stepping back into a ring. She kept apologizing for hitting Mike right before she caught him in the nose.

Erin has a good right, and I now I know, her left isn't bad, either. She just has to not hesitate when throwing punches, and she could be big trouble for an opponent.

Raphael came in and picked up his camrecorder from me. Hopefully, he'll come back soon with a copy of Mort's fight from this past Saturday.

Keith showed up, as he has a match at the Hollywood Casino in Aurora on Friday. I opted not to go to that one, and open the gym instead. Otherwise, the gym would be closed both Friday and then on Wednesday for the Sabre Room matches. I'm kind of hesitant about asking Les if I can leave early next Wednesday, considering I've taken off time during the day three times this month for doctor's visits already. I have the option of making up the time by coming in early or staying late, but I don't want to give the impression I'm always taking off for this and that.

A new guy, Q, came in, all hyped up about wanting to learn how to box. "Man, all I need are the fundamentals, and I can make some money, for real," he told the guys. "You ain't gonna make money in here," Mort pointed out, and that got a laugh. "If you jump into professional boxing, having never had any amateur experience, you're gonna get knocked around. Here, in the amateurs, is where you not only learn how to box, but you learn to love the sport," Steve told Q.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Final Night At The Gloves

Steve caught up with Keith late in the afternoon on Friday to apologize for having the dates wrong for Keith's championship match. Dave of Evanston Boxing Club had broken the bad news to Keith earlier that morning. "I dropped everything and ran out to find Steve," Keith told me at the Gloves last night. He found JJ and got Steve's phone number. JJ called Steve right after Keith left and told him, "He knows." Keith was still salty about the whole thing on Saturday night, and I can't blame him. If I was in that situation, I wouldn't be happy, either. Unfortunately, things happen. What are you gonna do?

Raphael, who none of us had seen in about a couple of years, showed up out of the blue last night. He left his camrecorder with me because he wanted to see Mort's fight, but couldn't stay. Mort and Tony's fights didn't take place until late in the evening. We all thought he had gone to Las Vegas, but Raphael had stayed in the city to finish a massage therapy course. He'll come by the gym later this week to pick up the camrecorder.

Bovino, who trains at the same mixed martial gym that Tony does, won the trophy in the super heavyweight division. Tony also won a trophy against a guy who trains at a rival mixed martial arts facility. The coach of that gym tried to pour cold water on Tony's win by telling him he didn't think Tony really won the fight.

Mort was popped in the jaw hard by his opponent during his match. On Thursday, Simon had also hit Mort in the same place, and he had complained about the pain. Mort responded to the hits by coming back strong on the other fighter. Mort looked very good during the match, while his opponent looked unsure, as Simon did on Thursday. I was taping the match, when in the last moments, the battery gave out. I knew I should have brought the company camrecorder with me, but I couldn't shake the feeling that something might happen to it, so I left it at work Friday night.

I reverted to my old 35mm camera to catch the decision of the fight -- Mort's hand was raised in victory. He was so happy, running around the ring with his trophy for the 178 pound championship. Then he ran upstairs and gave me a hug. I took a picture of him with his trophy and a copy of the Golden Gloves program.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Whoops, The Belt Went Elsewhere

A guy in the super heavyweight category got a walkover last night. He grinned as the green and gold belt was placed around his waist. The female announcer made an unflattering crack about his opponent not showing up. The guy's opponent was supposed to have been Keith.

Steve thought that Keith's match was tomorrow. He swore that's what the Golden Gloves organizers told him. A schedule of matches that they had given him a couple of weeks before revealed that Keith's match scheduled for last night. A big mistake. Dave, the coach at Evanston Boxing Club, claimed that Keith's name had been called several times to come and weigh in. I beat Steve, Mort, JJ and Mike there. I didn't hear any announcements, and the guys came in about 15 minutes behind me. The matches didn't begin until near 8:00 PM, so we all would have heard if Keith's name had been called. Steve wondered later why Dave, or any of the other coaches near who know he's with Loyola Park, didn't mention anything to him about Keith being called. "I could have sent someone to look for him. . .I could have done something," Steve said.

The guy who won by default is out of Windy City Gym. Steve spoke with the guy's coach to see if he would be willing to fight Keith anyway, and earn the belt as opposed to taking a walkover win. Chances of that happening look extremely dim. Keith's phone was down, so Steve couldn't contact him to tell him the bad news. I'm hoping he can catch Keith before our gym opens up tonight. Two years ago at the Gloves, Keith was denied competing because he missed the weigh-in time. He didn't compete in the 2006 tournament, and had said he really didn't want to miss out this time around. I already know Keith is not going to take this well.

In better news, Mort won over Simon in his match. Mort was a slip and duck artist, confounding Simon, who would come back with punches only to find Mort already gone. I put in some money to help pay for a DVD of his match. Mort will pay the other part on Saturday. Les told me I could use the company camrecorder to tape the finals matches. The disks in that camera are smaller than the standard DVD. I'll call the store where the camera was purchased from to find out if they'll be able to transfer images to a standard DVD. That'll save Mort some money if he wins on Saturday and wants a copy of his performance.

I met another celebrity at the Gloves last night. Shonie Carter is a five time champion in mixed martial arts. He was one of the fighters featured on the last edition of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter" where several MMA fighters room together and compete against each other for a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Carter is originally from Chicago. We talked for several minutes like we had known each other for a long time. He told me he likes to hang out at amateur fighting events. "Some of the fighters at the top wouldn't bother. But I tell them to remember when they were starting out and wanting people to come out and support them," he told me. I asked Carter if he had another match coming up soon, and he told me he was waiting for his broken hand to heal. Shonie Carter is a real person, just a regular cool guy.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Weight and The Fatigue

If I hear one more man complaining about how hard it is to lose weight. . ..this past Friday, Keith was groaning about having to lose two pounds -- two pounds! -- to make weight for the Golden Gloves this upcoming Saturday. "Men lose weight easier than women do. You can do that," I told him. Here I am carrying an extra layer of fat for childbearing purposes, like most women do, and Keith's complaining about going without his favorite foods for a few days. I resent having the extra layer of fat. I'm not ever planning to be pregnant.

Just as bad is when the guys at the gym complain about being tired. I had energy galore when I was in my twenties, and I wasn't hardly working out as nearly as much as I do now. Maybe my generation was built differently, I don't know.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Finals At Curie

Last night, I got to Curie High School about five minutes before any of the fights started at the Tony Zale City-Wide Boxing Tournament. Things seemed to go quicker than they had on Tuesday.

Patrick, a boy I had seen around the fieldhouse before, but not in the gym, had one of the early fights. He lost, and the kids around him were telling him what he should have done afterwards. Didn't sound like they had much tact, either. I thought, "The boy probably feels down, so why are they making it worse?"

Toby (Kevin) was straight out robbed of a decision during his fight. He clearly dominated the kid he was in the ring with. Toby was very light on his feet, and he danced around his opponent after getting off some clear shots. Steve and I were confused, as we had no idea how the judges came to their conclusion.

Diego easily won over his opponent. I like how his dad, mom and his sisters totally support him in boxing. His dad was in his corner during the match.

Mike had a hard time with his opponent, a guy who was just a little more tougher than he was. Mike rushed the guy several times in reaction to being hit, but to no avail, as he lost the fight. "That guy was throwing some hard shots, and he caught me a few times. If he had hit me a few more times like that, I might have been out," Mike said afterwards. His friend, Bill, was at the tournament, and I told him that Mike had mentioned he was having a birthday party. "Yeah, Mike's gonna be thirty, can you believe it?" Bill said. Mike looks a lot younger than that; he has a baby face.

Montrell's fight was the last of the evening, right behind Mike's. He fought a kid named Ed, who was pretty good. "Ed is good," Nate Sr. told me earlier that night, "but I believe Montrell can handle him." Ed had a lot of supporters who crowded around the ring during the fight. The two boys were punching fast and hard, especially during the second half of the 2nd round and most of the third round. Montrell's hand was raised in victory, and Ed's supporters were not happy as they booed the decision.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Standing For The Winners

Took two trains to get out to the City-Wide Boxing Tournament last night. Surprisingly, there were no major problems traveling there, considering the public transportation system has started another renovation project. It looked as if the fights had just started when I walked inside Curie High School, where the matches took place.

Five of the boys -- David, Diego, Kevin, Montrell and Nate Jr. -- competed. David was the only one who lost. Mary commented that it might have been David's first time in the ring. Montrell was up against a kid who didn't appear to be intimidated by him. Montrell's brother, Michael, yelled out instructions from ringside as he taped the match with a video camera. Montrell won his match. It also looked as if all the boys had received new haircuts before their fights.

Mike caught his opponent in the corners and against the ropes several times. Steve was encouraging Mike to take his time and not just throw a barrage of punches. Mike won, so he, like the four boys, go on to the finals on Thursday. I stood up the whole time, not wanting to sit in the hard bleachers to view the fights.

Two guys who had been MIA at the Gloves were there -- Barry and Catchings, the boxing photographer. I was glad to see them both.

Steve drove me home, which is always nice of him and very appreciated by me. That's the main reason I opted to take the train down to the tournament rather than hitch a ride with him. He's always driving the boxers around, which is wear and tear on his car, as well as gas money spent. I figure if I can get to most matches on my own, I'll do that and get a ride back. Les, my boss, is usually good about allowing me to come into work early so I can leave early to get to matches. However, I don't want to abuse the privilege, so I don't ask him all the time.

On the way home, I told Steve I wouldn't be in the gym tonight. He joked, "Where are your priorities?" There's always a Wednesday choir rehearsal the day before Maundy Thursday, which is observed by my church. I'm doing a reading in the middle of the songs the choir is singing on Easter. Margaret told me it was crucial that I have to be there tonight. I did tell her that if Mike won on Tuesday, that I wouldn't be at Maundy Thursday service, however. I always regret missing last year's finals when Sadiq won, because I went to church instead. I don't want to miss if Mike or the boys win this time around.

Steve told me that the City-Wide Tournament, which is named for boxer Tony Zale, used to be a bigger event than it is now. It only runs two days, when it used to run three. Adult boxers aren't encouraged to sign up for it as in the past. The tournament has turned into a youth-orientated event. It also began after the Chicago Golden Gloves, not during the break between the Gloves' semi-finals and finals. Many guys who competed in the Gloves would turn around and compete in the Zale City-Wide, but that doesn't happen much anymore.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bumps and Knockouts

Mort was all suited up, ready to go, when he was summoned to the weigh-in area during the Golden Gloves this past Saturday night. I could see from where I was sitting in the balcony bleachers that he didn't get good news. He was talking to Steve with an irritated look on his face. It appeared that the tournament organizers and Russell, a boxer from the Harvey gym both didn't have their schedules in order. The Harvey boxer should have had a match during the preliminaries, but he didn't, so Mort was bumped in favor of accommodating him. "I hope his ass gets knocked out," Mort spat. A few fights later, Mort got his wish. Simon, a boxer from Team Z, knocked Russell out hard. Laid the boy out flat. Russell had to be picked up off the canvas.

The best fight of Saturday night was between Adrian, of Team Chicago and Rolando, of Defining. It was non-stop punching action for three rounds. That match received a standing ovation with Adrian taking the win.

There are so many boxing clubs involved in the Gloves this year that I have never heard of before. Also, Windy City Boxing seems to be less of a presence this year, I guess because they don't have a regular training space (they lost their 90+ year old gym a few months ago). JABB Gym is still sort of the new kid on the block, so they don't have as many participants, either. Evanston Boxing Club has a lot of fighters this year, and surprisingly, they appear to be better than they have in the past.

On the way home from the Gloves, Steve got a call from Mort on his cell. Mort forgot to get the DVD of his last match out of Steve's car. Steve pulled over near Foster Avenue, where the both of us waited for Mort, J.J., and Keith to come by in Keith's car. About 15 minutes went by, and it was after 11:00 PM. "Where are those guys? I want to go home and eat. I'm tired!" Steve said. Finally, the guys pull up, and Mort's in the passenger seat. He rolls down his window and says in a Brtish accent, "Do you have any Grey Poupon? In case you don't know, I'm referring to mustard!" Steve was going to get on them for showing up late, but the both of us had to laugh.