Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Close to The End

The other Paris came in tonight, and he wondered if the gym is busier on Wednesdays than it is on Fridays. It depends. There have been times when the gym is so crowded that it's hard to find a clear spot to do your workout. Then other times, only two or three show up. Tonight was pretty busy. Mike brought his friend in, who is also known as Mike. Mike No. 2 sparred and got hit hard in the nose. He was bleeding for awhile, but eventually it was under control. It was the first time in a long time that I saw blood on the canvas. Steve wiped it up, but I suggested using bleach or rubbing alcohol to go over the canvas again later.

Diego and Nate Jr. came in, and they sparred. Nate caught Diego a few times, because Diego would back up, often into the ropes, and drop his hands.

Steve and JJ worked together, as JJ is going to the National Golden Gloves next week. He's going as part of a team. According to Steve, the teams and team coaches have had everything taken care of for them -- accommodations, travel, etc. Steve, Jerome and Barry are considered "private" coaches for the purposes of the tournament, so they have to come out of their pockets to take care of expenses. I wish I could go, but I don't have the funds. Also, I agreed to help the church stay clean now that the custodian is gone. I'll be doing that during the week until another custodian is hired.

This is Steve's last week at the gym, although he'll still be in Chicago for a little longer to finish things up. The gym will remain open; the Spring session is not officially done until the first week of June. I will come in so the door is open for people to work out. If I'm not able to come in on certain days, Mary will have one of the field house staff persons supervise the gym.

Mike received his belt for winning the Golden Gloves. It looked great! Had his name on it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tracy and Sam

When I arrived, Tracy Sr. and Tracy Jr. were already there, waiting for JJ, who came in late. Tracy Jr. was there to get sparring with JJ, which he did. He's only about 15, but he carries himself as if he is a lot older. Plus he has, as Steve said, "man strength". JJ commented on how hard Tracy Jr. can hit.

A man from Cameroon came in to work out. I noticed Older Jim watching him closely as the man shadow boxed. When I turned around again, it appeared as Older Jim was giving him tips, but it probably was the other way around. Older Jim hadn't been there two minutes, before he made a comment: "The gym is busy tonight." He was probably was thinking that he wasn't going to get a chance to work on the punch mitts. He didn't.

Sam, whom I hadn't seen in months, showed up. He gave us an update on Javon, another kid was shot recently. Sam and Javon had been hanging out at a friend's house. Javon had agreed to walk some dogs that were on the premises. He was approached by some gang banger. Javon told the guy he wasn't gangbanging, just out walking the animals. The gang banger seemed to accept this answer and he walked off. Javon returned the dogs back to their house, then left the house again. The gang banger double-backed, spotted Javon and said, "I got you now!" before putting a bullet in him. Fortunately, Javon is doing okay. "This happened in Hyde Park, which is something else, because that stuff doesn't happen in that neighborhood often," Sam told us.

Just like Rogers Park, Hyde Park has a diverse population, anchored by a university, in this case, the University of Chicago. One of the differences between the two areas is that Hyde Park has embraced diversity for a long time. In recent years, some of the encroaching condo and townhouse buyers in Rogers Park stereotyping races, most notably African-Americans and Hispanics. They openly wish "those people" would get out of the area on some of the blogs about the neighborhood. The idea of diversity has seemingly been more embraced in Hyde Park. But just like most Chicago neighborhoods, that neighborhood is not immune from crime.

As I was taking off my wraps at the end of the night, I noticed my medical ID bracelet was gone. If it had fallen inside the gym, I would have found it. The gym is not that big. It probably fell off when I took my jacket off while walking through the park to the fieldhouse. That damn bracelet has been threatening to fall off for the longest. Frankly, I had become tired of wearing it. I do have to replace it, however, but this time, I'll get a necklace.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday After The Gloves

I saw Jim as I was walking up to the fieldhouse. It wasn't long before his usual complaints began. Steve interacted with him as little as possible. Jim seems to have a fixation with working on the punch mitts every time. Steve was tired, having worked with JJ on the mitts for most of the evening. Jim opted to spar instead, and he got in with Brian. I think he only did a couple of rounds before stepping out of the ring.

Earlier, Jim decided he should give Ben some jabbing lessons. Ben went along with him, but gave the impression that he probably could have done without Jim's intervention. "He's been here a year, and he should be farther along than he is," Jim told me off to the side. "Ben has been here for a few years," I informed Jim. That conversation quickly turned into Jim complaining about what Steve doesn't teach him. I was glad when the bell rang to start the round again.

John sparred with Brian, and started giving out early. "Don't focus on when the bell will ring. The round will end when it does. Hoping and waiting for it to end will just make the round longer," Steve advised John. That's true. How many times I had I been in sparring, wondering what happened to the sound of the bell? Once you start thinking like that in the middle of a round, you're no longer focused on the opponent in front of you.

Seems like quite a few people were roaming into the gym, including Montrell, the star of the youth boxing program. A woman who claimed to be sixty years old -- she didn't look older than late 40s -- came in with her 25 year old son, who said he was interested in boxing. The duo looked around a little, but didn't stay long.

None of the new people returned, and I was the only woman in the gym tonight. It was a little quiet in the gym, as it usually is behind the Golden Gloves. Steve added JJ and Mike's names as winners on the chalkboard in the gym for that purpose.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Two For The Books

No one was guarding the door when I arrived at the Golden Gloves this evening. That was unusual, considering this is the week of the finals. I waltzed in, not having to show my license or pay.

Mike and JJ were already in the bleachers, chillin' out, when I got there. Steve showed up a few minutes later. Several of Steve's and Mike's friends showed up to watch the festivities, which thankfully, started on time. Mary, Loyola Park's fieldhouse supervisor, was also in attendance. JJ's fight was number eight; Mike's fight was number 11. There were 15 fights in total.

JJ, as expected, was highlighted in the Golden Gloves finals' program as a boxer to watch. He had been featured once before a few years ago. His strengths (long reach, listens to his coach) were pointed out as well as his weaknesses. I wondered if his opponent would read about the weaknesses and keep them in mind.

The guy JJ fought must have taken lessons from George C., a former opponent of JJ's earlier in the Gloves. He kept grabbing and holding. Barry and Jerome were in JJ's corner, along with Steve, while I stood in some bleachers closer to the ring to take pictures. I saw where JJ tried to get in some uppercuts, but they weren't fully formed. His opponent seemed to shy away from JJ in the second round, and he stayed near the ropes. Not a good idea. The guy was leaning over, away from JJ, and did not cover himself well. JJ tested him out with several jabs, then socked him with a right. The opponent thudded to the canvas. The referee stepped in and waved his arms over the fallen boxer. It was over.

Steve was so happy, that he hoisted JJ up in the air. Jerome was outside of the ring, hopping up and down, while Barry was grinning from ear to ear. I was in the bleachers, yelling "That's right, baby! That's how you do it!" while the people closest to me looked at me like I was crazy. I ran down to the ring. A litle kid came up to JJ when he came out of the ring and asked for his autograph. JJ obliged him.

A few fights later, it was Mike's turn. I was standing near while Nick, the coach of Mike's opponent, warmed his guy up. The guy looked rugged to me. "Mike's gonna have to work with this one," I thought to myself. JJ helped Steve in the corner with Mike, and I sat in an empty seat on the front row to position myself to take photos.

There was a lot of pushing and shoving, especially on the part of Mike's opponent. The referee warned the both of them about this. The opponent was also told about holding Mike so much. Finally, I heard the ref tell the opponent, "If I have to warn you one more time, you'll lose a point!" Not long after he said that, the opponent started up again, and a point was removed. Mike worked his jab to good advantage a few times, and caught the guy up in the corner a few more. At the end of it all, Mike was awarded the win.

"This is one for the books," I told Steve afterwards. "You can put this on your resume under accomplishments." He laughed. It was an excellent night for Loyola Park Boxing Club.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Grumble Free Wednesday

It was sort of old home week because both Javonte and Sadiq stopped into the gym. Javonte had his girlfriend and adorable one-year old daughter with him. They stayed around for most of the evening, but Sadiq was only there for a few moments.

John was a new guy who came in. He said he had trained at a gym out in Libertyville. I was surprised there was a gym there. The last time I was up there was to attend a singles' worship event at the church where my pastor used to work. That was about four years ago. From what I viewed of the town, it appears to be very conservative. Too conservative to support a boxing gym, it seemed. John explained that there wasn't much sparring to be had. He had visited a few gyms, including a few Park District ones, and he was impressed with Loyola Park the most. He signed up for the boxing program.

Otis and Pete sparred, and Otis got Pete several times with some hard hits. Steve finally had them stand very close to each other in order to make them work more on combinations, as opposed to going for the big shots.

Steve worked with Mike and JJ earlier as they both have their final bouts at the Golden Gloves this Friday. Older Jim did not come to the gym, so there were no complaints to be heard about the coach "working with the contenders". It made for a bit of peace in the room for the evening, which was refreshing.

I was interviewed on Monday about this blog, and the article featuring me, as well as a few other Rogers Park blogs is online at the web site for The Loyola Phoenix. The Phoenix is the student newspaper of Loyola University. I'll go up to the campus tomorrow and get the print version. I started the blog thinking it would be interesting for people to read a slice-of-life about a middle-aged woman who was crazy enough to be involved in a sport where one can become hurt easily and very badly. After viewing some of the negativitity on the other blogs, I also wanted to show that some positive things do happen in an area that is considered troubled, mainly by some condo and townhouse owners who are at odds with the poor, the working class, people of color and the renters who were here before they moved in. I liked the article, which sought to explore why Rogers Park is one of the "bloggiest" areas in Chicago and the USA.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Night Grumbling

Steve told me something that made a lot of sense tonight. He sees the adult boxing program as being designed mainly for those in their late teens to mid-twenties. Those are the folks who would most likely be interested in competing. Plus, they have the stamina for it. After all, boxing is a young person's game. Of course, someone older, such as myself, is welcomed to join the program, and put in a workout. However, any amateur coach's time would be better spent on working with possible young contenders, then trying to get matches for people over 35 years of age. Unfortunately, the Masters division of USA Amateur Boxing gets no respect.

Older Jim was asking what happened to Igor. I assumed that Igor just disappeared again. "He probably was discouraged that he didn't get into the Golden Gloves. But he should be in here training for next year," Older Jim stated. It doesn't matter if Igor comes to the gym every week from here until next spring. He's about the same age as me, and his chances for making it into that tournament are just as dismal as mine. As disappointing as it was, I had to finally give up on that dream. Eventually, Igor and Paris will have to give up on their visions of glory in the ring.

I'm not sure what Older Jim's aims are in relation to boxing. He has mentioned that he teaches what he picks up in the gym to his son at home. Older Jim now follows the workout plan that was posted in the gym years ago by a former coach named Harlein, who unfortunately is now deceased.

Older Jim doesn't seem to understand that it's a program, not a class. The place is run as a traditional gym. No instructor is going to come out at the beginning and ask people to gather around each time. It doesn't work like that. He left early, grumbling to a guy out in the hallway that "The coach is spending all his time with the contender!" Steve was working with JJ at the time. "I want to learn boxing and there are no teachers here, so I'm outta here!" Older Jim continued to snap. No teachers? Really? I held the pads for him on Wednesday night, and also gave him some pointers on the double end bag. Older Jim has asked other guys in the gym to assist him when Steve was occupied with other boxers. He has also stated that he's mimicked the moves of the other boxers in order to pick up techniques. For him to say he's hasn't been taught anything is false. At this point, I'm wondering: if Older Jim is so dissatisfied, then why does he keep coming to the gym?

None of the newcomers came in tonight, which is a good sign that none of them may return. It's a shame that so many newcomers give up so early. The cost of the program is low, but money wasted is still money wasted.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Frank Talk

Once again, Paris expressed to Steve his desire to become a professional boxer, despite of his middle-aged status. Steve frankly explained to him that his chances for that are nil. Steve asked Older Jim to also talk to Paris, figuring Paris would understand it better from a man closer to his age. Instead, Older Jim stated that Paris should be able to pursue his gym, and that Steve should help him achieve it.

Of course, Steve is not going to do that on the basis that it is fruitless to do so. Older Jim made his usual complaints about himself not being taught boxing. "The coach is too busy working with the contenders," he grumbled to me later. To an extent, that is true. However in Steve's defense, the contenders have proven themselves to be serious enough about the sport to put the work in. Also, some of them have helped the program in and out of the gym. For example, both JJ and Mike have helped out in the corners at boxing matches.

This is only the second week of the spring session, and already, the newbies have disappeared. Younger Jim was the only one of the four from last week who came in today. I helped him with technique on the heavy bags and the double-end bag. Who knows why the other three didn't come in. Steve works with everybody, but it is irritating when he puts efforts into helping folks out who drop out not long after the session begins. The same goes for folks who go MIA, then show up a few weeks later, expecting Steve to drop what he's doing to catch them up. Then they become absent again.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Saturday At The Gloves

Unfortunately, the batteries in Steve's digital camera gave out right as the bell for the first round in JJ's match rang. My digital camera only caught about 40 seconds of that round before it stopped recording.

JJ does have quite a fan club. When we were at St. Andrews last week, a 10 year old boy who also boxes, hung around JJ for awhile, engaging him in conversation about the sport. Later, I asked JJ who the kid was, and he said he didn't know. But the boy sure knew who he was. During his fight tonight, they were many calls of "Go, blue!", as JJ was fighting out of the blue corner. When he won, there was a lot of applause.

Steve figured that JJ may be featured again in the Golden Gloves program book like he was a couple of years ago. Boxers who show a lot of promise are always featured in that book, which is sold during the final week of the Gloves. JJ could also be up for a best boxer in the tournament award, as well, if he gets another win during the finals.

Now there are two guys -- JJ and Mike -- in the finals. Steve commented that this year saw the lowest number of boxers out of Loyola Gym who participated in the finals. I kept wishing that Mort would have come back in, but he didn't. Jordan made noises about getting into the Gloves, as did Igor, but neither one of them had a chance for various reasons. I hope both JJ and Mike bring trophies back to the gym. It would really be cool for JJ for bring one in, because that would be the second trophy for him.

Friday, April 04, 2008

An Addition To The Four

Another new person, a guy, came into the gym this evening. I overheard JJ tell him that it was okay for him to join the others in the ring. Steve was teaching the new people how to wrap their hands. Instead, the guy jumped rope and did what appeared to be a form of footwork in front of the mirrors. He didn't stay long, and he was gone long before the other new people left.

Mike stopped in for a minute near the end of the night. He said he wasn't feeling well. I gave him his camera; he had forgotten to get it back from me last night while we were at the Golden Gloves. Hopefully, he'll feel better soon.

After the new people left, JJ and Steve did some work on the pads. Steve didn't want JJ to do a hard workout, since he has another fight at the Gloves tomorrow night.

The thought crossed my mind to jump rope instead of using the step tonight. I had said to myself that eventually, I would go back to jumping rope on a regular basis. My knees were not up to the challenge, however. They have been bothering me for the past couple of days. I suppose I could get some over-the-counter arthritis meds, but since they only mask the pain, but not cure it, what would be the use? Exercise would probably be better with alleviating some of the symptoms.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Meanwhile At The Gloves

I had seen George C., JJ's opponent tonight, fight before. I believe I saw a tape of one of his bouts. George C. held his opponent more often than he threw punches, and somehow managed to win. I was taping JJ's fight with him using Mike's camera. During the second round, I came down to the main floor to get a better view.

One of the guys whom I was standing near grumbled about George C.'s fighting methods. "When I fought with him, he was holding me all the time, too. I can't stand the way he fights," the guy commented. Others nearby admonished the referee for not taking points from George C. Before the decision was announced, George C. raised his right arm in victory. "Put your arm down," one man in the audience yelled. The judges gave the win to JJ.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Four Enter For Short Night

Steve called earlier today and asked if I could open the gym instead of going to the Golden Gloves to see Mike fight. He was concerned about the gym being closed another day due to the tournament. I agreed, especially since it is close to the Spring session beginning. Newcomers might come in, and they did.

The newbies were Jim, Mark, Tony, and Samantha (Sam was how she introduced herself). I didn't go over much, just basic footwork and the jab.

Paris and Jordan showed up with a friend of theirs, who looked as if he wanted to work out. It seemed that Paris and Jordan waited until they got their friend to the gym to tell him he couldn't touch the equipment unless he was signed up.

People cleared out of the gym at 8:00 PM, which was very early. I was going to stay until the end, but something told me to leave, too. A basketball game was going on elsewhere in the fieldhouse, and people were roaming around. It was probably best to cut down on kids and others just strolling in the gym just because the door was open. I remembered the guy who shuffled in last week and attempted to tell me how to hit the speed bag, and I bristled. After putting things away, I was out early.

Steve called not long after I arrived home. He said that Mike did a very good job during his fight this evening, the best that he's seen out of him. Mike won, so he's in the finals, which is excellent. It's JJ's turn tomorrow night at the Gloves, and I'm hoping he gets to the finals, too.

Come to think of it, I did see Percy at the Golden Gloves the other day I was there. He was working the gloves table like he did the year before. He explained to me that he was getting over a bad flu.