Thursday, April 30, 2009

Again With Oscar

Terrell came by the gym accompanied by his cousin, a friendly, cute three year old boy. Terrell has finished his Biology degree, and is going to get his Chemistry degree. He's going to be around during the summer, so he plans to come by the gym more often.

I sparred with Oscar again, and the punches were a little harder coming from me. But I noticed that Oscar wasn't hitting me that hard, so I didn't go full out. Alan told me to stop reaching, which is bad habit of mine. I feel better about blocking jabs coming in. Now if I would only get better at avoiding the right crosses and hooks that usually follow the jabs.

Finally remember the names of the father and son who come to the gym. E is the dad's name, and his son is Markel. I don't feel so bad that I initially mistook Markel for being a girl. A few other people have made that mistake as well. Markel has his hair in braids, and he has a lot of hair. I can see how people would mistake him for being a female. He's been following his dad around the gym more, and hitting the bags.

Paul's been wearing a Kangol hat lately instead of his yalmuke. Turns out that Alan and Paul attend the same synagogue.

John was telling Sadiq that while his hands still have the speed, his feet won't move fast in the gym anymore. John and I are the same age, so I understood exactly what he was talking about.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oscar's Hands

None of the women showed up to the gym last night. "Either you or the rain scared them away," Alan grinned. "I'd like to think it was the rain," I laughed.

I sparred with Oscar (not the former Golden Gloves winner who came in the other day). Oscar was the guy who sparred with Sadiq that day that Alan was away from the gym. I overheard Alan tell Oscar, "Go easy." I wanted to say, "No, tell him to hit as if he were in an actual match." Then I remembered that Sadiq had bloodied up Oscar, mainly because the latter didn't keep his hands up. Oscar dropped his hands the same way during our sparring session. Normally, I go hard on the guys and light on the women, but I didn't want to bloody Oscar up unnecessarily. I did tap him a few times about the face and head to remind him that he needs to protect himself.

Oscar kept leaning to one side during the second round. I wanted to throw uppercuts, but couldn't figure out how to get them in. I seldom get a chance to throw those types of punches. That's usually because the persons I'm sparring with are so tall. I always think it would be wasted effort for me to reach up that far.

Willie, who I hadn't seen either at church or the gym in awhile, came in to get a workout in. He told me his grandchildren live on the west side. Willie was interested in getting the boys signed up for the park district boxing tournament that's held every summer at Garfield Park.

Leon observed Willie on the heavy bags. "I want to spar with the old heavyweight. I hear him wheezing as he hits the bags," Leon said. Willie begged off, stating that he hadn't been in the gym in awhile and was a little rusty. Leon kept pushing the issue until Alan asked him to stop bugging Willie. I was thinking that Leon maybe should rethink asking Willie to spar. I still remember when Willie and Terrell mixed it up. I was afraid that Terrell was going to get knocked clean out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Having (Somewhat Of) A Glass Jaw

Melinda and I sparred last night. For a moment, I dropped my hands, and she came in with a right hook. I was stunned, and I stopped for a second to shake and clear my head. "Are you okay?" Melinda asked, alarmed. After assuring her I was okay, we continued on. Later, I told her, "I've been hit harder than that. But that's what I get for dropping my hands." If Melinda had put a little more power on that hook, I would have been laid out on the canvas.

Heather and Katie sparred twice, taking a break between the two times. Heather was tentative the first time, but the second time, she caught Katie with a jab to the face. That wasn't easy, seeing how Katie is taller than Heather (and taller than Melinda and I), and she has long arms. Heather had to reach to get that punch in, but she got it.

When Alan was asking if any of the women wanted to spar earlier in the evening, I immediately piped up. The other three women in the gym didn't respond right away. "Somebody other than Hillari," Alan smiled.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chasing Katie

Katie and I sparred last night, and I had to resist the urge to chase her around the ring. Chasing someone is the quickest way to a) get tired, and b) to get caught by a punch. I lightly connected punches to her head a few times. "If you had punched harder, I would have been laid out on the canvas", she told me afterwards. I'm getting better at countering punches. Most times when Katie through her jab, I came right over it with a right.

I attempted to jam her up in the corners, but she was moving a lot. It was not easy trying to get body punches in. Katie's long arms were effective in keeping me at a distance most of the time. We went for a couple of rounds then quit.

Oscar, a guy who won the Golden Gloves in the 119 pound category ten years ago, came into the gym. He sparred with Sadiq. Sadiq is getting back to the quickness he had before when he was training at Loyola on a regular basis. Oscar took a lot of straight jabs and upper cuts. Those watching were surprised that he hung with Sadiq for four full rounds.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Walk-Overs, Trophies, and a Pro

Samantha didn't get to fight at the Golden Gloves last night. Her opponent pulled out of the tournament, claiming something was wrong with one of their knuckles. "We all know that's code for they didn't want to fight," she told me. Her dad and I agreed. That's so frustrating to train all that time, get up to the show, then the other person backs out. Samantha won the championship by walk-over.

From reading the posts on Twitter, the Golden Gloves publicist seems to have a bias against female boxers. The publicist, Trayce, is female, and a few times she posted "Yuck!" about the bouts. "The girls are 99% garbage. I lost my feminist membership a long time ago," she said in another post. It's bad enough when that stuff comes out of men. It just strengthens my resolve to promote and encourage women in boxing.

Somebody said Kelly Pavlik was in the building. I didn't believe it at first until JJ came running over to me with his cell phone. "I took a picture with him!" he said. I ran to the other side of the gym, and found Toby (Kevin). "Where's Kelly Pavlik?" I asked him. "He's right there," Toby answered. Pavlik was sitting down a few steps from Toby, signing an autograph for someone. I got a couple of shots of him. The first shot is Pavlik standing with the Loyola Gym boys. I don't know the name of the kid standing directly left of him, but in the foreground is Nate Jr., Toby and Diego. The second shot is of Pavlik standing with Andre (to the right) and another amateur boxer.

JJ got the trophy for being the best boxer at the Golden Gloves this year. The picture below is of myself and JJ, along with Coach Barry (on the left) and referee Gary Cruz (on the right).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Program Miscalculation

The Golden Gloves finals program had Zugic winning over JJ. JJ was on Zugic from the first bell. He hurt him badly a few times, knocking him into the ropes at one point. From the middle of the second round on, Zugic looked as if he wanted to be anywhere else but in that ring.

I heard Jerome's (JJ's conditioning coach) nephew yelling out instructions from the top balcony at St. Andrew's Gym last night. "Don't wait on him! Get his ass! He's hurt!" I could hear him yelling over everyone else in the place. Alan, Matthew, a friend of Matthew's, Jeannette, a friend of Alan's, and myself were sitting on the lower bleachers. JJ kept pressuring Zugic until there was no choice but to award JJ his third championship belt. JJ later told me that he is going to the National Golden Gloves to be held later this year in Utah.

George wasn't looking very pleased that Zugic lost. I didn't realize that Zugic was one of George's boys until I saw him in Zugic's corner last night. George left the apron before the decision was announced. JJ's belt was given to him by professional boxer Andrew Golota, one of many VIPs who were in the building yesterday.

A sales manager for the Chicago Cubs gave out another of the belts. The audience booed the guy at first. Then the announcer said, "Wait a minute, folks! We're on the north side! This guy works for the Cubs!" Then the cheers came. But I could still hear some boos. We were on the north side, but everybody in the building does not live on the north side.

Tiffany, the little boxer who made such a good showing the other week, easily picked up a championship belt.

There was another female bout, between two heavyweights. It was the last bout of the evening. The bigger of the two women kept holding the head of the smaller woman. It looked like one of those old playground fights where the bully is holding off the smaller kid. The bigger female boxer was booed at the end, but she won the championship.

Every Week Sparring

Melanie told me this past Wednesday, "You know I'm going to want to spar every week when I come in." She really likes it. I told her that I have no problem with that.

I also sparred with Katie, another new person in class. Alan and I told her to use her reach. "You have long arms, so you can keep me off of you forever," I said. Katie was very apprehensive, but she found that she liked the sparring, too. Katie and Maggie then sparred with each other. "She's scrappy!" Melanie said of Maggie. Maggie, who is shorter than Katie, was getting in there. Heather also sparred with Maggie. Remember, these were the ladies who did not want to spar the other night.

The gym was fairly populated on Wednesday. In addition to the above mentioned folks, Mike and Gregory sparred. Mike became tired very fast. He kept turning his back on Gregory, which is a no-no. I think they only went a couple of rounds and they were done. Joe sparred with someone; it might have been Pete, but I'm not sure. Pete told me Otis has class on Mondays (Pete and Otis both attend Loyola University), which is why he hadn't been in.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"But, She'll Kick My. . . !"

Alan's suggestion to the women in the gym that they spar last night, didn't go over well. All of them begged off. Melanie wasn't going to, but then she asked me questions about about it. "Have you ever had a fight with anyone before?" I asked out of curiosity. "No, I've never been in a fight in my life," she said. "I was in a lot of fist fights when I was younger, so boxing was just a natural progression," I chuckled.

Later, I heard Alan asking her about sparring again, and she told him, "But, Hillari will kick my ass!" I promised Melanie that I would go easy on her, and I did. That's my rule: if I'm sparring with a woman, and I know she hasn't had much experience, I do not go hard. It's not fair to them. Guys, on the other hand, regardless of what experience they've had, I whale on them (smile).

Alan said he didn't mind that sparring went on while he was gone, but he didn't think that Mary would approve. As a rule, I won't let anyone spar while he's gone anymore, regardless of the fact that I'm now registered as a coach. Steve would only let people spar when he was out if Nate Sr. or Barry happened to be hanging around the gym that day.

I emailed Steve to tell him about getting my coach's license. I also updated him on what's been going on at Loyola Park since he's been gone. Steve has been following JJ and Edward's progress in the Golden Gloves.

Speaking of Barry and Nate Sr., both of them were in the gym when I got there last night. Barry had his little girl, Laila, with him. Finally solved the mystery of the digital scale being left out and unlocked. Barry wants to keep it ready to weigh the guys in who have tournament matches coming up. Edward was also getting in extra practice. His match at the Golden Gloves finals takes place on Saturday. He assured me that he was going to bring it when he steps into the ring. "I know that's right!" I told him. Edward is hungry, and he looked very good against his last opponent during the semi-finals.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I dragged myself out of bed at 5:00 AM yesterday in order to catch a Metra train to Harvey, IL. A coaches' clinic was held out at Harvey Boxing Club that morning. I had been expecting to have a hike to get to the gym once I got to Harvey, but it was practically around the corner. Carlos ran the clinic, which I found out normally runs for six hours. Mike Q. was there before it began to collect the applications and the fees.

Erin's uncle, John, was there to re-up his certification. "She can come to my garage and workout. I have it set up with boxing equipment," he said. I had seen Carlos before, and I'm acquainted with Mike Q., but other than John, I didn't recognize the other guys there. Carlos was a professional boxer, and now he's a professor. He was very clear, and made sure we received lot of valuable information. I took a lot of notes that I plan to review often. He gave us his business card at the end of the day in case we had any boxing questions in the future. I was the only woman in attendance.

The Harvey Boxing Club is a nice facility. I had heard about it many times. During a break, I peeked in on the kids training. There was one girl in the gym, and she looked like she was either 12 or 14 years of age. The girl looked very comfortable working out with the boys, which is always a good thing.

I got most of the questions on the test right, so now it's a waiting game to receive my license in the mail. "It depends on how fast Colorado (home of USA Boxing) will send the licenses out," Mike Q. told me. "Oh, I know. I waited awhile for my boxing license to come when I first signed up for one of those," I told him. The receipt I have should allow me to get into the Golden Gloves finals later this week with no problem. On the way home, I thought to myself, "About time." Ever since I was diagnosed two years ago with diabetes, I kept saying I was going to get a coach's license.

Today, after Easter church service, I told Pastor that I passed the Level 1 certification. "You got it? Great!" he said, and we gave each other a fist bump like Obama and Michelle. Two young men were standing nearby; I assume they were Pastor's relatives. He has several nephews. "She was an amateur boxer, and now she's a coach," he told them. The youngsters had a look on their face that seemed to say, "Girls and boxing don't compute." I smiled to myself.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Stranger In The Fieldhouse Hallway

Had a bit of embarassment this evening: I learned that the little child of one of the new people who has been coming to the gym is a boy, not a girl. It was an easy mistake to make. The child, who is a first grader, is small, and has his hair in little braids. His hair style reminded me of my mother grumbling about small boys around our neighborhood who had long hair. "Their mamas need to cut their hair so that they look like little boys," she'd say. He's a nice kid, however. He usually sits near the coach's desk and occupies himself playing on a hand-held video game.

Alan could not come into the gym tonight, so Jilberto opened the door for me. Just as I arrived, Jilberto pointed out a guy who was hanging around in the hallway. "Have you ever seen him before?" he asked. The guy wasn't familar. Soon I learned the guy's name was Willie, and he had recently signed up for boxing, or so he claimed. The latest class roster was not in the gym, so I couldn't be sure if he was actually in the class or not.

Willie also said he had boxed at Clarendon Park in the mid 1990's, but was not familiar with Alan's name. Alan had been the coach over there for years before taking over at Loyola Park. "Will they let me box with this?" Willie asked, and he pulled up his shirt. "Very inappropriate," I thought to myself, but I noticed something was out of place. Willie admitted that he had some sort of serious operation on his stomach months ago. He had failed to mention it when he signed up for the class. Mine and Jilberto's antennae raised up. "Boxing is a strenuous sport. You need to bring in a doctor's note stating that you're fit to do this," we told him.

I told him he was free to come in and maybe hit the bags a little, but sparring would be out until he got a medical all-clear. "Well, I wanted to do more than just hit the bags," he said. He then said he wanted to go for another boxing championship. Willie claimed he won a championship when he was forty-four. He's now fifty-seven years old. "You're 57? I'm 47, and I can no longer get an amateur boxing license because I have diabetes," I stated. I was trying to hint to Willie that his seemingly serious health problems were not going to be in his favor in terms of getting matches.

Since he couldn't do what he came down there to do, he started talking about getting a refund. I repeated that he needed to bring in a doctor's note, and talk to Mary when he does. "I don't work for the Park District, so I don't know how they would handle refunding money. But for your own safety, you need to consult your doctor," I told him. "The one who did the surgery or my primary doctor?" Willie asked. I was getting the feeling that Willie wasn't comprehending what I had told him up to that point. Luckily, Jilberto was exhibiting as much patience as I trying to continue to do, and we sent him on his way.

Not many people showed up tonight. Melanie was wondering where the newcomers had disappeared. A friend of two of them, who takes yoga classes upstairs in the fieldhouse, came down to look for them, but they didn't come in.

Sadiq and one of the newcomers -- either Oscar or Severno, I can't remember his name -- sparred, and promised to go light. But the other guy didn't keep his hands up or work his jab enough, and Sadiq bloodied him up. I rinsed his face and wiped it to get the crimson off. I have to give him credit because he stayed in there, and was moving well, but he's got to mindful of where his hands are.

A Kid's Request

I received an odd request from a little girl who was hanging around the gym on Monday night. She wanted to borrow a pair of boxing gloves. "I'll bring them back on Wednesday," she said. She claimed that she was visiting the city and would be going back to New York soon. "The gloves are Park District property, and can't be given out," I told her. I don't know what she planned to do with the gloves.

It appeared that half of the new people who began the Spring session last week did not return to the gym. That's not unusual. What was unusual that it was the first time in seven years that the adult boxing gym didn't at least have two or three guys competing at the Gloves this year. The gym is usually hopping with activity this time of year with guys preparing to go for the belts.

I was going to buy Golden Gloves tickets online, but I had a funny feeling. I didn't notice anything that assured me that the web site was secure. I'll just have to take my chances and show up early next week to see if any tickets for the final bouts are left.

There is actually a coach's certification clinc on Saturday. I'll have to get up early in the morning to catch a commuter train; the clinic is in Harvey, IL. I downloaded the latest copy of the rules and regulations (I had last year's copy at home) to make sure I was up on the new changes in the rules.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Peeps At The Gloves

For the first time since 2003, I had to pay to get into the Golden Gloves. But Friday night's card was worth the $15.00. I knew that Man-Man (Edward) was boxing, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that JJ had a fight also that night.

It was old home boxing week as I re-connected with a lot of the usual suspects. From officials like Gary, Alan and Shifty; Mike Q., the president of the local boxing council; Rita and Samantha, top female boxers; and coaches like George and Percy. Of course it was a pleasure to be around Mike W., JJ, Man-Man, Barry, Diego, Nate and Toby (Kevin).

I learned that there will be a coaches' clinic in Harvey, IL on April 11th. I'm going to try to make it, if only to find out what that all entails. I've been wanting a coach's license for a couple of years now.

JJ fought a nail-biter that fortunately went in his favor. He will face a guy in the finals with the last name of Zugic. JJ's fight was the last of the evening, and he and Zugic pulled their shirts off and mugged for the cameras afterwards. It was funny. Man-Man looked very confident against the guy he blew out of the water earlier in the evening.

Three fights stood out. One ended barely before it got going. One boxer knocked the other down -- twice -- before a minute has passed in the first round. In the second fight, the two guys went at it like gangbusters. Both guys had strong cheering sections, but of course, someone had to lose. When the decision came down, I thought one guy's camp was going to start throwing chairs because they were so ticked off. JJ knew the losing boxer, who told his side of the story. "The guy's hooks wasn't hurting me at all, and I was slipping most of his punches. But, fuck it. It happened," he said.

The third fight was the only female bout that took place that night. The woman who won was named Tiffany, and she was very good. She measured her punches and timed her opponent. The tournament's publicist commented that Tiffany fought like a man, and she did. I saw her walking around after the bout and complimented her on her skills.

Man-Man, JJ and Samantha are all in the finals, and I want to see their fights. I think it's Man-Man's first time at the Gloves, and so far, he's doing well. It would be extremely cool to see Samantha take a win. And if JJ wins, it'll be his third championship belt. Gio told JJ that he was going to have to work hard and train in Gio's way.

Earlier in the day, I ran into Deb, who was returning from a business trip. She's doing physical therapy because she hurt her elbow hitting the pads. I used to wonder how in the heck people could get hurt while training. Then I hurt my right hand and wrist from hitting the heavy bags a few years ago. People get sprains and even break bones during boxing training.