Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When Alan Is Away

Mary told me, "Remember, no sparring," after she learned Alan was not coming in last night.  "No, I never let them spar when the coach is out," I told her.  Carlos, Leon, Jamil, and Oscar had other ideas, however.

When Steve was in charge of the gym, Friday was sparring night.  Rarely did sparring take place on Wednesday unless some of the guys had fights coming up.  I think it was easier to enforce the no sparring rule whenever Steve was out, because he only allowed it on one day.  Alan has sparring each time the gym is open, so people have gotten used to that.

I turn around to see Carlos wearing headgear.  "You're sparring?" I asked.  He answered in the affirmative.  "Mary doesn't want people sparring when Alan's not here," I told him.  "Oh, we're just going to move around in the ring," Carlos answered.  "Yeah, we're going light," said Leon, who was ready to go.  Both his headgear and gloves were on.  I got a bad feeling in my stomach, as I remembered how Deo was injured by Leon.  "Do sparring drills," I ordered, hoping it would not turn into full-on sparring.

Stay pretty boxing headgear at BoxingDepot.com

It wasn't long before I heard pops that indicated the guys were going harder than they should.  I stopped my workout to watch the action closely.  Several times, I had to warn Leon to take it easy.  Carlos took hard shots, Jamil and Oscar took heavy hits to their bodies.  "They're not little kids, so they should be able to spar.  You're a coach," Ieisha told me.  "Yeah, but I'm not a Chicago Park District employee.  Mary's against sparring when Alan's not here because of liability issues," I answered.    If someone becomes injured, and it's discovered there was no official supervision involved, game over.  The Park District could be sued, I could also be named in a lawsuit because I'm an official volunteer, and worst of all, the gym could be shut down.

Barry called me the day before to congratulate me on the match I had Friday.  A check of the calendar says I have a little over two weeks to get ready for my rematch with Meg.

Finally showed Justin my Kindergarten class picture.  The boy appeared to be amused, especially when I pointed out my five-year-old self.  I also showed Ieshia, who laughed at how formal some of the boys were dressed.  "That's how kids looked in 1967," I laughed.  Carlos picked me out right away.  "You look the same," he said.  "Yeah, I do, except for the gray hair," I smiled.  

For awhile I've been putting in one entry a day for a "Follow Your Passion" contest sponsored by an aspirin company.  The grand prize is $25,000.00.  If I won that, I'd probably buy a cobra bag for the gym.  I miss the old one that used to be there.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Long Welcomed Loss

Johnny, Oscar and I sat in the boxing gym, as the activities of Loyola Park's annual boxing show swirled around us.  "I'm worried that I might not get a match.  My friends are going to to be mad if they show up tonight, and I'm not fighting!" Johnny said.  "Make it up to them, and take them out for drinks," I smiled.  If Jamil had showed up, Johnny could have been matched up with him.  Unfortunately, there were no opponents for Johnny last night. 

Oscar had a fight lined up early on, but it was canceled for reasons that I'm not sure about.  I think the guy he was going to fight ended up in a match with someone else.  However, Bill and Alan came up with an opponent for Oscar to fight at Hamlin Park's upcoming boxing show.

Ieisha arrived a little later.  At that time, it was still unclear whether her or I would have a fight that evening.  Alan was in another room, working it out with Bill.  Most of the youngsters from Loyola were already matched up, including Diego, Kenny, Gus, Marquis, and Ed (Man-Man).  There was a woman who came inside the gym earlier, looking around.  I wondered if she was one of Bill's fighters. Several moments later, I learned that she was Meg, the fire fighter that Alan had told me about earlier.  Alan and Bill decided that she would make a better match  for me instead of Ieisha, due to the fact that we were roughly the same height.  "We don't want you two to tear each other's heads off, but mix it up a little," Bill said.  Meg and I shook hands.

An anxiety attack began to slowly swell up inside me, which put a bit of a damper on the fact that I finally had a match.  "Why am I nervous?  I've sparred many times.  This is just one notch up from that," I thought.  The butterflies in my stomach flittered even faster as it dawned on me that Meg was from Hamlin.  Bill, the coach over there, has a rep for turning out what people have called, "the Hamlin killers". 

I sang the National Anthem, dressed in my boxing shorts and the latest jersey printed for the night's event.  It wasn't until later I noticed the wrong date -- September 26 instead of September 25 -- was on it.  I sang the song a little higher than I meant to do, but people seemed to appreciate it.  "I'm impressed.  I didn't know that you sing," Alan grinned. 

Alan and I worked the punch mitts a couple of matches before mine.  "Hit harder," Alan ordered as I threw jabs into the pads.  After I did so, Alan commented, "Shit, Hillari, I know you can hit hard.  Why don't you do that when you spar?"  I explained my rule on not hitting the other women hard because most of them don't have any fighting experience at all.  "I understand that you don't want to hurt people unnecessarily, but you've got to get their respect in the ring."  He put Vaseline on my face.  I had already wrapped my hands. 

Carlos had a match, too that night.  His son Justin was there, and I caught sight of Carlos' wife holding a cute baby boy.  I learned that Carlos has a second son named Jacob.  Alan gathered both Carlos and I.  "In between rounds, I want you to sit on the stool with your legs apart, and your hands down.  Take deep breaths and don't talk.  Let me do all of the talking," he instructed us.  Carlos would unfortunately lose his fight, as did most of the Loyola boxers that night.  I felt that little Marquis was robbed of a win, however.  I thought Diego should have been given the decision in his fight, too.  Ed and Kenny won their matches easily. 

Many people asked me if I was nervous.  "A little," I said, playing off the real terror I was feeling.  "It's good that you're nervous," Alan said, "because it keeps you on edge and alert.  Once you get inside the ring, it'll go away."  Kitchen, whom I hadn't seen in awhile, was surprised to hear I was fighting.  "Oh, this I've got to see," he said.  JJ was also at the show; he helped Barry in the corner.

Shifty was the referee for mine and Meg's match.  "Obey my commands at all times.  When I say stop, you stop.  Touch 'em up," he said, and Meg and I touched gloves.  Suddenly, she looked a lot bigger than she did when we met down the hall in the gym.  The bell rang, and I did my best to wait for her to throw punches before I countered with something.  It wasn't easy, despite the fact that we had a minute and a half rounds to work with.  Meg scored with several hits to my face, head and body.

During the second round, I heard a kid tell me, "You're losing this match!"  "Tell me something that I don't know," I thought to myself.  I just was not getting in close enough to make a difference.  Plus, my headgear kept slipping because I didn't have it on tight enough.  I didn't use mine, but the headgear that the Park District provided.  I quickly put it right when it did, avoiding having a time out so Alan could fix it.  I could hear him calling out instructions to me, as well as Meg's corner giving her pointers.  The audience, with the exception of comments I caught here and there, was like one big blur of sound.

Amazingly, I kept cool throughout.  A lot of people complimented me on the fact that I kept my composure.  The bell rang to end the third round, and I immediately went over to Alan to have him pull my gloves and headgear off.  I then walked over to shake the hand of Meg, Bill, and the guy who was assisting Bill in the corner.  Both men said I did a good job.  Back in the center of the ring, Shifty raised both mine and Meg's arms, but I knew that she won, and I was correct.  "You were really good!  We'll have to work together again!" Meg said after the decision was given.  Bill said that she and I could have a rematch at the Hamlin show.

I was not upset that I lost.  In fact, I figured that I would.  Most boxers lose their first fights.  But I was the happiest little woman in Chicago because of the fact that after nearly nine years, I finally got a chance to actually have a fight.  "You've lost your ring virginity," Alan grinned.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sparring Virgins

The gym was more crowded than usual last night.  Vic, a new guy came in.  He told me he hadn't boxed in 15 to 20 years.  Vic used to work out at Clarendon with an uncle of his.  He plays soccer a lot, but wanted to get in even better shape.

Ashley and Vivian arrived with two more women.  The guys were already matched up for sparring purposes.  I suggested to Alan that I spar with one of the new women.  There are people who make a habit of always seeking out newbies to spar with, thinking they'll be easy pickings.  Jordan, the know-it-all that used to come in the gym when Steve was the coach, did that all the time.  My purpose was to see if they would be interested, and break them in slowly into sparring.  Vivian straight out said no, but Ashley was game.  After we got into the ring, I noticed that she had long arms.  "Eh, another instance of trying to figure out how to get around that," I thought to myself. 

As I promised, I went light, only tapping her in the face and on her body.  We only went one round.  I had taken my gloves off when Alan said to me, "No, stay in!"  Oscar got in the ring with me, but he didn't wear any headgear.  How things usually go when he and I spar:  I'm able to get a few head shots in, then Oscar starts punching non-stop, backing me up into the ropes and corners.  I was popped in the nose once.  "Are you okay?" he asked.  "I'm fine," I answered, hoping that I wouldn't end up with another deviated septum. 

Later, Ashley was sparring again, without headgear, against one of the new women who came in.  The new woman had headgear on, and struck Alan and I as being very well-composed in the ring.  Ashley kept turning her head as punches came in, and ended up being hit on the back of her head.  "Illegal punch!" I called to the new woman. 

"Bill at Hamlin told me he has a girl whose had a couple of fights.  She's lost both of them, but she's a fire fighter and stays in the ring.  Depending on how tall she is, I'll have to decide whether she's good for you or Ieisha for Friday's boxing show," Alan told me last night.  "A fire fighter?  Despite the fact she's lost her fights, she's probably in great shape," I thought to myself.  I also had the sinking feeling that it might be a "so close, but so far" situation.  A few years ago, I came very close to getting a fight at the boxing show, but it fell through at the last minute. I'll find out on Friday. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Leon Signs Up

This past Monday, five new people showed up to start the Fall session.  The fifth person (and one of three women) was not exactly new; it was Arin, who used to come in the gym a few sessions ago.  She, like Ieisha, can only attend on one night, however, because of other obligations.  But it was very good to see her again.

The other women, Ashley and Vivian, spent time on the punch mitts.  They appeared not to be interested in sparring at all, which just leaves Ieisha, myself, and Arin (who has sparred in the past), to get into the ring.  I didn't catch the names of the two guys.  Jeremy, who used to workout at Clarendon, also came in.

Work your hands with punch mitts for boxing and MMA.

Leon signed up for the session this time around.  He spent a lot of the time watching the Mayweather/Marquez fight.  I had made a tape of it, and brought it into the gym.  I was going to leave a copy of it there for the gym, but decided to give that copy to Willie.  Willie asked me to make him one when I saw him in church this past Sunday.  I can always make another copy for the gym at another time.

I sparred one round with Oscar, then he went a few more rounds with Carlos.  If I do have a fight lined up for this Friday, I'd rather cool it on doing a lot of sparring.  No sense in me getting hurt before then.   Besides, I was fighting a cold, which thankfully, seems to have disappeared today.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Slugfest Snorefest

"That fight was garbage," Manny said to me when I ran into him outside of the Howard 'L station.  I had to agree that the Mayweather vs. Marquez fight was a washout.  Now I wish I hadn't paid to see it on pay-per-view. 

You know it was a bad night when two of the undercard fights were better than the main event.  Cornelius Lock knocked out Orlando Cruz and Michael Katsidis had some good moments over Vincente Escobedo.  I expected better out of Rocky Juarez during his match with Chris John.  John just danced around Juarez, and hit him at will.  But then, I didn't mind, because I thought the Mayweather/Marquez fight would be exciting.

"What is Marquez doing?" I kept thinking to myself as I munched on pizza (it was a special event, so I figured I turn in the twenty coupons I had to get a free pizza from JB Alberto's).  The man hesitated to throw punches the entire night, and when he did, there were few combinations given out.  Oh, he caught Mayweather in the head a few times, but "Money" just smirked at and out-slicked him.  Mayweather can be beaten, and he probably will one day if he doesn't retire again.  Marquez wasn't the man to do that, however.  His game plan, whatever it was, did not work against his undefeated opponent.

The most exciting part of the broadcast came after the fight when "Sugar" Shane Mosley told Mayweather that he wanted to get a fight with him.  Mosley and Mayweather seemed to be respectful of each other at first, then they got into an argument.  Announcer Max Kellerman was in the middle, trying to bring order.  Mayweather snapped that Mosley disrespected him by interrupting his interview with Kellerman, but it looked like Mayweather had told Mosley to come over in the beginning.  Kellerman tried to get a question in about fighting Manny Pacquiao, then Mayweather turned on the announcer like a Doberman.  "You talk too much", Mayweather snapped, and Kellerman looked taken aback.  As animated as Kellerman used to be during the boxing broadcasts on ESPN, I was surprised he didn't snap back on Mayweather.  Kellerman seemed a bit subdued during all of the fights that night.

Today is the beginning of the Fall session for the Chicago Park District, and as usual, I'm curious to see the new faces who'll show up at the gym tonight. 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Long Arms and Slipping

A guy named David came in last night.  He looked slightly familiar to me.  "I came in on another Wednesday, but the gym was closed," he said.  "That was probably that Wednesday that I couldn't get in, and Alan was out of town," I said.  "I was out of town?" Alan asked.  "Yeah, remember when I told you I came here, but no one was able to open up the door that night?" I said.  "I remember that conversation, but I don't remember where I went out of town," Alan replied.  "It's okay, we all have senior moments," I said.  "No, it's not okay.  I seem to be forgetting things a lot lately," he said.  Alan racked his brain for several minutes, and still couldn't remember.  "It'll probably come to me while I'm in the shower," he said.

Alan sparred with both Oscar and Johnny.  Johnny was a little nervous about getting into the ring with Alan; he hadn't sparred with him before.  Both men have long arms, but Alan's arms are a little longer than Johnny's.  Even though he's in his late 50s, Alan can still take some hits as well.  They did a couple of rounds before calling it quits.  Oscar was caught in the head and face by several of Alan's rights and lefts, simply because he wouldn't keep his hands up.  I kept telling to him to protect his head while he and Alan sparred.

I sparred with Johnny, and barely got around his arms.  I kept going in for body shots, but he would put a left out and effectively keep me back.  Once again, I started off like a firecracker, but by the time the second round was underway, I was worn out.  I managed to get some rights in on Johnny's head, but he got the better of the sparring session.  I was popped in my left eye, but the damage was slight, fortunately for me.  "You have to be right up on him to throw those overhand rights," I heard Alan say from the side of the ring. 

Later, Alan told me that I don't have to duck down so low to avoid punches.  I don't know why I do that, because I'm already low to the ground in terms of height as it is.  "The other boxer can't punch down, so you don't have to go so far down or move a lot to slip their punches," Alan told me. 

I'm looking forward to next Monday because the Fall session begins.  That means there will be a new crop of people, some of whom will hopefully continue to come to the gym for a long time.  The session is starting at somewhat of an inopportune time, however.  Loyola Park's boxing show is next Friday, and Alan is probably going to be focused more on those -- like Oscar, Carlos, Johnny and myself -- who might get matches then.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shots and Knees

Justin told me that he liked Kindergarten so far.  He was in the middle of the ring, playing with his Spiderman action figures.  "You missed it.  I brought my Kindergarten class picture in, but you weren't here last week," I told him.  Later on in the evening, I attempted to sneak up on him while he was sitting on one of the tires in the gym.  At the last second, he saw me and grinned.  "He's learned to be quick in catching people do that.  I have a hard time sneaking up on him at home," his father Carlos said.

Carlos sparred with Oscar.  Both guys keep coming forward and going non-stop whenever they are in the ring.  It looked as if Oscar had punched Carlos in the stomach.  Carlos crouched down to the canvas and mumbled, "I need to wear a cup."  Turned out that Oscar had scored a low blow.

Alan got in the ring with Carlos next.  Carlos would start to throw his left several times, then stop short.  In between rounds, I told him, "It looks like you're faking him out, but then you don't follow up with a second punch."  "I begin to throw a punch, but then he backs up and is too far away for me to land it," Carlos answered.  I mentioned it to him again when the action resumed.  "I'm trying," Carlos said, while Alan bobbed and weaved.

Earlier in the evening, Mary asked me if I would sing the National Anthem for the field house's boxing show, which will take place on the 25th of this month.  It seems to be a tradition now.  I think I've sung the National Anthem there since 2004.  Mary pulled out a banner to display out front to announce the upcoming show.  "Any of the adults going to be in the show?" she asked.  Alan had been talking to Johnny, Oscar and Carlos.  Later that evening, he would also ask Ieisha.  "I'm not sure," I said, hoping that someone from the adult program might be able to participate.  Several of the kids usually do have matches.  Alan walked in as we were looking at the banner, and Mary asked him the same question.  "Well, I'm trying to get a match for Hillari", he grinned, pointing at me.

My stamina is way down.  I was telling Ieisha there was a time when I would go three or four rounds in the ring.  I remember doing sparring drills with Keith for five rounds once.  I only lasted one round with her last night.  I took a shot to my upper right chest in a sensitive spot (guess what spot), then was stopped momentarily by a body blow.  I went down on one knee to rest, just like I have seen professional boxers do on cable TV.  "You both need to wear chest protectors," Alan said.  I'm going to have to dig mine out of the closet at home and bring it in.

I seem to have had a hard time on the speed bag lately.  I believe it has to do with the platform.  When it was installed in the gym a couple of years ago (one of the free pieces of equipment we received from Everlast when the international boxing championships were in town) it worked like a charm.  No longer did I have to stand on a riser to reach the bag.  The platform could be moved easily to adjust to a boxer's height.  A minor adjustment had to be done to the platform, and handymen were called in to fix it.  I don't know what was done, but now, the platform can't be moved up or down.  So I'm back to standing on one riser, which still doesn't put me up high enough.  I read somewhere that a person's head should reach the halfway point of the speed bag.  If I stand on both risers, I'm too high. 

Save on speed bag platforms at Boxing Depot.

Ieisha and Oscar sparred, and he caught her in the back of the head twice.  She would come in just as he was throwing his right, and it would snake around to the back.  He also threw in an overhand right.  I had done the same thing while she and I were sparring.  "Now I know what that overhand right is!  I will need aspirin for those knocks in the back of my head tomorrow," she said.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What's Up With The Calendar?

Alan called Arturo, who is the coach over at Eckhart Park.  According to the Park District boxing show calendar posted in the gym, there's a boxing show scheduled for today.  Alan was trying to get fights for Oscar, Carlos, and myself.  "I'm weighing people right now," Arturo told Alan.  "What do you mean you're weighing people?" Alan asked.  Turned out that the boxing show was taking place the day Alan called.  That's the second time a date has found to be wrong on the calendar.  I'm going to go to the Park District's actual web site to double check the dates.

I was looking at some pink Everlast boxing gloves in a catalog the other day.  They're cute, but I don't think I would actually buy a pair in that color.  I do have a pair of red ones buried at home.  I used to joke that I picked the red color to match the blood of my opponents.

Yesterday, I stopped in a sporting goods store to see if they had any kettlebell exercise videos.  The fitness equipment section, where the exercise DVDs were, was on the top floor of the building.  No kettlebell DVDs, but they had some limited boxing equipment.  I saw an Everlast heavy bag, and wished that I could put one in my apartment.  It's doubtful that my landlord would let me hang one.  Fortunately, there are free-standing ones available.

Great heavy bags by Ringside and Everlast.

This past Wednesday, the crowd was small.  Ralphie, Oscar, and Johnny came in.  Ralphie battered Johnny several times while they sparred.  Johnny wasn't throwing many punches back after awhile; the man was noticeably tired.  Near the end of the last round they did, Ralphie did a dramatic fall against the ropes after Johnny landed a light punch on him.  Ralphie shook his head as if he had been stunned.  We all laughed about that.  Johnny said he saw the same trick done during a professional fight.  When the opponent came in for the kill, the boxer who was playing injured nailed him.

Oscar and I sparred, and my energy was high during the first round.  I stunned him several times with rights to the head.  I still have to concentrate on throwing hooks more.  I was winded most of the second round, but managed to hang in there, pinning Oscar against the ropes and in the corners a few times.  "That was the best I'd ever seen you spar," Alan told me.

Carlos and Justin were no shows, and I was a little disappointed.  I had brought my Kindergarten class picture in to show Justin, who started school this week.  Alan was amazed that I still had my class picture from back then.  Unfortunately, I only have that class picture, plus the ones from second, fifth and eighth grades.  The other class pictures were destroyed (don't ask), and I don't remember sitting for a third grade class picture.  Ralphie and Johnny guessed which kid I was right away.  Alan made wrong guesses until I pointed myself out. 

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Quiet Action Night

"You gotta sign up", Alan told Sadiq last night. "This is why the gym is empty; people aren't allowed to work out for free anymore." Indeed, only Carlos, Justin, Johnny, and myself were in attendance last night.

Carlos and Johnny sparred. "Doesn't Carlos look like he's slowing up?" Alan asked me. "Yes, he does," I answered. "I'm tired tonight, and I still have to go to work later on," Carlos said. Justin wasn't paying too much attention to the action. He blissfully played with his Super Mario video game off to the side of the ring.

Turns out that Justin had orientation at his school earlier this week. He doesn't actually start Kindergarten until next Tuesday. I told him, if I remember, I'll bring in my Kindergarten picture for him to look at.

A friend of mine, Yaddi, sent me a message earlier in the day asking if I could train her. I told her where the gym was and the price of attending the gym. I was hoping she would come in last night to look around, but she didn't come in. Yaddi and I met when we were trying out for the roller derby three years ago.

At the end of the night, only Alan and I were left in the gym. This has been a really big lull period in the gym. The fall session begins in a couple of weeks. Maybe attendance will pick up then.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Miss Laila Silences Her Critics

People have often disregarded Laila Ali, but she looks like the real deal here, in a sparring match against a guy. . .

The Guys Put In Work

Jamil sparred with Johnny last night. He was hit on the arm, and it kept hurting and wouldn't stop. I figured he might have over-extended a punch, as well. "Alternate between putting ice on it and putting heat on it," I told him. I hope it doesn't get worse.

Carlos, the workhorse, sparred with all of the guys including Ralphie, who is real slick in the ring. "You can spar with whoever is left," Alan told me. No other women showed up last night.

While I was watching Carlos and Ralphie, I felt a light tapping on my back. I turned around and looked down to see Carlos' little boy, Justin. "Tomorrow is the first day of school for me. I'm going to Kindergarten," he smiled. "You'll like Kindergarten," I smiled back. I can't remember my first day of Head Start, but I still remember the first day I was in Kindergarten. I met a girl, Clintonia, who had her head down on the desk. The teacher, Miss Sheffield, introduced us. "I don't like being here!" she told me. I was a little taken aback because I was excited to be there. I had been bugging Ma about wanting to go to school ever since I was two years old. Clintonia and I also attended first and second grade together. We're still friends today. She became a grade school teacher.

"You'll learn your colors, your numbers, and your letters," I told Justin. "I'll learn how to write my name," he said. "Do you know how to read?" I asked him. He shook his head. For a second, I thought that was odd that a five-year-old doesn't know how to read, but that's normal. Just because I knew how to read when I was three, doesn't mean every kid should know how that early.

Alan was already missing Matthew, whom he took to military school last week. He was assured by the people there that his son will be taken care of, but there was still the "empty nest" thing going on. From what he told me, the military school is very dedicated to building up young men.

"Looks like all of the guys are tired out," Alan grinned after Carlos and Ralphie came out of the ring. "That's okay. I'm not going to make them spar with me," I laughed. The coach talked to Carlos about getting a fight at Simons Park next Friday. "Isn't that Johnny Heard's gym?" Alan asked, and I nodded. Mr. Heard was a professional boxer. I was listening to an interview Heard gave back in 2004, around the time of the Golden Gloves Finals for that year. "Boxing is all about money these days. You don't see guys doing slipping, etc., they just want to get in there and knock each other's heads off," Heard told the reporter. That is true to an extent, even though there are still boxers who prize technique. That appears to be the main fault with MMA, where the competitors just want to take someone out as quick as possible.