Thursday, October 29, 2009

JJ Takes All Comers

I emailed the clip of my first fight that's on YouTube around to various people.  My stepmother called to say that she didn't watch it.  "I didn't want to see you get hurt!" she said.  Pastor Roger took a little while to watch it, but he did.  I asked if he had any advice. "I don't know much about boxing.  I'm not sure how it's scored.  But if you had cornerned your opponent and kept hitting her, would you have won?" he asked me.  "I probably would," I answered, thinking about the mistakes I saw on the clip.  "Then that's the best advice I can give you," he laughed.

"Where's Ieisha?" Alan asked me last night.  She hasn't been in for awhile, and neither has Leon.  JJ came in last night, expecting to have another round of sparring with Leon.  Instead, JJ took on everyone else who was available, including Chris, a guy who came in with Earlvin (I'll have to check the spelling of his name).  Jamil told me that his jaw was still hurting from when JJ hit him the week before.  Jamil's lip was cut when they mixed it up again last night.  Even Alan took a turn with JJ.  "I'm so out of shape," Alan told me right before he got inside the squared circle.  He lasted two rounds with JJ.  "I sparred with JJ once, back in 2003 or 2004.  I never got a lick in on him.  He was too fast," I said.  Alan figured that JJ did about nine rounds altogether. 

Justin was heavily engrossed with his hand-head video game when I asked him, "Do you watch Sesame Street?"  "I did when I was a baby," he said.  His answer reminded me of Spanky McFarland in an old "The Little Rascals" short, telling an adult, "When I was a kid. . .", despite of the fact that Spanky wasn't too far out of the crib himself.  "How come?" I asked, assuming that all little kids watch Sesame Street.  Justin just shrugged his shoulders. I was almost eight years old when that show premiered on TV.  Despite of the fact I was a little out of the target range, I watched it.    I guess kids find other things -- like video games, for example -- more fascinating these days. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mike's Spotlight

Mike, otherwise known as Country, is featured sparring in this video.  He's the guy in red, sparring with another guy also named Mike:

Here's Mike (in red again) sparring with Anarbol:

Lastly, Mike spars with Brian:

Monday, October 26, 2009

JJ's Spotlight

Here are videos of JJ sparring in the gym. He's sparring with Anarbol, who trains out of Brooks Park.

In this video, JJ spars with Paul L.

You Tube Woman

Two little boys walked in the gym.  I had seen them before; they usually are with several other boys.  I was talking to a new man who came in the gym this evening (unfortunately, I didn't get his name).  I waved to the boys.  Alan walked in a few moments later, and they asked him could they hit the bags.  Alan told them they could, and they rushed to put gloves on, and they got into the ring.  After a few moments, I heard the smaller one, who looked to be about five years old, wondering how to use the punch mitts.  His buddy, who looked to be seven years old, wore gloves. 

I stopped to show them how to use the pads and how to throw punches.  They wanted to wear the two chest protectors in the gym.  I helped them put them on, but they were too big.  It was comical to see, especially on the littlest guy.  They played around in the ring, with me giving pointers from the sidelines, until it was time for Carlos and Jamil to spar.

Carlos also sparred with Johnny, then myself. In the middle of the second round he and I were mixing it up, Carlos popped me in the stomach.  I stopped and backed up, my hands covering my stomach.  "Are you okay?" Carlos asked.  "I'm okay," I breathed, then boom! I popped him in the head.  Afterwards, he said, "I don't think I hit you that hard.  I think I just caught you in a good spot."  He was right; he didn't hit me as hard as he could have.  But a body punch in the right place is a leveler to an opponent.

Right before we all left for the night, Carlos told me he saw the fight I had at Loyola Park with Meg last month on YouTube.  It took me awhile to find it, but here it is:

The first thing I noticed was, "Damn, I need to lose more weight!"  The second thing I noticed was all the hesitating and pawing I was doing.  I've got to step up the training, and cut down on the food.  A boxing exercise DVD came in the mail today, featuring the couple who put out the Balasz Boxing newsletter (  I always watch exercise DVDs before I actually work out with them.  From what I saw, it looks like a great workout.  I appreciated that one of the guys in the DVDs actually admitted that he was getting tired.  You never hear that out of anyone in other exercise DVDs.

This second YouTube video features Meg again in the fight I saw her in at Hamlin Park recently. 

It's nice to have these "fight films" up so I can study them before our rematch in December.

Craig, who runs the blog The Broken Heart of Rogers Park ( ran a picture of Diego, Kevin, Kenny, Gus, and the other boys who attend the kids' boxing program.  A guy commented that they thought a couple of the boys were flashing gang signs.  Some were holding up peace signs and "#1" signs, but gang signs, no.  Too many of the people who comment on Craig's blog want to believe that all of the African-American and Hispanic kids in Rogers Park are gang-affiliated.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cool In The Ring

"I don't think Missy realizes how hard she hits.  That's why I won't get into the ring with her," Vivian told me tonight in the gym.  Missy doesn't hit as hard as Ieisha, but she hits hard enough.  She also keeps her composure very well while sparring. 

A blow dead on my nose nearly took me down.  "Are you okay?" she asked me.  I shook my head to get back into the present.  "Yeah, I'm alright," I answered.  "You don't ask me if I'm okay if you hit me," Alan joked with her from his position outside of the ropes.  Missy then got in an uppercut during our second round that almost took me out.  I was not wearing my mouthpiece because I kept gagging on it.  After the round ended, I checked my bottom teeth.  Fortunately, none of them were loose.  "You've got blood on your lip," Alan said, as he took my gloves off.  "Again?" I said. 

"The both of you were very composed in the ring," Alan commented.  I was thinking back when I was a kid in street fights, throwing wild punches and kicks.  The few fights I won were due to lucky blows I threw.  These days, I realize that one has to fight focused with a cool head.

JJ was in the gym, and he was surprised I was able to have gotten a fight.  "I thought you weren't able to get fights," he said.  I explained about being able to do exhibition fights.  "How long do you think you'll fight?" he asked me.  "Until I'm fifty.  That's a couple of years from now," I answered.  "You're forty-eight?" JJ asked in amazement.  "In December," I grinned.  "I didn't think you were that old," JJ said.

Leon was happy to mix it up with JJ in the ring.  I was on the side of the ring, having my usual conversation with Justin about the bag of toys he always brings with him.  I heard some loud thuds, and looked up to see Leon and JJ throwing bombs at each other.  I was worried that one of them was going to end up laying on the canvas.  Leon was very tired afterwards, hanging over the ropes breathing hard.

Jamil was very worn out after he was sparring with JJ, as well.  Alan told me he would love to get in and move around with JJ.  "I wanted to the other time, remember, but there were a lot of guys in that day who needed to get in the ring.  They're paying for the gym, while I'm just the old man who wants to jump around." 

Alan had pictures of himself with legendary trainer Angelo Dundee, the guy who trained Muhammad Ali.  They were very nice shots. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No Fighting After Eating

I usually try to eat something a couple of hours before I go to the gym.  I want the food to be digested long before I start hopping around on the canvas.  I ate too close to the time I normally go there.  A handful of granola was my only meal earlier that day, so I was starving by the time I got home. Four (!) hot dogs were still sitting on my stomach when I got to Loyola Park.    There was no way that I was going to spar.  Johnny told me he felt the same.  He had wolfed down a bowl of chicken noodle soup just before he came in.

The cup of energy drink that I had with the hot dogs pushed me to have enough get-up-and-go to have good workout.  I spent several rounds working on defense, since that is a weak spot of mine.  I also worked on a left uppercut-right uppercut-left hook/right hook combination. 

Jamil, Leon, Vic, Carlos, Missy and Alan asked about the other fights that took place at Hamlin Park last Thursday (Carlos and Alan had gone, but didn't stay for the entire boxing show).  I told Alan about Meg's fight with a woman who appeared to be bigger in size than her.  "You could have had a fight with the bigger gal," Alan said.  That's true, but that is not how things worked out that night.  The Brooks Park boxing show is the day after my birthday in December, according to the calendar.  Meg and I are supposed to have a rematch there.  I have a little over a month to train for that. 

Carlos sparred with Leon.  When Carlos took his headgear off, I noticed a spot of red on his right cheek.  "You've got some blood on you," I pointed out, thinking that he had a cut on his face.  The blood was actually coming from his right nostril.  "I got hit in the face again," he said.  "Dad, you're really bleeding," Justin told him, but it wasn't that bad.  "Yeah, I didn't keep my hands up.  I didn't do the thing that I tell you to do all the time," Carlos replied.  Lately, he's been teaching his son some boxing techniques. 

Carlos told Alan that he liked the idea of getting into professional boxing.  Alan explained that amateur boxers get paid when they fight at private shows (show fights).  Boxers must have a license, however.  Park District boxing shows are about the only place amateur boxers can fight in Chicago without a license, which explains how I was able to have a fight last month.  Sometimes, if a boxer arrives at show fight without a license, the money that would have been paid to him or her will go towards their license.  The last I checked, amateur boxers get paid $25.00-$30.00 for fighting in private shows.  The coaches get paid, too, but not much more than the boxers. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Night At Hamlin

"That was a close fight at Loyola Park a few weeks ago.  I thought you won that," Shifty the referee told me at Hamlin tonight.  "I thought you punched well," Gus agreed.  We were standing in the gym at Hamlin Park.  Carlos and I were waiting to hear if we were going to have any fights. A line of women walked into the gym, and I thought I might have a chance.  Unfortunately, I had no match.  Carlos didn't get a fight, either. Gus got a fight, but he lost.

There was the possibility that Johnny could get a fight.  He got there about ten minutes to seven. "Man, isn't that just the way?  I'm too tired to take advantage of it!" he said.  The match didn't get made.  Alan introduced him to the opponent, whose name was Steve.  Johnny hoped that Steve would be available for an upcoming boxing show at Sheridan Park.

Deep Voiced Mike, who hadn't been to Loyola Park in awhile, attended the Hamlin fights, and so did Ieisha.  Carlos had given me a ride to Hamlin, but he had to leave early because he had to go to work tonight.  Alan left early, too.  The rest of us stuck around until the end.

Meg, the woman I was supposed to have a match with, ended up fighting with another woman from Hamlin.  Meg's opponent was bigger than she was, but Meg won because she was more aggressive. She also received a special award for being Hamlin's fighter of the year. Bill told me that Meg and I will be matched up at the Brooks Park show, which is a few weeks away.  "I'm looking forward to it!" Meg told me earlier when she saw me. "Damn", I thought, "I really have to train hard." 

There was a bad fight where one guy was fighting like a grade school girl, throwing windmill punches.  When the guy lost, he copped an attitude and remained in his corner as the winner was declared.  Professional boxer David Diaz, who had trained at Hamlin, was called up to hand out the trophies after that fight.  He was given a hometown hero's welcome.  

Ieisha drove me home afterwards.  For a minute, I almost had a ride home with Johnny.  He was on his motor scooter.  I've never been on a scooter before, and I was looking forward to it.  However, I had my gym bag with me, and it would have been hard to hang on with that load hanging off my shoulder.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nausea In The Ring

Pop, pop, pop went Oscar as he worked over my head while we sparred for two rounds.  I was made aware real fast that I was not covering up very well.  In the beginning of the first round, I had energy as I backed up Oscar against the ropes.  Quickly, what little stamina I had disappeared.  In the middle of the second round, my mouthpiece was irritating my gag reflex.  I fought nausea as I tried to shut down Oscar's flurries.  "I will not throw up," I thought to myself.  I hung over the ropes afterwards, extremely winded.  I can't start running on a regular basis because my knees can't take the constant banging anymore.  However, I have to do something to build up my stamina -- and soon.

Jamil told me that he got a full-time job.  I was happy to hear that.  Most of the young men who are in the gym now, and who have come through the door in the past have been good guys. Unfortunately, there are so many young men these days living aimless lives these days; I'm always glad to be around young men who are trying to do the right thing.

Carlos will call me tomorrow if he's able to give me a ride down to Hamlin.  Carlos and Oscar will most likely get fights.  I'll bring my gear down, but I'm not expecting to be matched up.  Johnny is planning on going, too, even though he might not get a fight, either. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Sure Thing Falls Through

Meg already has a fight this upcoming Thursday, so it looks like I won't be able to avenge my previous loss to her.  Even when it appears a fight is guaranteed in the boxing world -- regardless if it's an amateur or professional match -- there's still the chance the deal might fall through.  I'll go to Hamlin Park's boxing show, but now it's doubtful that I'll get matched up with anyone. 

I still have to train as if something is coming up, so I was sparring with Oscar.  Before we got into the ring, I heard Alan telling him, "Really hit her.  I mean, don't go crazy, but don't hold back."  He and I went two rounds, and I didn't think I did so well.  Oscar will rush in with a flurry of punches and put his head way down.  I tried to catch him with uppercuts, but I couldn't get the right angle.  Oscar also hit me in my left eye.  "I can still see out of it, so it must not be that bad," I thought to myself.  He backed me up in a corner, and I quickly turned out of there, something I've never done before.  Both Oscar and Alan told me that I did very well, but I felt like I was floundering.  The night before, I had watched a DVD about defense, but I seemed to have forgotten all of the moves when I was in the ring.

Ieisha got Oscar in the face several times when it was their turn.  I told her a couple of times to throw her right hook, the same one that knocked me down a few months ago.  Oscar kept leaving himself open on his left, but Ieisha wasn't able to take advantage of it.  After the first round, she told Alan and I that she was bleeding, but neither of us saw any blood.  When the second round ended, she indeed did have a cut inside her upper lip.

JJ was there last night, and he sparred with Carlos.  This time, Justin was paying more attention to his dad's presence in the ring than usual.  Justin was also attempting to hit the double end bag.  Whenever someone notices him hitting any of the bags, the boy gets shy, smiles, and puts his hands in his pockets.

Alan showed me recent pictures of his boy, Matthew, who's 16 years old.  He's in military school, and looked every inch of a soldier with his close cut hair and uniform.  "Who is the woman standing next to him?" I asked.  "That's my wife," Alan replied.  His wife is a pretty woman, whose husband and son both tower over. 

Before I left to go to the gym last night, Pastor Roger called me.  He's been battling the flu, and his voice was very deep.  "What's up, Barry White?" I joked.  "I've been in bed for five days, and I've only been able to talk again for about an hour.  You don't want what I've got," he said, sounding absolutely miserable.  "I can't get sick, I've got a fight this week," I said.  Of course, I didn't know at that point that my fight was gone.  "If you're still feeling sick tomorrow, stay at home," I continued.  Pastor Roger doesn't believe in infecting others when he's ill, unlike my former boss, Les.  There were many times I was at the gym, sick as a dog, because I had caught a cold from Les, who didn't have enough sense to stay at home when he was sick.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Justin's Toys

For a long time, several of us in the gym thought that Wednesday nights were Carlos' regular time to babysit his son Justin.  "No, he wants to come here with me.  He likes the people, and he likes that you all talk to him," Carlos smiled.  Justin and I got into a conversation about the toys his brings to the gym.  He likes action figures, and had several that evening, including Spiderman and Silver Surfer.  The boy is perfectly happy to go to a corner with his bag of toys when he's there and get lost in a make-believe world.  Occasionally, he does pay attention when his dad is sparring. 

Justin was also telling me about when he was in pre-school.  I went to Head Start, but I told Justin that I didn't remember any of it.  "I remember Kindergarten," I said.  "That was a looong time ago," Justin grinned.  I had to grin, too, because he was right.  Over forty years have gone by since then.

Missy and I sparred for two rounds.  She had no mouthpiece, so it was more like doing defense drills, with me practicing how to deflect incoming punches.  "I think I get caught a lot because I'm leaving my jab out for too long," I told Alan afterwards.  "You have to throw it all the way out," he said. 

My energy level has been very low lately.  I haven't been eating much, and I've been taking long naps in the early evenings.  Other than when I'm at Loyola Park, I haven't been exercising.  I usually walk to my job at church, but in another few weeks, it's going to be too cold outside.  I'll have to take the bus. 
Maybe my slow down has to do with the seasons changing.  That's usually the main reason.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Advice From The Guys

The gym was packed Monday night.  JJ and Mike showed up, and they sparred with several of the guys.  The both of them were happy and surprised to hear that I'd had a fight and have another one coming up next week.  "You have an excellent stance," Mike told me.  "If you throw combinations, you'll catch her with one of those punches.  Keep your guard up.  She can throw punches all day, but none of them will matter much when it comes to scoring if she can't land them." 

Johnny told me that he noticed that Meg ran a lot in the ring during a match a couple of weeks ago.  "She throws one punch then dances away for the rest of the round.  If you can tie her up in the corners, then you can get a lot of punches in."

JJ said, "You need to get in there fast because the rounds are short.  It's almost like you have to come out brawling."

Mike and I ended up sparring for a couple of rounds. I had Mike up in the corner, giving him body shots to his right side.  "Work both sides then back up to the head," Alan told me. 

After all of the advice, I'm feeling more confident about facing Meg again.  But I have to practice, practice, practice.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Taunting Pops

"I really didn't want to spar tonight," Alan told me as we were leaving the gym last night.  "Why did you then?" I asked.  "Eh, sometimes I think I get taunted into it.  The guys want to take Pops on," he answered.  I suspect a lot of young men have harbored the "I can beat the old man," idea for eons.  I always figured that just because a man is over a certain age doesn't mean that he's forgotten methods of survival. Alan sparred with Carlos earlier.  After their last round, I saw spots of blood on Alan's shirt.  "One of you is bleeding," I pointed out.  Crimson seeped from Carlos' nose, and Ralphie grabbed a towel to wipe it away.

Ralphie and I sparred for a couple of rounds.  He turned while he was up against the ropes, and one of my punches caught him in the back.  Later, I was concerned because Ralphie injured his back in an car accident some time ago.  Ralphie didn't seem any worse for wear after our rounds, but I still felt bad about doing that.

Pastor Roger and Virginia returned from their vacation yesterday, and he was in the office this morning.  It was my day off, and I was waiting for Paulette, a fellow choir member, to come by.  We were going grocery shopping.  "I thought you weren't allowed to fight," he said, when I called and told him about the match I had.  "Park District fights aren't counted on a boxer's amateur record, so I was able to do so," I told the Pastor.  I invited Pastor and Virginia to the rematch I have with Meg in a couple of weeks, but they have to check their schedule. 

In the meantime, I've stepped up the exercise and watching what I eat more closely . I've been working out with kettlebells twice a week, and I really like them.  I've been walking to work every day (although that'll change once the bone cold weather comes in and snow is on the ground).  I keep a food diary.  The only thing I'm not crazy about concerning the diary is having to write my weight down every day.  When I was going to Weight Watchers a few years ago, people were advised not to weigh themselves constantly.  It could serve as a discouragement, especially when the weight doesn't come off as quickly as one wants.