Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gym Before Thanksgiving

Ralphie said, "I bet the referees start stopping fights quicker now."  We were talking about all the news of boxing injuries and death that have been happening recently.  Amateur boxing traditionally has been more safety-conscious than professional boxing.  Announcers at various amateur bouts always announce after a stopped fight, "Our number one concern is safety."  But I would not be surprised if stoppages happen faster all across the board.

Besides Ralphie, Johnny, Carlos and Justin came in.  Carlos remained in the ring, as the rest of us rotated in and out to spar with him.  After he and Ralphie did a few rounds, Ralphie told Carlos, "You've got a lot of stamina, man!"  "I'm telling you," I commented. Ralphie said that a hit he took to the stomach nearly caused him to lose his dinner.  The hit I took to the stomach that nearly stopped me.  I narrowly avoided eating a right uppercut, as well.

Justin announced, "I brought a book in today."  The title was I Think I Can Fly; the main character, a pig, was featured on the front cover.  "I thought you told me you didn't know how to read yet.  Oh. . .you're learning," I said.  Justin nodded in the affirmative.  "Do you know the ABC song?" I asked.  "I know how to sing it backwards," the boy said proudly.  "You're better than me.  I always got tripped up on that," I said.

Near the end of the evening, we did some interval training.  One person held the heavy bag, while the other person punched it, then we'd switch places every 20 seconds or so.  Ralphie and Carlos were on the 175 pound bag, while Johnny and I were on the 150 pound bag.  After two rounds, Johnny and I were through.  Ralphie and Carlos kept going for an extra round.  I like interval training exercises like that, but I know my arms will feel it in several hours. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"There's Been A Lot of Injuries Lately. . ."

Unfortunately, news came recently about the death of Francisco Rodriguez, a professional boxer who had been a six-time Golden Gloves champion.  He suffered a brain injury in Philadelphia during a match.  It sounded eerily similar to Rita Figueroa's brain injury a few weeks ago.  She survived after emergency surgery, and is up and about, which is a blessing.  Jamil commented, "There's been a lot of injuries in boxing lately."

Alan was surprised to hear about Rita's injury.  He then told a few stories about other boxers that had suffered injuries in the ring.  Johnny looked perturbed.  "It's a good thing we have headgear," he said.  "You can still get knocked out, even if you're wearing it," I said, thinking of when I took a TKO this past summer.  "The headgear just protects from cuts and headbutts.  When I was fighting years ago, we didn't wear any.  I had a fight stopped on me because of a cut I got from a headbutt," Alan said. 

Carlos came in without Justin, whom he said was hanging out at home.  Carlos hadn't been in for a couple of weeks because he had the flu.  He still wasn't feeling 100 percent Monday night.  He sparred with Jamil, Johnny and I.  For a guy who was under the weather, he was hitting hard.  I quickly made up my mind to protect my face, because many of Carlos' punches were landing there.  His nose had been bloodied up by Jamil and Johnny; I think I got a hit in once on his nose as well.  After about six rounds, he announced, "I'm feeling better now."

I was a little late in coming to the gym, so I missed seeing Rashawn and his friends.  I thought I heard them playing down the hall, but I didn't come out of the gym to check.  I wanted to get a picture of them to post.

After church service on Sunday, LaChelle told me she watched a replay of the Pacquiao-Cotto fight.  She commented on how bloodied up Cotto was at the end of the fight.  "I never see you with bruises and cuts.  How do you avoid getting them?" she asked me.  I've had my lip cut open twice during sparring, but amazingly, no other major gashes or bruises.  I was accident-prone as a kid; I can point to 95% percent of the scars I have on my skin and tell you when and where they occurred.  Maybe I've just been lucky that I haven't been seriously banged up -- so far.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Countdown To Brooks Park

This past Monday, Jamil and I sparred.  Jamil had told me some time ago that he didn't feel comfortable sparring with women.  Alan had talked him into it by saying, "You're just going to be moving around."  He and I didn't do any real damage to each other, but we got in the aerobics.

When I walked in the fieldhouse, Rashawn, Savon, Cameron and Miles were at the front desk.  "Yay, the boxing gym is open!" they exclaimed when they saw me.  I smiled, but Mary was behind the desk, and she looked concerned.  Carol was going to open the gym when the boys ran ahead of her.  "They're not supposed to be in the gym," Mary said.  "Alan let them come in and play a few weeks ago," I explained.  Mary shook her head, as the boys came back to the front.  "You all can't go in the gym when the adults are in there.  Talk to your dads and ask them if you can sign up for the kids' boxing program," she told the boys.  Mary had Carol grab some ping pong equipment in an attempt to distract the kids from going into the gym.  "Their time in the baskeball gym is over, and the boys are waiting for their older brothers to finish playing ball.  That's why they're hanging up and down the halls," Mary told me after the boys went around to the ping pong table. 

I hadn't been inside the gym two minutes when the boys came rushing in.  "We saw the door being opened," they said, as they reached for the gloves and headgear.  "Remember, Miss Mary said that you all can't come in," I gently told them.  "Aw, why not?  We like to play in here," the boys said.  Truthfully, I don't mind Rayshawn and his friends being in the gym.  They don't bother anyone, and when asked to come out of the ring so the adults can spar, they do so without complaining.  They are nice kids.  But Mary has concerns about them getting hurt.  Regardless of the fact that I keep an eye on the boys, there is always the specter of possible liability issues. As I was trying to explain to the boys why they had to follow the rules, Mary came in and told them to come out of the gym. 

I got to the gym a little late Wednesday night to find Alan and Johnny already there.  "It's going to be a quiet night again like Monday, huh, Hil?" Alan said.  Ralphie came in, and that was it as far as attendance.  Johnny and I took turns sparring with Ralphie.  The timer is normally set for three minute rounds with one minute rests.  Alan set it for two minutes rounds instead.

None of us knew that until Alan told us.  I was wondering why I didn't feel as tired after doing a couple of rounds with Ralphie.  "I thought the rounds seemed short," Ralphie commented.  Alan figured it was a good way to help us work on our stamina.  We thought it was easier on the canvas, so we did extra rounds.  I ended up sparring for three rounds, something I hadn't done in awhile.  Brooks Park boxing show is about two weeks away.  "We're going to amp it up, right?" Johnny said to me.  We're going to have to, as there are a lot of competitors who will be at that field house. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Photos of the Old Girl's Fight

Alan called me last night to say that there would be no matches available tonight.  There's a charity boxing show at the Evanston Boxing Club this evening.  There was a possibility that Carlos and I might have gotten some matches, but it was not to be.  The Chicago Park District has several more weeks of exhibition boxing shows, so we'll just have to try again.

I met Barry a couple of days ago at Starbucks, and he gave me pictures that Kitchens had taken during my fight back in September:

I'm hoping to get at least one fight in because Meg and I have a rematch in December.  The next photo shows that I did take some shots to the face:

In the next photo, I'm looking worn out as Alan gives me instructions.  This must have been taken between the second and third rounds:

That was not my headgear; my own is red.  I wish I could have worn my own, because what I was wearing kept slipping.  Headgear and gloves are provided to boxers during Chicago Park District amateur shows, and during the Golden Gloves, as well.  Boxers aren't allowed to use their own gloves and headgear.  The main reason is to keep things on the up-and-up.  Also, the amateur boxing gloves are either red or blue with white to help the judges distinguish between the boxers in the ring.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Birthday Licks and Blood

Today is Pastor Roger's 40th birthday.  On his Facebook page, he wrote that he was "over the hill."  When he came in, I gave him a hug and told him, "You are not over the hill -- don't say that."  After he went to his office, I remembered that I had planned to give him birthday licks.  In grade school, whenever it was someone's birthday, that person would get hits that matched how old they were.  Plus, they would get one lick for bad luck, and one lick for good luck.  Usually the last two hits were harder than the ones that came before.  Depending on how much you liked or disliked the other kid, the previous hits would be soft or very hard.

I announced my intent to give out the birthday licks to him.  Pastor Roger picked up two cups, one that was filled with tea.  "You wouldn't hit a man with glasses, would you?" and we both laughed.  When he put the cups down, I took hold of his arm.  "Uh, no, don't. . ." he started.  I softly tapped him on his shoulder with my fist.  "One for bad luck and one for good luck," I smiled. 

Carlos sparred with Elvin in the gym this evening, and it wasn't long before Carlos was bleeding.  Elvin caught him in the face a few times.  Alan did not bring his workout clothes.  He wiped the blood from Carlos' nose, and a spot of it got on Alan's dress shirt.  "It's okay.  I can get it out with peroxide.  It gets a lot of stuff out including wine," he explained. 

Ralphie and I sparred, and I ended up bopping him in the back of the head.  "Sorry!  I put in an illegal punch," I said, and Ralphie laughed.  We were in for two rounds.

Unfortunately, the Seward Park boxing show for tomorrow was canceled.  Yale had let me know about a boxing show that's taking place in Evanston on Friday.  Alan said he would call Yale to see if any matches are available.

Monday, November 09, 2009

First Time For Everything

Attendance in the gym was light tonight.  Outside of Alan and myself, only Vic, Elvin, Chris and JJ were present.  Rick came in with JJ to continue to work on JJ's boxing style. 

Before we got down to work, the usual group of little boys came in to play in the ring.  Ever since Alan allowed them to do that a few weeks ago, they've been coming back.  I was the gym early because Pastor Roger dropped me off. He and I and several other church members attended the memorial of a guy who used to work as the church's custodian several years ago.  Two of the little boys saw me waiting outside of the gym door.  "Is it open yet?" they asked.  "No, the coach is not here yet," I told them.  Then another of the boys came up asking if Miles had come by.  I didn't know which boy was Miles, but I assumed one he was one of the boys who came by earlier. "He went back to the basketball gym," I said, and the little guy ran off. 
I decided to learn the boys' names when they came back.  The littlest guy is Rashawn.  He looks like he's about six or seven.  The other boys, Savon, Cameron and Miles, are all under the age of twelve, as well.  Rashawn was asking a lot of questions about whether or not any of the heavy bags have ever fallen down.

Igor, whom JJ and I hadn't seen in a long time, walked in with a friend of his.  It wasn't long before he put on a pair of bag gloves and began to hit the 175-lb. bag.  Mary came in and told him that he had to sign up if he wanted to train.  "You're going to be signing up more than half way through the session," she told him.  Igor said it was okay. 

"What's the deal with Igor?  Mary made him sound like he had a problem," Alan said.  "Igor used to drive Steve crazy.  First of all, there's the language barrier (Igor is from the Ukraine, and his command of English is limited), then he asked the same questions over and over again.  Also, he would never spar after he'd said he would," I explained.  Mary told Alan that Igor would be in Monday.

Vic and Alan sparred.  Vic was breathing heavy after one round as he rested in the corner.  "You okay?" I asked.  "Asthma," Vic breathed through his mouthpiece.  He explained to me later that he has had the condition for several years.  "It only bothers me when I exercise," he said. 

I thought I would end up sparring with Vic, and I had already made up my mind to go easy on him.  Instead, Vic came out of the ring, and Alan stayed in.  He motioned to me to come in.  "Why is it that we have never sparred before?" Alan said, as we paced the ring, waiting for the bell to ring.  "I don't know," I answered.  "If you really hurt me, then they'll say you beat up on an old man.  If I hurt you, then they'll say I'm picking on a girl," Alan grinned.  I grinned back, "We can't win either way."  I got some good hooks in on Alan, and he rapped me in the nose.  Afterwards, I rubbed my nose, acting if it was really hurting.  "Aw, I didn't hit you like that," Alan said.  "You did get me in the nose!  But it's okay; it's not broken," I laughed.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Spiderman and Gloves

"Just the little man I wanted to see," I said to Justin when he came in with his dad.  I presented him with the Spiderman action figure I found within a bag of toys that had been donated to my church the other day.  He played with it for part of the evening.  Justin showed it off to his dad, too.  "Did you say thank you?" Carlos asked him.  "Thank you!" Justin told me.

Carlos and I sparred, and I got caught with a jab to the face.  I was able to get him with several well-placed left and right hooks.  We only did one round, and I was beyond pooped out. 

While putting on gloves before I got into the ring with Carlos, I noticed the bag gloves did not have extra covering that comes down over the velco strap.  "Ah, that's one way to tell the difference between the bag gloves and the training gloves," I thought.  It also occurred to me that it has taken me several years to figure that out.  Yes, I can be a little slow on the draw, and that was long before I started taking hits to the head in boxing gyms.  Bag gloves are designed to go on and off easily.  Twelve ounce to twenty ounce gloves are common for training purposes.

Eight ounce and ten ounce gloves are used more for competition.  However, different sized boxers and boxers in different weight classes need different sizes of gloves. There are still not a lot of variety available for women who box.  Hopefully, as the sport grows more among females, there will be more gloves to choose from.

I invited Pastor and Virginia to come to the gym on any Monday, since they won't be able to go to my match in December.  Hopefully, when they do come in, I'll be sparring with someone so they can see me in action. 

Elvin and Chris sparred last night, and Elvin caught Chris with a huge punch to the face.  Chris fell back into the corner, and I saw that he tried to shake the cobwebs out of his brain.  "I saw where he got you with an uppercut while you were in the corner, too," I told Chris afterwards.  "An uppercut?  I couldn't tell. All of the punches felt the same to me," he said. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

JJ's Lessons

Rick, who's a boxing official, as well as a coach, came in with JJ last night.  Rick set up a camera to record JJ's moves so they could work on improving them.  "There are people who can box, but not everyone who boxes can teach boxing," Rick told Alan and I later.  That's true.  I often find myself stumbling over words in order to explain technique to people.  I have it in my head, but I can't always communicate it like I want.  I have to work on that. 

Leon and Ieisha were no shows again.  Oscar wasn't there, either.  Vivian and Ashley came in, did a short workout, then they left.  Jamil complained of not feeling well, and he was gone before the evening ended, too.  Carlos came in, but he didn't have Justin with him.  Mike came in; he told me that he saw the video of my fight on YouTube.  "You were Joe Louis, and your opponent was Muhammad Ali," he said.

Apparently, I have not been throwing my right all the way out.  Alan told me, "Don't shorten it, extend your arm and turn your leg into it."  "I've been working on the overhand right, but it doesn't come out the way I want," I told him.  "Then don't use that punch.  Use the other ones in your arsenal and modify them to make them work for you," the coach replied.  I continued to shadowbox, and worked on body punches and hooks, a set of punches that I seldom seem to use while sparring.  I'm going to have to employ them more, especially for the match in December.

When I arrived at work this morning, I discovered that someone had dropped off a box of clothes and a bag of toys for the food and clothes pantry.  Fitz, the custodian, helped me put them away.  I went through the bag of toys and found a Spiderman action figure.  "Justin might like this," I thought to myself, as I took it back to my office.  If he comes in with his dad tomorrow, I'll give it to him.

"When is your match?" Pastor asked me before I left work today.  "It's on December 9th, the day after my birthday," I told him.  Virginia said, "That sounds like that's on a Wednesday."  "Yes, it is.  We can't go," Pastor said.  Prayer meeting and the Adult Bible Study take place on Wednesday nights.  I thought to mention Sheridan Park, which has a boxing show later this week.  However, there is no guarantee there'll be a fight for me there.