Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easy First Night of the Session

Three new guys: Devon (I'll get his name right soon), Patrick, and Eric came in for the first evening of the Spring session.  After Carol and BK struggled with the uncooperative gym door -- which often sticks -- all were able to enter the gym.

As for the guys who normally come in, only Carlos showed up.  He had been debating whether or not to do so, since everyone knew Alan was going to be absent last night.  No coach means no sparring, which is probably why the other guys didn't come in.  But Carlos figured he'd get in some time on the bags anyway. 

I went over general rules of the gym with the new guys, then showed them the basic stance, how to throw lefts and rights, and how to move.  They all thanked me at the end of the evening.  "I hope it was helpful.  I think Alan explains it better," I said.  Patrick replied, "I didn't know anything about boxing, so it was fine."  Sometimes, I feel so tongue-tied and scatterbrained when I'm explaining boxing technique to others.  That's why I always listed to Steve in the past and now, Alan, everytime I heard it being explained to someone else.  In fact, the speech I give about the general rules of the gym is very close to what Steve used to tell new people. 

The evening went smoothly with no out-of-pocket incidents.  A couple of guys came and stood in the door earlier, but we talked about Mayweather, Mosely, Pachiao, and Roy Jones, Jr.  They were just curious about the gym, and they left after a few minutes.  I was very glad that Jordan didn't make another appearance.  I wasn't in the mood to go back and forth with him about gym protocol.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Alan's Shiner

"That doesn't look good," I said to Alan, when he walked in sporting a black eye yesterday.  It was a result of sparring with Sadiq on Monday night.  Alan said that his wife wasn't happy to see his eye like that at all.  "I know she wasn't," I grinned.  I learned later that Alan and his wife had been high school sweethearts.  She had been his first girlfriend.  They broke up at one point, but years later, found their way back to each other.

Alan had put headgear on, and he was ready to spar with Jamil.  As if on cue, Carlos walked in.  "Since he's here, you can go with him," Alan said to Jamil.  Alan said something about having a chance to heal.  I told him that I needed to heal as my excuse for not sparring that night.  That scrape on my left leg from when a wooden riser fell on it still hurts.  My right elbow has been sore for a couple of weeks, and I just was feeling out of sorts.  "Maybe we both need to take up golf," Alan smiled. 

Using my digital camera and a new memory card, I recorded Carlos and Jamil sparring.  Carlos hit Jamil once too many times in the mid-section.  After the third time, Jamil turned his back and retreated one side of the ring.  He didn't complete the round.  Alan stepped in with a punch shield to work with Carlos on punches.

Ralphie came in later in the evening. His upper back had been bothering him, and that kept him out of the Golden Gloves.  But he announced that he was feeling better.  

I stopped into church this afternoon to check to see if I had received some Esperanto material I had ordered. People wonder why I would bother studying an artificial language that appears to be not as popular as Spanish, Chinese, French, etc.  I've been interested in it since 2002, but I haven't been as diligent as studying it as I should have.  I really want to learn how to speak a language, but I digress.  Pastor was telling me about a middle-aged couple in church who are looking forward to having their first child.  "Maybe you'll marry a guy with children," Pastor said.  "I don't want to be a step-mama," I said.  "The guy may have grown children, so you'll be more like a friend to his kids.  Who knows?  Maybe the guy will have daughters to who you can teach boxing," Pastor grinned.  "My niece Jalissa has said she'd like to get married and have kids someday.  I could teach her kids how:  'Let your grand-aunt show you how to throw a punch,' " I said. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Old Men and An Old Thorn

I was filling up the water bottles at the fountain when I looked up to see Jordan walking into the field house.  My first thought was, "Oh, hell no."  Those of you who have been reading for awhile remember that Jordan was a thorn in mine and Steve's side for awhile.  A friend was tagging behind him.  I quickly finished what I was doing and hurried back down to the gym.  Alan had to be warned.

He hadn't been inside the room for five minutes when he started hitting the heavy bag with no wraps on, as usual.  His friend stood to one side and looked everyone over. Alan was in a conversation with Joe, who was waiting for Chloe to arrive.  I heard Jordan ask Alan about getting a workout in, unaware that the days of freebies is over for the most part.  Alan told him he had to sign up at the front desk.  In what looked like a vain attempt to impress his friend and maybe the others who were there, Jordan pulled down a jump rope.  He only skipped a few times before going back to the heavy bag.  "You do remember the rules about not hitting the heavy bag without hand wraps on, right?" I said evenly.  Jordan gave me a look that I guess was supposed to intimidate as well as impress.  It accomplished neither.  "I can take it," he said, as he went back to hitting it.  "That's not the point.  It tears the bag up," I said in a murderously calm tone.  Seeing that he wasn't going to get anywhere that night, Jordan and his friend left.  Later, I gave Alan the 411 about Jordan's issues.

During the second round that Chloe and I sparred, I found myself becoming nauseous.  It couldn't have been the mouthpiece.  I've finally gotten used to having it in my mouth after all these years.  I had gotten tired, Chloe was laying on the pressure, and suddenly, I wasn't feeling so hot.  Bless her heart, Chloe told me she would go easy, and we finished the round.  "You really gave an old lady a run," I grinned.  Chloe's going straight to the Golden Gloves finals.  She was supposed to have a semi-final fight, but her opponent got pregnant.  "I've never had that happen before with a fight," Joe said.

Sadiq came in, and it was good to see him.  He wants to get another boxing license, which will be his third.  The first was stolen, along with his bag, out of the gym a few years ago.  The second one he used to participate in a show fight, but he never got it back.

Sadiq and Alan sparred, and somewhere along the way, the two men decided to throw bombs at each other.  Alan hit the canvas at one point.  "Are you okay?" I asked from the other side of the ropes.  "It was a slip," Alan said.  Sadiq then got Alan in the face with a couple of solid punches.  When Alan removed his headgear, he discovered he had a mouse under his eye.  "That's going to look real good walking into work with.  It's really going to be something to come home with, and my wife sees it.  She's going to say, 'And how old are you?  Why were you sparring?' " he grinned.

I was accepted as a writer with the Examiner (http://www.examiner.com), so now I've got to figure out what boxing stories to write.  The account of Carlos' Golden Gloves fight will probably be the first article, and I have ideas for the ones to follow.

Anthony and I were the last boxers in the gym at the end of the night.  Alan told us about a traffic incident he was involved in that nearly turned ugly.  Despite the fact that words were exchanged, Alan would have let it go.  But then the other guy said something along the lines of, "You think you're bad?  Bring it on, Pops!"  Some younger men don't get that calling a guy an old man is akin to starting a war.  I heard comedian Steve Harvey on the radio telling a story about a young blood attempting to challenge him.  "My hands may be old, but they still know how to put a hurting on someone," Harvey spat. 

"That's all he called you?  You know how many names I've been called over the years?"  Anthony said, and both he and I fell out laughing.  "I know I shouldn't have let it get to me, but I just don't like being called that," Alan grinned.  Fortunately, the other guy walked away from Alan before any actual punches were thrown.  I would have paid to see that, if it had jumped off.  My money would have been on Alan.  

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday Night Out

The best fight of the night at the Golden Gloves yesterday was the 14th one.  During the first round, there was clearly an underdog.  Then the underdog decided they were going to be as dominant as their opponent.  The bout turned into an out-and-out brawl, which included both boxers throwing each other to the canvas several times.  The night before, I had written about Carlos' fight and submitted it as a writing sample to the Chicago Examiner.  "This is the fight you should have written about," Alan told me.  The crowd rose to their feet several times during that fight. 

There were high hopes for Young Ed's fight, where he ended up fighting the guy from Garfield Park who has the exact same name he does.  The fight was the fourth of the night, and Young Ed appeared very confident, giving fast punches to his opponent.  But a nasty surprise showed up less than a minute into the first round.  The Garfield Park boxer knocked Young Ed to the canvas with a right hand so quick that most barely saw it land.  Anthony was sitting to my left along with John and Carlos, and Alan was sitting to my right.  JJ was sitting further down on the row.  All of us were stunned.  Young Ed was shaky when he got up, but appeared to recover by the time the referee, "Gentleman" Gerald Scott,  got to him.  But the referee waved his hands in the air to stop the fight.  We all agreed that the fight was stopped too fast.

John and St. Louis had to wait a long time to fight.  John's fight was number 22 and St. Louis was number 24 on the fight roster.  "Shit!  I have to wait a long fucking time," John exclaimed. He ended up going back out to get something to put on his stomach.  John called his girlfriend and asked her to come down to St. Andrew's around 10:00 PM.  We estimated that's when he probably would fight. 

Before John's fight, Alan pulled a business card out of his pocket.  "I don't have my glasses with me, so I can't read it," he said, handing it to me.  It was for a strip club.  Alan pointed out the woman who gave it to him.  I had seen her in the woman's washroom earlier, preening in the mirror with a friend of hers. Both women looked as if they worked at the club. "You don't need this," I joked, acting as if I was not going to give the card back.  Alan put it back in his pants pocket.  "I'd like to read it later on," he grinned.

It was actually after 10:30 PM when that match took place.  I worked the corner for John's fight, the first time I have worked anyone's corner as a coach.  The match barely got rolling when John got into trouble.  "Shit, he got an eight count," I thought to myself.  "Keep your hands up!  You have to punch, John!" Alan barked.  It wasn't long before "Gentleman" Gerald gave him another eight count after John's opponent continued to put the heat on him.  Normally, the only person in the boxer's corner who is supposed to be talking is the coach.  However, at one point, I was calling out a warning to John after he took some punishing shots.  John bent over near the ropes and didn't return punches.  His opponent set off a barrage of hooks to his head.  The referee stopped it.  "Damn", I thought.  John took the loss well.  His girlfriend, a pretty Asian woman, hugged and kissed him after the bout. 

During St. Louis' fight, Anthony was of the opinion that St. Louis appeared to look sharper while sparring in the gym.  "It happens that all the time when all the stuff picked up in sparring gets forgotten when one is in a real match," I said.  Carefully constructed game plans in the gym often get blown away by the opponent's agenda. St. Louis was popped a few times, and he popped back.  Then he got winded.  There was a lot of clinching going on.  When the dust cleared, St. Louis had lost.  St. Louis is signed up at Loyola Park, but he fought under Joe's organization, which is Go Time.  We count St. Louis as our own, so when he lost, that meant everyone from Loyola was out of the tournament. 

Several guys sitting behind me commented on a couple of the later fights.  A boxer during one bout made the mistake of coming out of his corner angry.  He kept leaping at his opponent, who met his actions with well-timed punches each time.  A boxer in the second fight thought his build would carry him to a win.  When he lost, the guy sitting directly behind me told his buddies,  "See, that pretty muscle shit don't work all the time."  I turned to look at him, and he apologized, thinking I was offended by his choice of words.  "Oh, no, you're right," I told him.     
The announcers pointed out a few celebrities in the audience.  There was a 95-year-old who won the Golden Gloves back in 1934, plus professional boxer David Estrada.  Estrada previously fought "Sugar" Shane Mosley, and he'll appear on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" sometime in April.  The Pope, a hip-hop/dance recording artist, was also in attendance.  "Who's that?" Alan asked.   "You don't listen to rap or hip-hop," I smiled.  "No, only talk radio and easy listening," Alan grinned.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"But You're Too Pretty To Box!"

Things in the gym seem to intensify around the time of the Golden Gloves.  Even those of us who aren't in the tournament appear to step up our training.  Alan and I sparred, and he kept telling me to go for his head.    Outside of the fact that he's taller than I, I don't know why I kept aiming for his shoulders.  Maybe it's a mental thing I have about hitting people in the face.  I never seemed to have a problem doing that when I was younger during fights with my siblings and kids on the street. 

Earlier today, I went to talk with an administrator at DePaul University about taking a paralegal course.  It's been two years since I was laid off of my job at the social service agency as of this month.  There is zero desire to be a secretary/administrative assistant again.  The time has long been past for me to make a career change.  I had a very pleasant and informative visit with the administrator.  He noticed I was wearing a boxing hoodie.  I explained that I boxed, and he was floored.  "But, but. . .you're too pretty to box!" he exclaimed.  Now I've had others tell me the usual stuff like, "You can get hurt!", but that was a new one on me.  I was tickled.

Tonight was finally Carlos' turn to box at the Gloves.  He was still fighting the cold that seems to have plagued him for weeks.  He thought he might have picked it up at the barbershop where he gets his hair cut.  Carlos' fight came up rather quick after the third, fifth and sixth fights of the evening all ended by stoppage.  His opponent was a guy who looked to be about 6 foot 2.  Carlos is 5 foot 8.  John volunteered to help Alan in the corner.

Both guys were equally aggressive in the first round.  Carlos got some good hooks to the body.  It looked as if he was going to cut the guy down to size by doing those.  His opponent, Matt, hunted for Carlos's head during the second round.  Carlos remained focused on Matt's body.  Carlos looked hesitant.  Later, he would say that he was winded from the first round.  There was a lot of holding going on.  As soon as Carlos would go in for the inside shots, Matt would grab Carlos and smother him.  The holding continued throughout the third round, where Carlos didn't throw many punches.  The win went to Matt.

"I failed," Carlos said afterwards.  "Well, you got the nervous energy out," I told him.  Carlos plans to lose weight -- he's 195 pounds -- because he thinks he would do better at a lighter weight. 


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Skin Off My Leg

Joe came in and brought Chloe with him.  Natalie couldn't come with them because she was ill.  Chloe and Joe worked the pads until it was time for me to spar with her.  Chloe was really laying on the punches.  Afterwards, she apologized to me for going hard.  "I understand.  You've got a fight coming up at the Gloves," I said.  No offense taken.  "I'll be back in a couple of weeks hopefully with a win," she said.  I believe she has a great chance of winning.

After sparring, I was contending with the odd shaped black speed bag.  I don't like using that particular bag, but I've been trying to get used to it.  Someone had readjusted the height of the speed bag platform.  Instead of struggling to get it back down to where I could reach the bag, I opted to stand on one of the two blue steps in the gym.  Right below the bag were a couple of small wooden platforms.  I used to stand on those before the steps mysteriously appeared in the gym.  I guess the vibration of my hitting the speed bag was too much.  Either that, or the wooden platforms weren't stacked against the wall properly.  One of them fell and took a chunk of skin out of my left leg.

The open sore reminded me of a bad scrape I received on my left knee when I was in Kindergarten.  Ma came to pick me up from school that afternoon.  I hadn't figured out how to walk to school and back by myself at that point.  Instead of walking down the school steps normally, I decided to take a running leap.  Ma talked about me all the way to the A&P, which was the closest grocery store to our apartment.  "Look at at that!  That looks bad!" she snapped, as blood slowly ran down my leg and stained my sock. 

Luckily, I keep Band Aids and moist towelettes in my gym bag.  But I didn't have any cotton balls or tissues to stop the blood.  Usually there are paper towels in the gym, but none were to be found.  I wasn't about to use any of the old towels laying around.  Both Barry and Alan use those to wipe blood from the faces of the boxers.  I have no idea the last time any of those towels were washed -- if they get washed.  I found a tampon in my bag and used that.  Well. . .it does soak up blood.  If any of the guys recognized what I was using to tend to my wound, they didn't say anything.  I noticed a few minutes ago that the wound was oozing -- I know that doesn't sound pleasant -- so I cleaned it again and changed the Band Aid. 

"Carlos told me that he's sick," Alan said, shaking his head.  Carlos thought he might have picked up the ongoing sniffles from his five year old son.  His youngest son, who's a baby, is not around other kids most of the time, but Justin, who's in Kindergarten, is.  "It's probably due to germs from the other kids," Carlos said.  I hope he feels better by fight time this Thursday.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Another Postponement

Twenty fights took place yesterday at the Golden Gloves.  John was not one of the fighters.  Like Carlos the other night, John's time to fight has been put off until next week.  He was hoping his match would be on the same day that Carlos has his, but their fights are on different days.  Carlos is scheduled for this upcoming Thursday.  If Pastor and Virginia are able to attend the Gloves then, they'll get to see him fight.

"Do you have a boyfriend?" Alan asked me.  "Not currently," I replied.  "You sure clean up well.  You could have been one of the ring girls," Alan grinned.  "I usually don't wear makeup often, but I figured I'd put some on tonight.  I'm surprised there are no ring girls here tonight," I smiled.  "They're probably saving them for the finals," Alan said.  Ring girls are unnecessary in my opinion.  The worst is when they appear at women's boxing matches.  There you have women in the ring taking care of serious business, then here come some half-dressed chicks parading around with signs.  It makes no sense.

I had been thinking about Antonio, the MMA fighter who used to come to Loyola Park to work on his boxing skills.  He was at the Gloves Saturday night; I didn't recognize him at first.  It was good to see him.  He's got a boxing match coming up in New York City soon.  He also has a MMA fight coming up soon here.  He trains at a gym up on Elston, which I will have to go and check out.  

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday Night On Addison

Carlos was shaved clean.  He and Alan sat near the front entrance of St. Andrew's Gym.  I had been there for about a half-hour before I noticed them at the other end of the building.  "I just wish I could get it over with," Carlos said, referring to his fight.  "You're in there for about six minutes, but you have to wait two or three hours before you get into the ring," Alan commented. 

The familiar faces were in attendance: Rita, Percy, Ted, Tracy, JJ, Rico, Alan R., Mike Q., Gentleman Jim, Gino, Chupa, Sam, and many others.  I met a guy named Little John while we both waited on the Addison bus.  Little John had won the Gloves back in 1991.  Johnny B., a fight promoter, showed us his hands.  "See? I got into a fight on the street," he said.  "You're too old to fight," Alan said.  "That's what's the other guy thought," Johnny B. laughed. 

Bill, the coach at Hamlin, told me that he has another girl for me to fight.  "She's a total novice, unlike Meg," he told me.  After the two fights I had with Meg, this new girl may be easy pickings.  But it's never a good idea to underestimate any fighter. 

Sam told Alan that referees were in short supply.  There's a pro fight going on elsewhere this weekend, and it seems most of them will be officiating there.  Sam said, "I'm trying to get some of these retired boxers to become referees and judges."  Alan later told me, "The referees are a tight group to get into," which I figured they were.  I've only seen a woman ref a fight once, and that was at a Park District bout.  She didn't look as if she was an official referee, but someone who had been pressed into service at the last minute to replace someone else.

Ted posted the fights, but Carlos' name did not come up.  His fight date has been postponed until March 18th.  "You've got more time to train," I told him.  Carlos had been antsy all night, and he was a bit disappointed.  "I know, but I really wanted to go tonight," he said.  Carlos and Alan watched a few more of the fights, and then they cut out early.  I stuck around until the end.  The first four bouts of the evening all followed the same pattern.  One boxer would get a couple of eight counts, then the next time around, the fight would be stopped on them.  One boxer kept turning his back on his opponent, and the ref had seen enough. 

I believe the Addison bus going eastbound stops running after 9:30 PM, so I walked back to the Addison Red Line train stop.  When the train showed up, I wondered, "Why is it so packed?"  I had forgotten that people are out celebrating St. Patrick's Day this weekend.  Some obnoxious and most likely drunk guy on the car I stepped on decided he was going to be a welcome ambassador to the new passengers.  I and several other ignored him.  The partygoers on the train thought the guy was funny and indulged him.  Those of us who wanted to have a peaceful ride were happy when it was announced that the train was going express.  The riff-raff, no doubt on their way to bars, got off. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thursday's Tune Up For The Golden Gloves

Alan opened the gym last night in order for John and Carlos to get in some extra last minute training.  I was there, too.  I beat all three of them to the gym; the guys were late.

Carlos said his hand was bothering him, but that he hoped it would be okay.  He has a fight tonight at the Golden Gloves.  Carlos looked tired.  After going three rounds with John, he begged off going another around with me.  He didn't do bad, catching John in the side with a hard punch.

I got into the ring with John, and he was just doing enough to stay on his feet.  I ended up hitting him in the same spots where Carlos had.  John was beyond tired.  Alan reminded him during the time he was in with Carlos and then again with me that he has to pour on the effort.  Whoever John's opponent will be on Saturday will not take easy on him.  Taking it easy on others is not on the minds of any of the opponents once they get to the Gloves.

We were only in the gym for about 45 minutes, but that was a workout.  I had been hitting the heavy bags and the double-end bag roughly before I sparred with John.  I was very sweaty afterwards, and everything I had on had to go into the dirty clothes bag. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ribs and Sides

Carlos sparred with Alan for a couple of rounds then he sparred three rounds with John.  By the time I got into the ring with him, I thought Carlos was going to be easy pickings.  Nope.  While I did get in some good hooks and body shots, Carlos jammed me up against the ropes and in the corners.  Combinations were finding my head and sides. One punch cracked me right in the nose.

"Are you okay?" Carlos said, looking alarmed.  "I'm okay," I quickly answered, shaking off the sting and moving on.  I threw more punches than I had in a long time, but one round was enough.  "You're not as tired as you said you were," I told Carlos after the bell rang. After I got home, I felt a slight pain in my ribs on my left side. 

Alan had also sparred with Eddie, who gasped as he hung over the ropes between rounds.  "The cardio, man," he breathed. I felt his pain.

John's walking around weight is about 160, but he needs to get down to 155.  It sounded as if he'd been starving himself, but Alan advised him not to do that.  "Eat a little meat, eat salad and watch the dressing you put on it.  Leave the milk and pop alone.  Milk creates phlegm.  Cut out the bread, and watch the bananas -- they put on weight,' he said.

Alan told us a great story about when he met Muhammad Ali.  It was back in 1980.  Ali was coming out of the Drake Hotel with a entourage.  Alan was crossing the street towards them along with a buddy of his.  Ali caught his eye, put up his hands, and made like he wanted to box.  Alan put up his hands, too, and for about ten minutes, the two men playfully threw air punches at each other.  "Ali's handlers kept trying to get him to keep walking, but the two of us kept goofing around.  My friend just stood there, he was so starstruck.  It was a great moment," Alan said. 

As we were leaving for the evening, Alan stopped at the front desk to take care of some business.  "Jilberto thought something was going on because I drive you home all the time," Alan grinned.  I fell out laughing.  "No he didn't," I said.  Jilberto was coming down the hall after securing the back of the field house.  "What did I do?" he said.  Alan explained it to him, and Jilberto smiled. 

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What Did Alan Say About Pizza?

Whenever Alan talks about how people should watch their diets, he always says, "You can eat pizza.  Just don't eat the whole damn pizza."  I hear his advice every time I order pizza.  Lately, I have been ignoring the advice.  He asked last night if I wanted to spar.  "I don't feel well.  I think it's the pizza I ate earlier," I said.  Alan shook his head.

The Academy Awards were on this past Sunday, and I always order food in on that night.  Domino's has been running a two-pizza special.  Normally, I don't eat Domino's, preferring the superior JB Alberto's pizza instead.  But the Domino's soft crust is not bad these days, and neither is the price.  I didn't eat all of the pizzas Sunday night, but I practically polished it off on Monday.  I ate the leftovers for lunch, and then again for a snack before I went to the gym.  The slices were talking to me by the time I got down to the gym.  I guess I could have woman'd up and sparred anyway, but I decided to err on the side of caution.

St. Louis and Young Ed have signed up for the Golden Gloves, too, I learned.  They got in their sparring time.  Once again, my back was turned to the ring, so I didn't see what ever hit Young Ed took that brought him to one knee.  

A bracket had been put out by Sam which broke down which weight classes would fight on what nights during the Golden Gloves preliminaries.  I left the copies I had printed out from the Internet at home, but fortunately, John brought a copy in.  An email was also sent by the tournament organizers letting people know about the dates of the tournament and the cost of the tickets.  It also had information about following the tournament on Twitter.  I forwarded a copy of that to Zach, Alex and Pastor.  The first night and the nights of the finals bouts are usually the most crowded. 

The fog that covered Chicago all day had gotten thicker by the time the evening was over.  Alan dropped me off on the corner up the street from my apartment.  As I stood there waiting for the light to change, the fog reminded me of all those old Universal Studios horror films I used to watch on "Creature Features" when I was a kid.  "Creature Features" was one of several horror movie shows that were a part of Chicago's local TV history; it used to air on Saturday nights on WGN.  As I walked down the block, I have expected Lon Chaney Jr. to jump out of the shadows in full Wolfman makeup.

Monday, March 08, 2010

They Reminisce Over You

I had taped the documentary Facing Ali (2009) when Spike TV showed it a couple of weeks ago.  This past Saturday, I finally got around to watching it.  I've seen plenty of news stories and other documentaries about Muhammad Ali, but this was the most heartfelt of the ones I've seen.  Ten boxers who faced Ali in the ring -- Joe Frazier, Henry Cooper, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, George Foreman, Ernie Terrell, Leon Spinks, George Chuvalo, Ken Norton and Larry Holmes -- talk about the experience of fighting the man known as "the greatest of all time".

They also talk about how they feel about him.  Some did not agree with Ali's alliance with the Nation of Islam, and some were not cool with his anti-Vietnam War stance.  Terrell and Frazier, in particular, talk about how they didn't appreciate Ali insulting them before, during, and after their fights.  As time has gone by, a lot of the old grudges have faded, however.  Some of the boxers -- especially Chuvalo and Norton -- had some hard times after their fighting days were over.  But the boxers have ongoing respect and affection for Ali.  Frazier, in reference to Ali's current state of health, tears up when he expresses a wish that Ali "gets to live like we all live. . .he's earned it." 

This is a great documentary, that tells another side of Ali's story, from the perspective of his opponents.  

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Hit Below

Lately, it seems that I have missed seeing all of the rough hits that take place during sparring.  Carlos and John were in the ring last night.  I turned around to see John down on one knee.  At first, I thought he had been hit in the gut.  He finished the round, but staggered out of the ring, his face contorted in pain.  "Are you okay?" I asked.  He told me that Carlos hit him in the one spot where no man likes to be hit.

When I was in high school, I had a gym teacher who taught us a fast-paced game.  It was a cross between basketball and football, and we played with a soft, Nerf-like ball.  I was trying to get someone to pass the ball to me.  I swung one of my hands back and caught my friend Keith right in that spot.  "You trying to prevent me from having children?" he said, as he doubled over and backed away.  There is a reason why it is often suggested to guys to wear protective cups.

A new guy in the class, Victor, told me that he used to be a regular in the kids' boxing program when he was five years old.  "That's when Barry used to have hair," he said, and we both laughed.  Barry keeps his head shaved bald these days.  Victor is getting back into the game; he's now 18 years old.

Matt and Cynthia signed up for the Spring session, which doesn't begin for another two weeks.  They both are eager to start.  Cynthia told me that she plans to watch some of the fights at the Golden Gloves.

Carlos and I did interval training on the heavy bag.  He was laid out on the floor afterwards, while I felt energized.  It must have been that energy drink I had two hours before I got to the gym.  It really did the trick.

Jamil didn't sign up for the Gloves, so it looks as if Carlos and John are going to be the only two representatives from Loyola's adult boxing program.  I miss the days when we had four to five guys competing for titles at the Gloves.

I reminded Pastor Roger about considering coming out to the Gloves for his and Virginia's date night.  Too bad I'm not boxing in the tournament, but I might get to work the corners.  "Opening night is one of the best nights to be there because all of the boxers have to show up to be weighed in.  Plus, celebrities come in," I told Pastor.  Well, celebrities pop up at the Gloves the whole time the tournament is running.  Some are asked to hand out trophies, while others come in to take in the action with the rest of the crowd.  The celebrities are usually current professional boxers, former professional boxers, and former amateur champs, some of whom have gone on to be prominent in other fields.  I wonder if the tournament organizers would ever considering asking former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to hand out a trophy?  He did train as an amateur boxer and participated in the Gloves years ago.  It's true.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Boxing As Self Defense

About three years ago, a group of us from the gym were at a show fight that was held at a suburban country club.  Someone was talking about using boxing a self-defense method.  Another coach at the event said, "Oh, no, you don't want to rely on boxing for street fighting.  You'd rather use mixed martial arts for that."

Both mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to defending against an opponent on the street.  One main disadvantage both fighting arts share is this:  if an opponent has a weapon, and you're not able to disarm them, the fight can become one-sided very quickly.  No amount of hand movements, fancy footwork or kicks are much of a match against bullets or blades. 

That is not to say that boxing is not a good thing to know.  Sometimes, having knowledge that a potential victim will hit back and knows how to make it hurt may cause a perpetrator to back down.  But one has to be careful.  Deciding to go the bullying route is not cool.  I remember my mother telling my younger siblings and I to fight back if other kids hit us.  "Hit them hard enough so that they won't do it again," she'd say.  But she'd add, "I'd better not hear about you bullying someone or I'll kick your ass."  In other words, don't start none just to prove how tough one is. 

There's a boxer I met years ago who bragged about beating down a guy who crossed his path.  Supposedly, he was sitting on a stoop when a guy allegedly made a pass at him.  Okay. . .I have heard many stories from guys who were propositioned by other guys.  It still doesn't justify gay-bashing.  The boxer could have politely said, "Naw, man, I don't swing that way," and went on about his business.  But nooo, like the late John Belushi used to say.  The boxer jumps on the guy and beats him to a pulp.  I remember the guy laughing as he was telling the story.  Not a good look.

That story points out another problem with using boxing, or any other fighting art, as self-defense.  The law has no problem with anyone fighting off a would-be attacker and escaping from them.  If I continue grinding someone who tried to snatch my purse into the sidewalk just to prove a point, I could find myself being slapped with assault charges.  They tried to hurt me, but I could get dunned for it, especially once it is learned that I know how to box.  Unfair, but very true.  A judge will ask, "Once you got them off of you, why did you go on to knock out their teeth and black their eyes?" 

In the case of the gay-bashing boxer, he wouldn't have been able to tell the cops anything like, "I felt my safety was in jeopardy!"  All the other guy did was say something to him that he didn't like.  He was lucky that no witnesses or cops were nearby, or that would have been a battery charge.  The judge would have went extra hard once he found out the guy knew how to box.

There was a movie called Undefeated starring Wesley Snipes. Snipes was a boxer doing a long stretch because he beat a guy to death who was playing around with his girl.  His sentence was made particularly harsh because the judge ruled that Snipes' character's hands were lethal weapons.  The movie was fictional, but the situation Snipes' character was not unusual.  Anyone who's in a fighting art should always pick their battles outside of the ring or the octagon very carefully.

Ladies' Night

I was a little late to the gym.  Joe was back again, and he not only had Chloe with him but he brought along Natalie.  As soon as I came in the door, Alan informed me, "You can work with Natalie tonight."  Natalie sings opera, works in advertising, and is going back to school for design.  She's also a Golden Gloves winner from last year.  She fought as a senior novice the last time.  This time, she's fighting in the open category.  Natalie has fast hands, and she never stopped moving.  I took a few shots to my nose, my mouth, and my left eye. 

Matt and Cynthia were in the gym checking things out.  They plan to sign up for the Spring session.  Matt had some martial arts experience, but Cynthia had no fight experience at all.  They asked a lot of questions about the sport. "Do you spar a lot?" they asked.  "Yes, and this is the first time in awhile that I was the first to spar for the evening," I answered. 

I got back in the ring for one round with Chloe.  Like I've said before, Joe teaches his boxers well.  She slipped a right that I threw then snaked around to give me a hook.  "I've really got to work on my wind.   You find out how important it is once you're in for a few rounds," she told me earlier.  "You know it.  I need to work on that myself," I agreed.

Once again, Alan said to me, "Don't get too friendly because you may have to fight them."  "You can't be friendly with the people you fight?" I grinned.  I told him about when Meg and I saw each other in the washroom before our fight at Brooks Park back in December.  Meg was uncomfortable running into me, and I was trying to figure out what was the big deal.  "There's a difference sparring with your teammates in the gym and fighting someone you don't know.  I would have a hard time fighting a friend," Alan said.  I don't know about that.  Inside the ring, it's about business, but I don't have an objection to talking to my opponent afterwards or before. 

John told me he lost eight or nine pounds in one week.  "What have you been doing?" I asked.  "I've just been eating meat, vegetables, fruit and no carbs," he said.  I envy how fast guys can lose weight once they focus on it.  They can drop the pounds without a lot of major effort, too.  Women?  We change our diet, up the exercise, and two months later, the dial on the scale still hasn't moved much. 

Monday, March 01, 2010

Boxing In The Sanctuary

Melanie, a woman who goes to my church, brought up the idea to me about running a boxing program for kids at church not long ago.  She said it probably wouldn't be too difficult to find used equipment for the kids to use.  But as Pastor Roger pointed out, the legal and insurance issues would be a challenge.  I'm aware that some churches have had successful boxing programs (as well as programs focusing on other sports).  While being in a sport is beneficial for most kids, a lot of things have to be considered.

There was a woman named Carla who used to attend the gym.  She's now married with a little one of her own.  I remember her saying that she would never let a child of hers participate in boxing.  "I'd think, 'I can't let my baby get hurt!'", she told me.  What the parents of the children would feel about such a program at church would definately be another consideration.  Some may object to what they see as the church promoting violence.  This also is one reason why Barry, the kids' coach, requires that the youths who are interested in boxing bring their parents to the gym.  He wants to make sure that the parents are comfortable with their children particpating in boxing.

The sport has to fit the kid, too.  In the movie, Girlfirght, the main character discovers that her brother does not want to take lessons at the neighborhood boxing gym.  He would rather develop his artistic skills, but their dad forces him to box.  It's a male ego/chauvinist thing where the dad is concerned.  Either a child likes the sport, or they don't.  They should not be pushed into one.  Also, if it is clear they don't have the talent for it, then they should try something else.  I would also be concerned about some kids at church feeling left out  if they could not participate.

As a coach, I'd also have to be mindful of kids utilizing their newfound boxing skills to bully others.  I've seen and been around adult boxers who take pleasure in bullying people in and out of the ring.  It's not pretty, and the adults should know better.  There are some good kids that attend Sunday services and/or the youth group at my church.  However, there are a few that would try the patience of Job.  Please don't tell me about "we should suffer the little children".  In my opinion, most adults use the "kids will be kids" line -- too many times -- to excuse away poor and inappropriate behavior out of those who are under eighteen years of age.  I have little patience for that type of stuff, and as old as I am, I'm not going to develop any. . . sorry, Charlie.  If I saw that a kid might ignore the concepts of teamwork, cooperation and sportsmanship, I'd probably weed them out of the program. 

Sign Up Sunday

Carlos came to pick me up yesterday morning so we could go to the Golden Gloves Tournament sign-up at Eckhert Park.  His girlfriend, Cynthia, along with their youngest son, Jacob, were in the car. Jacob is a very cute nine-month-old.  Where his older brother Justin (who was at church with his grandmother) looks just like Cynthia, Jacob looks just like Carlos.  Carlos called before he came by.  "Do I have to shave off my beard?" he asked.  "Not until right before the fights," I answered.  "Oops, I've already started to cut it off," he said.  I don't think I had ever seen Carlos clean-shaven until yesterday.  He's very baby-faced. 

Surprisingly, the room wasn't packed when we arrived.  I didn't recognize many except for Rita, Ted, Tracy (the publicist for the event), and the photographer who always takes stunning photos during the tournament.  It didn't take long for me to renew my coach's license, but Carlos had a bit of paperwork to fill out.  Plus, he had to pay for his first boxing license. 

One of the coaches was grumbling about the price of the license, which has gone up.  "This is a rip-off!  What am I paying for?" he said.  It was pointed out to him that the boxer's licenses and the boxing club licenses had gone up, too.  The guy kept complaining, and the people doing the registering politely gave him a hint: either pay it, or don't pay it.

Alan and John had been there earlier and had taken care of their business.  Carlos mentioned that he had spoken to Alan earlier that morning, and it was unclear whether or not Jamil had made it to registration.  I believe today is the last opportunity to sign-up; however, the registration will be held out in the suburbs.