Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gotta Eat Some To Give Some

"Did you box?" Alan asked me around five minutes to nine on Wednesday.  "You mean spar?  No, I didn't," I answered.  "Well, get ready.  You gotta speak up, Hillari," the coach told me.  Some folks have gotten miffed about being skipped for sparring, but I just figured time had run out that day, and that was it.  There's always the next time, I always figure. 

Earlier, he told me that Evangelina and I were going to spar.  However, Alan got into the ring with Evangelina first for a few rounds.  I was working on one of the heavy bags and trying to watch the action and give advice at the same time.  Eventually I had to stop and give all of my attention to the action in the ring.  Alan was doing his usual tricks.  He had sparred with Mike before then and told him, "I'm too old to be slick anymore, so I have to do something else."  "Oh, come on. . .you're pretty cagey," I told Alan.

Alan sometimes has his hands down, leaving his left jaw open to attack.  Every time I saw him do that, I told Evangelina to catch him with a right hook.  She also uppercut him several times, and popped him with jabs.  He was hit with some good side shots, too.  After the bell he told Evangelina, "Now I'm going to have to take some Excederin when I go home because of you."  They both were dead tired when they came out of the ring.

So Evangelina and I got into the ring at the end of the evening.  I had been working on the bags all night, so I figured I might only be good for one round, and not a good round at that.  From out of nowhere, I had a burst of energy once the bell rang.  I kept catching Evangelina with rights and hooks.  Off to the side, Alan joked to me, "Have you been taking strength enhancing drugs?"  He commented that she and I had some good exchanges when the round ended.

Alan called out during round two, "You've got to eat some punches to get some in," and I took quite of few of them in exchange for getting in my punches.  Evangelina hits hard, and does not get fazed by punches that come at her. One bomb she threw rocked me off balance; I almost fell to the canvas. I was so busy thinking about the next set of hits to throw, that I didn't notice how hard the next punch she threw really was.  It was weird.  It was only after she pulled back her left hand and I reset myself to attack that I noticed the room spun for a second.  "Whoa, I almost got knocked out," I thought to myself.  

I was happy that the round ended on a strong note, unlike what happened on Monday when I wimped out in the middle of a first round.  I was careful about not eating much before I came to the gym.  I had a couple of low-carb popsicles in the middle of the afternoon, and a few teaspoons of peanut butter an hour and half before I got to Loyola Park.  It's doesn't pay for me to go to the gym without eating a little something a couple of hours before, but having a full meal is not the way to go, either.  That's what partially did me in on Monday. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Not Even Half A Round

It was a combination of old age, menopause and the grilled cheese sandwiches I ate a couple of hours before I went to the gym.  I couldn't even finish a half of a round sparring with Evangelina.  I got overheated, and I had to stop.  On top of that, I was nauseous.  "Are you okay?" Alan asked with concern.  Evangelina had a worried look on her face.  I was fanning myself furiously.  My stomach was queasy before I agreed to spar. But in my usual hard-headed fashion, I figured I would just play it off and keep going, if only for one round. 

During the rest of the night, I gave myself excuses to sit down often and/or chatter with the others as opposed to putting in a good, strong workout.  It was truly an off night for me.  Not long ago, I was talking to my niece Jalissa.  "Maybe I'm getting too old to take those hits," I said.  It's something I say all the time, but don't seriously think much about.  "You should think about your health, Auntie," Jalissa told me.  I try to do better.  I exercise two extra days outside of going to Loyola Park.  I cut down on having second and third helpings. But sometimes, I can't shake the feeling that some worse health issue -- other than the ones I already deal with -- is around some dark corner, waiting to smack the hell out of me.  Images of Dad and my sister Cindy laying in hospitals, and my brother Ken arriving DOA at an emergency room play in my mind often. 

But I keep going to the gym, I keep volunteering to spar, and I'm willing to take fights.  Over the weekend, I saw the documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work.  The legendary comedianne could retire, but she has a drive to keep going on stage.  She mentioned that comedian Don Rickles is in his late 80s and the late comedian George Burns, who died when he was 100 years old, kept going almost to the end.  "I want to be like them," she said.  I could stop boxing (and those who have been telling me to stop for years would love for me to do that), and perhaps find something else to do.  But I have to keep fighting.  It makes me believe that I have a weapon against the unknowns -- health and otherwise -- that wait in the shadows.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hot Boxing

No change in the temperature in the gym.  Josh suggested turning on the window fan that built into the wall in the back of the gym.  The fan came on, but didn't offer much relief. 

 Jamil sparred with Anthony, and Anthony sparred with Mike.  Evangelina and I sparred for two rounds.  I protected my head better than I did the last time, but she got in a good punch to my nose.  "Ow!  Keep your hands up!" I silently ordered myself. The picture below was taken right after Evangelina and I sparred; Evangelina took the picture.

Professor brought his brother Miles with him, and Mike brought in his friend Jack.  Miles was really working the speed bag.  I was surprised to find out later that he'd never had a fight.  Miles is a Park District volunteer, like I am.  Alan said that he thought it was okay for Miles to keep working out at the gym, but he told Miles to clear it with Mary first. 

Professor's already has his mind on next year's Golden Gloves.  "Is the gym open more hours when the Gloves is going on?" he asked me.  "Yes, the coach will open it up, usually on weekends, so that people can get extra training in."  Professor wants to start sparring again in September.  That'll be just in time for Loyola Park's boxing show. 

An amateur match is coming up soon at the Chicago Fight Club, and I want to go to that.  That's the gym where Antonio trains, and I've long been curious about the place.  One of these days, I'll actually do a workout at the Chicago Boxing Club, and I'll return to do some workouts at JABB Gym.  Actually, I need to go up to Hamlin.  Bill told me a long time ago that I could get some sparring up there, but school and other obligations have kept me from going.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Big Man and the Contender

Another hot night in the gym, although the temps had gone down a little outside.  JJ stopped by and talked about his adventures in Colorado.  The fight he lost there was the first one he had.  If he had won, he would have had three or four more to get the championship.

I took a quick break to fill up the water bottles, as Jamil and Eric got ready to spar.  Walking up the hallway, I spotted Leon at the front desk.  "Oh, no!" I thought, knowing that JJ was in the gym. I still remember that intense sparring session they had that left Leon hanging over the ropes.  But JJ was just visiting, and Leon cut his workout short.

JJ told me why he and Gio were not working together anymore.  It was just a matter of JJ feeling that Gio's training style didn't match his.  He said that Gio's been cool about the break-up, but he suspects that the older man may still be disappointed that JJ didn't continue with him. 

"There's no one for Hillari to spar with," Alan smiled.  None of the other women (Evangelina, Shay, Joan) were there.  "That's okay; I'm trying to avoid hot flashes," I said. 

JJ and I talked about people we knew who used to hang around Loyola Park.   I told him about running into Sam some time ago, and Igor coming in.  He was surprised to learn that Danny -- who wasn't there that evening -- had come back around.  "I haven't seen Montrell in a long time," I said, referring to the kid who was the star of the youth boxing program.  JJ hinted that Montrell might have gotten into some trouble with the law.  I hope that's not true. 

James, or Professor, as he likes to be called, came in again.  He has trained over at Seward Park, which is near where my late dad lived.  Professor would like to do some sparring in the future.  "I'm a good fighter," he said.  "I see that you're modest," Alan grinned. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Sauna

A window was open and the fan was on, but it was like a sauna in the gym.  "You could lose a few pounds in here by sweating," I told Anthony, and he agreed.  "It does feel a little better in here with a window open," he said, but it was downright steamy in the place.  Anthony sparred with Ralphie, and the both of them seemed worn out between rounds.  It had to be the heat.

I was up for sparring, but neither Shay or Evangelina wanted to do so.  Evangelina said she was sore from the last time.  She also is training for a marathon, and that compounded the pain she was already feeling.  I pulled out my punch mitts and worked on bobbing and weaving with the both of them. 

The results from the National Boxing Championships in Colorado were posted this morning on the Internet.  I learned that JJ lost by decision to an opponent.  That's gotta be frustrating for him.  The option for him to go pro is still wide open, however.

Yesterday, I got a workout in at church.  There's a youth group visiting from an Indiana church.  The Indiana associate pastor, Aaron, used to help with the youth at our church.  They were helping Virginia with arranging and folding clothes for the food/clothes pantry in the gym.  "Don't worry, I only need a corner to shadow box," I told them.  One of the girls who regularly attends our church, Jaszyln, was pleased when I played "I Want You Back" by The Jackson Five.  "Can I turn this up?  I love this song," she said.  I heard her singing along when "ABC" played a little while later.  Jaszyln is thirteen years old, and I was impressed that she knew those 40 year old songs. 

Pastor Roger walked into the gym briefly, saw me, gave a small smile and walked back out.  He had told the Indiana youth group that they might see me working out in the gym.  When the hour was up, one of the girls in the youth group -- Whitney -- said, "Aw, you're not taking the music from us are you?"  Christy, Aaron's wife, commented, "The music was really energetic!"  I was being real mindful of what I was playing.  "RUN DMC's Greatest Hits" got some play, too, but I had to skip some songs that I thought might have offended people.  It was hot in the church gym, but not as hot as the gym at Loyola Park.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Achilles Heel

Evangelina and I sparred.  I was thinking that it was going to be a good sparring session as it usually is with her.  She immediately went hunting for my head and connected.  I had no answer the first couple of times she clocked me. I thought all I had to do was regroup and get back in the game. Alan kept telling me to "pop the jab" and go for her mid-section.  I heard him, but I couldn't make it work.

Evangelina successfully kept up her campaign against my noggin.  I was backed up into the corners, and against the ropes.  A few times, I turned my back, which is never a good idea.  "Are you okay?" Alan asked.  "Yeah," I lied, as I backed away from Evangelina to get air and stave off a wave of nausea.  Stubbornly, I put my hands up, ready to go back into battle.  Evangelina's punches were harder than usual.  I attempted to move my head, but didn't get far.  It was as if a general called out "Incoming!", and I was the one dumb soldier in the clearing who thought my knife was going to work against a missile. 

The bell did ring finally, and I was hanging over the ropes.  "I don't know what happened.  I feel off," I told Alan.  "That's it, you're done, come out," he said, pulling off my sparring gloves.  Later he told me what I already knew.  I got foggy because of taking too many hits to my head.  It happened before while I was sparring with Chloe a few months ago.  It also was the case when I was fighting with Meg the second time at Brooks Park.  Once an opponent keeps consistently targeting my head -- and I become extremely ineffective in protecting it -- then they've won the contest. 

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Soldier Diva

Alan was telling Josh that he has to decide what he wants out of boxing.  He noticed me holding the pads for Josh earlier.  He suggested that Josh be more focused about executing punches.  Josh has to remember the the numbers of the punches, too, and that does take time.  It took me a minute to remember that one equals the left jab, and two equals the right, and so forth, when I first started.  "Hillari's a good trainer," Josh told Alan.

"She's always willing to spar.  I ask her each time if she's ready, and she always says 'yep'.  She's a soldier," Alan told him.  I have had a few  off nights where I didn't spar because I'm wasn't feeling well, or I was sore from the last sparring session.  But I'd rather spar most times when I'm in the gym.  Not long ago, I heard Alan saying that a person must spar in order to get the technique down.  That is especially true if one plans to compete.  I didn't spar often when Steve was running the gym.  I wasn't getting fights then, but now that I have been, I see the benefits of a good sparring session.  Each time I'm in the ring, I learn that I need to always be in the mode of improving. 

Evangelina and I had a good sparring session last night that lasted three and a half rounds (we started in the middle of the first round).  She got a few good clean rights to my face, and executed some other good combinations to my head.  I did get a right in, and a couple of hooks.  "Does she hit harder than Meg?" Alan asked, referring to the woman I had two fights with late last year.  "No, Meg hits harder," I answered, but Evangelina is no slouch in that department. 

Anthony showed off a pair of new gloves he brought from Ringside.  They gave him a good deal because of some discoloration on the gloves.  After using them to spar with Eric, he said the gloves felt good.

Jamil sparred with Ralphie, and kept getting caught in the corners.  Alan barked at Jamil not to do that, but it kept happening.  At one point, Alan threw up his hands in frustration.  I noticed blood on Jamil's shirt after that, but I couldn't tell who was bleeding.  Jamil joked that it was blood from Carlos (who didn't sign up for the summer session).  "Ralphie whipped me up," Jamil grinned.  

A look at the Park District boxing show schedule listed a show at Sheridan Park tonight, but Alan had plans for some of us to go to Garfield Park next week.  There aren't many women who fight out of that field house, from what I remember.  But I'm sure that a few of the guys can get matched up. 

"You gotta keep Wednesdays and Thursdays open," Paulette told me the other day when I said I wouldn't be attending the church's Family Nights (Vacation Bible School).  Thursdays are when the choir practices, although they aren't doing so now because it's summer.  Maybe, just maybe, I might consider going to Family Nights if it a) was scheduled on another night other than Wednesday and b) it wasn't inundated with kids.  When I miss time in the gym for various reasons (illness, church functions, school, etc.), I feel off that week.  It's true that boxing has an addictive quality to it. 

Monday, July 05, 2010

No Monday Gym

I walked home from Evanston Saturday afternoon.  I passed the field house on the way back, and decided to check the front door.  Like I suspected, there was a sign on the door stating the field house would be closed on Monday in observance of the 4th of July holiday.  I called Alan and left a message so that he knew.

I didn't bring my gym gear to church today, so no workout will be done here.  Unfortunately, there's a report of showers on and off for today.  I hate getting caught in the rain while on my bike, and I don't dare get the ball bearings on my in-line and quad skates wet.  My apartment retains heat, so working out in there is not feasible, either.  Maybe I'll skip today and add a day later in the week. 

Sleep didn't go well last night, and none of the fans in my apartment helped to cool things down.  I was up late enough to see a rerun of "Peter Gunn".  In one scene, Gunn walked into a boxing gym.  One guy was beating on a heavy bag.  "What kind of way is he hitting that bag?" I said to myself.  The guy was jumping all around the bag, throwing awkward punches.  TV and movies don't always get it right when it comes to the sport. 

Somebody asked me how realistic the movie Million Dollar Baby was around the time it was released.  Good movie, but the main character seemed to move up in the ranks rather quickly.  Since women's boxing doesn't get the respect it should have, and it's doubtful that a contender would get that kind of fame so fast.  First of all, she'd have to get the type of fights that would get her noticed.  That's not easy, as promoters don't recognize the value of having female fights at boxing matches, not even on the undercards.  Plus, she'd need a press to get her name out there.  Too many sports reporters treat women's boxing as a joke (and honestly, do they really give any woman in any sport much attention?).  I read The Ring, the most popular boxing magazine in the country, every month.  Even Laila Ali in her heyday didn't get big attention there, unlike her male counterparts. 

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Our Own Wolfman

Evangelina squared off against Nick in the ring.  She handled herself fine, blocking his punches, and getting in quite a few good ones.  We found out that she has one brother, who is younger than she is.  "We thought you had a lot of brothers that you had to fight to get to the dinner table," Alan chuckled.  She is also a 6th grade school teacher.

Josh came in, but just as he and I were going to work on the punch mitts, Alan asked me to suit up.  I went in the ring with Shay.  She threw more punches than she did the last time, but there were still moments when she was turning her back.  Shay can throw hard punches, but she doesn't often throw them full out.  I threw many hooks, some of which landed, but I did not put full force on them. 

Alan said that Joan was bleeding a little bit after she sparred with Evangelina on Monday.  I didn't notice that she was.  We wondered aloud if that was why she didn't come to the gym tonight. 

Anthony is becoming like Carlos, just going and going in the ring.  He was in with Nick and Matthieu for several rounds.  Matthieu is over six feet, and Anthony is about 5 foot 7.  Matthieu laughed that he should have been able to get more punches in on Anthony because he has a longer reach. 

Alan was going to change his shirt at the end of the night, but he didn't have an extra dry with him.  He had to put his workout shirt back on.  "You don't have to put your shirt back on," I started joking, and he explained why he had to do so.  "But you're denying women the pleasure of seeing your hairy chest," I laughed.  Alan grinned, saying, "At my age it doesn't matter.  You know what Leon used to call me? Teen Wolf."  Ralphie smiled, "It fits."