Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baby Boxing

Every time I see Isaac, Pastor Roger and Virginia's son, I comment on how big the boy's hands are.   I had the pleasure of holding him in my arms last week.  His mom had to step away for a few moments, and I had agreed to watch the baby.  "You're just a big, strapping, healthy boy, aren't you?" I cooed as I held him up in the air.  He responded by become agitated.  "She'll be back, I promised," I said, in a vain attempt to soothe him.  I have to give Virginia credit for carrying him around all the time.  Isaac is a whopper. 

"As soon as you start walking, the boxing lessons will begin," I always tell the baby.  It's funny to see the suspicious looks that Isaac gives me when I say that.  His expression seems to say, "Yeah right, chick.  Daddy already told me about you."  His parents smile, but Pastor is not a boxing fan, and I don't think Virgina, like a lot of moms, want to see their child giving and taking punches.  It's an idea, though.  I'm of the mind that all boys -- and the girls, too -- should know how to defend themselves.  If I had children, I'd be that parent that principals and teachers would hate.  The scenario would go like this: I would be summoned to the school because my kid beat up another kid.  I'd ask my son/daughter what happened. As soon as I learned my kid was standing up for themselves against a bully, I'd inform the principal and teachers, "I've taught them to hit back and hit hard to back someone off of them.  I'm not raising my kid to be a victim.  Nor am I going to make it my problem because the school can't seem to put bullies in check."   My mother basically said the same thing when schools would call her about me.  In addition, I'd fight any suspension or expulsion that was handed down to my kid. 

Roland came into the gym last night and talked to Alan about taking lessons.  Alan told him that he had to come back on Tuesday or Thursday to talk to Barry.  You see, Roland is 12 years old going on thirteen.  I talked to him also, emphasizing that boxing lessons are free for those under age eighteen.  "Coach Barry is going to want to talk to your parent or guardian, because he wants to make sure they're gonna be cool with you boxing," I said.  Roland understood, and he was okay with that.  He told me that he saw me fight during last year's Loyola Park Boxing show.  "It wasn't easy because she was bigger than me," I said, not mentioning that she was also younger.  "That when you have to have heart," Roland smiled.

Alan told Leon that I had boxed in that show, and the big man was surprised.  "She sang the National Anthem, too, and then turned around and fought," Alan grinned.  "For real?  She's got all kind of action going on," Leon laughed. 

Matthieu sparred with the Colonel for a couple of rounds.  Sarah and I sparred after that, and we were back to throwing harder punches.  Once Sarah gets going, she never lets up on the ol' one-two.  She hit me in my right eye and knocked me silly.  My vision was off for several minutes behind that, but I kept going.  She kept backing me up into the ropes and the corners, and Alan called out, "Hillari, keep punching while backing up!"  Not easy to do, especially when the other person is taller and has long arms.  We went for three full rounds.  After the last bell, I heard Alan tell Sarah that while it was good that she kept punching, she might not be able to do that easily against an opponent who is her size and height. 

Erica appeared at my side while Jacob sparred with Mike L (there have been so many guys named Mike in that gym; I have to keep them all straight).  "It wouldn't be gym time if I didn't come around and harass you," she smiled.  She had stepped out of the room when her boyfriend Matthieu sparred with the Colonel.  Mike L. took a few hard pops in the face from Jacob, and she winced.  Erica admitted that she had never been hit in the face, nor had been ever been in a fight.  "I don't know how I would take that.  If I would back off and say, 'Okay, this is a sport', or if I would get angry," she said.  "I think sometimes the guys have a hard time differentiating when it comes to that," I answered, thinking about the matches I had seen in the amateurs and the professionals ranks that turned into personal wars.  Thank God I haven't been in any sparring sessions that went that way; I've seen some of those come dangerously close to becoming street fights, too. 

Professor brought his girlfriend Kelly to the gym for a second time, and he formally introduced her to everyone.  She got in a workout, including throwing around the medicine ball with some of the other guys. 

Alan made an annoucement that those who haven't paid the boxing fee yet have to do that by Monday.  There are several who haven't done that yet.  "It's unfair to the people who have paid to be in here.  Also, the gym is small and it gets crowded quickly when there's a lot of people who are in here working out but who are not paid up."  The small space is one of the main reasons why the gym can't operate on a drop-in basis, even if the rules changed to allow people to pay day fees to workout. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday Ups and Downs

At the beginning of the evening, I was feeling a little down.  The overall odd feelings had begun not long after I woke up Monday morning.  I had a strange dream involving not being able to get my locker open at the gym.  The combination I was using to open the lock was similar to the one I used on the locker I had in high school. I was the only one left in the gym, and I panicked that I wasn't going to be able to get my stuff out.  Alan was in the dream, but he had disappeared from the gym, and half of the lights were off.  The appearance of the gym was different which added to strangeness of the dream.  There were a group of thuggish looking guys hanging around the back door of the gym that led to an alley.  A buddy from high school named Riley was among that group of guys.  In reality, Riley has been dead for over a decade now.  I have no idea what that dream meant.

A general feeling of irritation began sometime during mid-morning at work, and continued on throughout the day.  Even before menopause began, I would often have days where I was irritated, but couldn't pinpoint the exact thing that set me off.  I still wasn't in a great mood when I got to the gym.  But exercise is good medicine for chasing away bad feelings.  By the time Sarah and I sparred, after I had done shadow boxing and hitting the heavy bag, I felt better.

Sarah agreed to sparring only if we went light.  She said that she was still hurting from the last time we were in the in the ring.  Before the first bell rang, I told Alan that she and I would take it easy.  "That's what you say," he grinned.  "Would I go back on my word?" I said through my mouthpiece.  "Well, you know, when the leather starts to fly, anything can happen," Alan said, still grinning.  But I did make a conscious effort not to put great force on any of the punches I threw.  Sarah noted that I was doing a lot of bobbing and weaving.  Since we were not going all out, that gave me time to think about how to avoid her punches.  I went under a lot of the jabs and hooks that she threw, then came back up with my own hooks, both to the head and the body.  

Jacob sparred with Alan, as Professor, Ray and myself gave Jacob tips on how to stay alive in the ring.  We were helping out Jacob so much that Alan exclaimed, "What? No one's cheering for me?"  Later, Alan asked me if he had been moving his head enough.  "It seemed that Jacob was popping me in the head a lot," he said.  "You were moving your head, but Jacob did catch you good several times," I answered.

I was really throwing hooks on the double end bag when I heard Professor say to Marcus, "See?  She knows exactly where that bag is.  She is really using her hips to execute those punches."  Marcus was watching me, and I smiled at him.  Ray said, "Well, women know how to use their hips."  Professor agreed, saying, "Yeah, man, they know how to move", and all the guys laughed, and so did I.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tall Girl vs. Short Girl

Sarah and I sparred for the first time in a long time.  As chronicled before in this blog, I could never figure out how to get around her arms in the past, and she's much taller than I.  But tonight I did, getting in body shots and surprise, surprise, some hooks.  Sarah's sister Amy taped the two rounds we did.  I saw that I was moving my head, but sporadically.  Sarah got in many flurries of lefts and rights, and she really put her weight behind them.  Sarah caught me off guard during the second round with one such flurry.  I stumbled back into the ropes, but I didn't fall down.  Alan got on both of us about keeping our hands up.  Mine were down a lot during the second round.

Leon came in and he sparred with Kenny.  Alan had to push Leon off Kenny a few times, as Leon got a bit rough.  Erica was cringing as she watched them.  Earlier, her boyfriend Matthieu was sparring with Leon.  "I had to leave the room because I couldn't watch them," she told me.  She did watch while Sarah and I were in the ring, but Erica was disturbed by that, too.  I overheard Alan asking her if she wanted to spar earlier, but Erica wanted no part of it.  She was really horrified when she heard I had sparred with Leon before.

I wanted to practice more bobbing and weaving, but while stretching, my right knee let me know that wasn't happening this evening.  I was running down the stairs in my apartment and not feeling much pain in my knees, so I thought I was good.  Tricked again.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cinderella Knees

Alan was out again, this time due to Passover, so I opened the gym.  It was a fairly decent crowd, but it was so quiet.  Hector said, "It's not the same when the coach isn't here.  I used to him going around asking people if they want to spar."  It was very quiet, even with the radio on.

B.K. didn't have the key for the main boxing gym door, so he let us in via the door that's in the basketball gym.  At one point, we heard someone knocking on the main door to get in.  It was after 8:00 PM by then, so I assumed it was Josh.  But then I remembered that Josh is a rabbi; he didn't come in tonight, either.  It was Professor, who admitted he had overslept.

Sarah had her sister Amy hold pads for her.  Sarah was really pushing with force when she threw her hooks, but her form wasn't quite there.  I showed her how to turn when executing the punches so her full body weight would be behind them, not just her arm.

I was working the heavy bag for most of the evening.  In the middle of a round, I noticed my knees didn't hurt.  Because of arthritis and that hit I took from a car a few months ago, my knees usually hurt most of the time.  It's amazing how one gets used to chronic pain to an extent.  What surprised me tonight was that I didn't feel any pain at all as I moved around. It was as if I was 21 years old again, without all of the medical conditions.  But as soon as 9:00 PM rolled around, my knees went right back to their usual condition.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Mitts Get Around

Usually, when the coach is absent, and everyone knew in advance that the coach was going to be out, the attendance in the gym is low that evening.  Not so Wednesday night, when it was just about a full house.  Alan had to go to a business meeting, so I opened the gym.  A Chicago policeman stopped in for a few moments and looked around in amazement.  "Are these folks in the Golden Gloves?" he asked.  "We had a few, but none went on to the finals," I explained to the officer.

My punch mitts got a workout.  Matthieu and Erica used them in the ring for awhile.  Then Josh showed up about 15 to 20 minutes after eight o'clock, asking me to hold the mitts for him.  I think that was the biggest amount of exercise Josh did that night.  He was gone before 9:00 PM rolled around.  

Neither Amir, Kenny, Hector, Eric or Leon came in, but Professor stopped in for a minute.  Colonel had borrowed a jump rope from Professor and had given it me for safe keeping.  Professor came in not long after to pick it up.  Marcus signed up for the gym that evening and put in a workout.  Greg, Robert, Bart, Ray, Sarah, and Amy made up the rest of the crowd. 

I arrived at the gym with a headache that started not too long after I got home.  I stopped over at Margaret and Glynn's house to feed their cat Esther, since the couple was out on a day trip.  When I got home, I took a fitful nap.  Since I wasn't feeling too hot, I had a thought not to go to the gym, but I had promised Alan I would open it up.   Once I started my workout, I felt a lot better. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More Good Advice

"It's only been half a round!  Why are you tired?" Alan asked me as I rested in the corner in-between rounds.  I was sparring Kenny, who was moving fast as usual.  "Because I'm old," I answered.  Now that I think about it, I sounded like some whinny little girl.  I went another two rounds with Kenny, as others in the gym looked on.  "When we're in a clinch, use your hooks.  Don't let me just hold on.  Make me pay for trying to take a rest!" Kenny advised me.  He always gives good advice.  I told him I have a hard time moving my head and getting punches off at the same time.  "It takes a long time to learn how to do that, but it can be done.  The trick is to continue to move your head while you throw punches," Kenny said.

Leon pulled a Josh -- he came in about 15 minutes before closing time.  Earlier, another guy who used to train at Clarendon, Amir, had come in at the suggestion of Leon.  He was saying, "Leon had me come in, and he ain't even here," then Leon showed up.  Another guy named Marcus came in.  He observed the goings-on for awhile before leaving. Sarah brought her sister Amy in, who wanted to sign up for the gym. 

Kenny, who's about 131 lbs., asked about getting a fight.  Alan told him he could get one anytime.  This is the season when the show fights increase, and the Chicago Park District boxing shows aren't too far behind those.  I'm trying to lose weight (again) in preparation for the fight I'll have later this summer, but finding time to get the extra exercise in is a challenge.  I keep forgetting that I still have the paralegal studies classes to finish up.  Plus, I've applied to be a notary public, and there are some classes I want to take (hopefully online) to be a notary signing agent, as well. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturday Night Finals

I was surprised when I arrived at Gordon Tech High School for the final night of the Golden Gloves -- the programs were free.  Hoy, a Spanish newspaper that was one of the sponsors of the tournament, had printed them up in full color.  In the past, the programs were in black and white.

There were some cute pink T-shirts for infants for sale that read: "Future Golden Gloves Champion".  I had told Pastor Roger that I would buy a Golden Gloves shirt for his baby son, Isaac.  The pink shirts were nice, but Isaac is a whopper.  The boy was about nine pounds when he was born, and at four months, he's a lot bigger now.  I lucked up on a kid's medium gray T-shirt which I hope will fit Isaac.  After I made my purchase, I saw Gary.  Gary had Barry on the phone.  I was happy to learn that Barry did get the copy of the DVD I'd made of the Loyola Park boxing tournament.  I had left it in a drawer down at the gym for Barry to pick up.  Barry couldn't make it out to the fights and neither could JJ; JJ had to work that evening.

Percy was working the glove table as usual.  He told me all of his boxers didn't make it past the prelims and the semi-finals due to illness.  A few guys had the flu, another guy got pink eye.  I'm just getting over a cold myself, one that I caught from Pastor Roger.  It's getting on to mid-spring, and the last of the colds and flues are going around.

Thirteen fights were scheduled for the evening, but one didn't take place because one boxer was a no-show.  The other boxer won by walk-over, but judging by the look on his face, I'm sure he would have rather had the fight.  I've never seen any boxer in that tournament happy to win a bout that way. 

There were several matches between female boxers.  I got to shake the hand of Megan Rembold of Rockit Boxing, who won in the 114 lb. open category against Brittany Brown of By Faith Boxing.  While they were in the ring, I thought to myself, "I wish I was their weight."  I was also wishing I fought more like Kendra Cooper of Harvey Boxing who won over Scarlett Swerdlow, who wasn't attached to a boxing club (139 lbs. Senior Novice category).  Cooper measured her punches and picked her spots. 

The ring girls were on hand, and here's another reason why they don't add anything to the sport.  In-between the first and second round of one of the matches, one of them pranced into the ring holding the round card upside down.  She didn't catch on what the audience was trying to tell her until she had gotten half-way around the ring.  Finally, she looked up at the card and turned it around.  There were a group of guys that kept standing up and cheering every time she switched by their side of the ring. I noticed there were no girlfriends and/or wives in their group.  I thought, "If I was the girlfriend or wife sitting next to one of those guys, I'd jumped up and slapped the guy back down in his seat."  Yeah, I'd be that type of wife, and I was that type of girlfriend the last time I had a boyfriend. 

The best fight of the evening was between Alex Martin of Harvey Boxing and Termaine Pride of the Jesse Torres Boxing Club in the 152 lbs. Open category.  I had heard many stories about Martin's prowess in the ring, but I didn't remember seeing him fight before.  Martin was the example of  taking a few punches to get some in, and he really got them in.  Crisp, clean jabs and hooks.  Martin never looked like he was in a rush nor did he panic when Pride backed him up and threw flurries of punches.  Martin handled his business, and deservedly won the Best Boxer of the Tournament award. 

I lost all track of time.  When I finally looked at my watch it was after 11:00 PM.  The matches ended about a half hour to 45 minutes later.  On my way out of the high school, I felt someone tapping me on my shoulder.  It was Tim Kane, who writes some very good boxing articles for the Chicago version of  "I said to myself, 'I know that girl!  I've seen her on the Internet!'" he told me.  It was very nice to meet him. 

It was a long walk down to the Addison Red Line 'L station.   The Addison bus stops running after about 9:30 PM.  I don't think the California bus runs that late going north, either.  The Brown Line was a little closer, but it didn't make much sense for me to get on, ride one stop south to Belmont, then switch over to go back in the right direction.  That was the main grievance I had about the tournament being switched from St. Andrews to Gordon Tech.  Those of us on public transportation who want to see the fights to the end have to hoof it awhile to get to the next bus or train that's running afterwards.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Alone With The Guys Again

Robin, Erica and Sarah did not come into the gym Wednesday night.  That left me alone with guys who came in: Alan, Bart (that's the guy who's name I didn't have the other week), Robert, Derek, Mike L., Ralphie, and Eric.

There was the usual round robin of sparring; Alan and I were last.  While he was sparring with Derek, I was trying to pick out where I get an advantage over Alan.  I got in one good hook, I believe.  Alan popped me numerous times in my left eye, my nose, and my head.  My neck got knocked the wrong way, too.  One such crack had my head swimming in a fog for a moment, but I stubbornly shook it off and kept going.  Then he caught me three times in my stomach.  Each time, I went, "Oof!"  During the second time I was hit there, Alan said, "See, I catch you like that each time!"  It was the middle of the second round that I remembered to move my head, but it was too little, too late.  I've been good about remembering to move my head while I'm on the bags and shadow boxing, but it'll be a long time before I effectively do that while in the ring.

I feel like I get more out of the workout now that I do incorporate head movement.  There's a still a problem with timing, however.  I don't want to be so predictable that an opponent figures out, "Oh, she moves her head this many times, and always in the same way then gets set to punch."  It still feels awkward to me in terms of balance.  The more I practice it, however, the more it will come naturally to me. 

The picture above was taken at the end of the night.  Had the camera with me all evening, then I forgot to take pictures.  In this shot, Alan and Ralphie (who's sitting down with the magazine) talk about -- what else? -- boxing.

Yesterday, I found a preview clip of the series "Lights Out" on Facebook.  It's a very good TV show about a 40 year old boxer trying to make a comeback, as well as deal with many personal and family issues.  Most of the comments underneath the clip were along the lines of "too bad FX canceled the series".  "What the. . .?" I said, as I checked elsewhere on the Internet for news.  Sure enough, I found a short article on Entertainment Weekly's web site stating that "Lights Out" would not be picked up for a second season.  "That's bull (expletive deleted)!" I exclaimed.  The most recent promo for the show billed Tuesday night's episode as the season finale, but in reality, it was the series finale.  As with most shows these days that are canceled abruptly, there was no tie up to all the unanswered questions presented by the story lines.  It ended with several cliffhangers, including a hint that the main character's latest championship bout may have further aggravated the pugilism dementia that the character was diagnosed with earlier in the season.  Only Lights' sister and middle daughter knew about it; his wife, his other two daughters, his brother, his dad, and the two guys who bankrolled his comeback bout (a Don King type and a ruthless loan shark) didn't.  Now we'll never know how that will play out because the show is gone.  Damn. . .I hate when a show that good doesn't get a chance to keep going.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Moving My Head

I made a conscious effort to move my head while working out on the bags, but I didn't move it very much while sparring with Ralphie on Monday.  Still haven't gotten back up to sparring three rounds yet; I only did two with Ralphie, who hadn't been in the gym for awhile.  I got in some overhand rights, but didn't quite make it concerning the hooks I tried to execute.  "You move too fast for me," I told Ralphie after the bell rang.  "That's just it. . .I move a lot, but I don't throw enough punches," he said.

After I got my headgear off, Alan asked me if I was okay.  "Just having the usual hot flash," I said.  "You always have those right after sparring," Alan noted.  "I'm not getting them at other times, too," I answered.  They're not as bad as some women claim they are -- so far.  

Alan sparred with Mike.  "I'm not slick, so I had to back him up in the corners to slow his momentum down.  But he kept coming!" Alan said after they had completed a few rounds.  He said that Mike hits hard.  I kept telling Mike to work his jabs and follow up with rights on Alan.  Hector also sparred with Ralphie, but Matthieu begged off, and Frank had left early. 

Near the end of the evening, Alan announced, "Guys. . .and girls. . .you have two rounds left."  "Don't you mean 'women'?" I joked.  "There's no political correctness in the gym," Alan smiled.   He's right.  The cuss words fly as fast as the naughty jokes.  I have heard some good jokes down at the gym, but I can't repeat them everywhere.