Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Olympic Medals and a TKO

Alex sparred for the last time with Andres tonight.  He returns to college next week.  "I'm sorry to see him go," Alan said later.  "He's got it all.  He can give a punch, he can take a punch, he moves well."  "I hope he can train while he's at school," I replied.

Two guys showed up to observe the gym in action.  One was named Daniel.  He and I had connected previously on Every Block, a web site.  The other was named JR.  Daniel told me that he does Muay Thai, and that it's hard to find people to train with.  "I put ads on Craigslist, but I get a lot of odd replies," he said.

Professor and Andre arrived together at the gym.  Andre didn't spar, but Professor got into the ring with Andres, as he promised to do again this past Monday. 

Gene stepped into the ring with Tommy.  It is sometimes hard to maneuver around Tommy because he's a southpaw.  Alan was getting on Gene for pawing at Tommy instead of throwing straight punches. 

After they finished, Alan showed Gene how the pawing looked.  Sara and I, who were waiting to spar, were laughing at how Alan was imitating Gene.  "What are you laughing about?" he asked, and we told him.  "But that is not how you're supposed to throw punches.  It's like a cat throwing punches.  I don't know why people do that," he told us. 

Sara told me to make her do one more round.  She usually does one.  I could have done three or more rounds because I was feeling energetic after having spent most of Tuesday and today in bed.  I caught a cold out of nowhere.  I was fine Monday night.  I woke up Tuesday morning to clogged sinuses, pain, and the feeling that my face was going to fall off.  Luckily, the worst of it passed by late today, and I was able to come to the gym. 

I was popped under my nose, and was very glad my mouth was closed at the time.  Sara and I moved around a lot during the first round.  Whenever I'd rush in with a flurry of punches, Alan would tell her to grab me.  She grabbed around my shoulders.  "Good," Alan said, "but next time, grab her arms."  During the second round, Andre was also giving instructions from the side, mainly to me.  "Where's that uppercut, Hillari?  Tap her hand down, then follow with a punch.  Always follow a couple of punches with one more," Andre said.

Near the end of the second round, Sara and I were near the ropes where onlookers were standing and watching.  She threw a punch and stepped to her right.  I stepped to my right, rared back and threw a right hook.  Sara slumped against the ropes.  If Alan and Andre hadn't caught her, she would have fallen to the canvas. 

Immediately, I tore my gloves off, then I took her headgear off.  "Are you okay?" I asked, while holding her shoulders.  "Yeah", she said faintly.  Marcus shook his head.  "It's that hook you throw that no one ever sees coming," he said to me.  Sara stood in the ring for awhile, trying to get her head clear, as Alan watched to make sure she was okay.  "It's part of the game," he told her.  I hadn't hit someone hard enough to cause a TKO in a long time.  Nice to know that I have the capacity to do that.  But it still worries me when someone is hurt badly because of a punch I threw. 

Before going to the gym, I saw more of the Olympic boxing matches.  Marlen Esparza tried her best against her opponent from China.  Teddy Atlas kept pointing out that Esparza was bouncing too much.  Her corner people must have told her during the break after the third round to slow that down, because she did.  But the girl from China had long figured out that all she had to do was to time Esparza to get her punches in.  Also, Esparza was shorter than her opponent and she was leaving too much space between them.  I recognized that because I have the same problems in the ring.  Esparza will get a bronze medal, but not the gold that she hoped to get.  Afterwards, she told a reporter that she was finished with boxing.  Her next move will be to go to college.  Esparza's eyes were red, and she was crying after the interview was over.  Tears came to my eyes, too, as I had been following her since she had been working her way up through the Olympic trials. 

Claressa Shields owned the ring during her match like a boss.  Her opponent was not busy enough.  It was just like Teddy Atlas commented, her opponent seemed to be waiting to throw big punches.  But a fighter can't base their whole game plan on knockout punches.  Shields fought like a tigress every time she was backed against the ropes and backed into corners.  After each round, Shields was always way ahead of her opponent on points.  Now Shields goes into the finals in an attempt to get a gold medal.

All of the American guys on the boxing team have been eliminated.  Even when Esparza collects her bronze medal, and if Shields get the gold, the guys are going to be talked down about for a long time.  Some of the losses were due to poor referees, bad judging, and that horrible computerized scoring system.  But some of it was also due to the fighters not being prepared to fight under the international amateur boxing rules.  This is the first time that no American male boxer has come back from the Olympics with a medal.  Team USA has got to be better and do better.

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