Thursday, October 18, 2012

What No Fighter Wants

Hamlin Park's gym was packed with fighters hoping to get a spot on tonight's boxing show.  Alan came out of the room where the coaches were assembling the bouts and said to me, "They're waiting for you to weigh in."  Adam got on the scale ahead of me; Rich had got there ahead of the rest of us and had already been weighed.  The guy marking off the names asked me what my age was.  "You want to know my age?" I said, looking at Alan who was standing behind that guy.  Alan had an amused look on his face.  "I'm fifty," I answered.  The guy with the list didn't bat an eye.

I went into the women's locker room, and no one was in there.  I changed into my fight clothes, then went back into the boxing gym to catch up with Alan and everyone else.  Unfortunately, neither Adam or Rich got fights.  Adam was feeling a little discouraged because it was the second time he'd been at a boxing show and came up empty.  Alan explained that the situation happens to a lot of boxers at the shows.  There were some guys that both Adam and Rich could have fought.  Rich probably could have taken on Big Chris, who ended up fighting another Hamlin guy and winning.  But it's not fair nor advisable to pair up boxers who have little to no ring experience with boxers who've had a lot of fights.  On top of that, only so many bouts can be made for the boxing show.  Twelve bouts took place which was unusual because normally, only eight to ten fights are scheduled.

Meg and I talked again about each of us coming over to each other's gyms and getting some sparring in.  I really want to start doing that soon, even if I can only get over there two or three times a month.  I need the exercise, and I really need the extra practice, especially after what happened later on during the show.  More on that in a minute.

Matt made it out to the fights.  There was a guy named Aaron whom Matt had met on public transportation on his way to Hamlin.  Aaron told me he was a filmmaker doing a documentary about boxing, and he was doing research.  He took several pictures of the activity going on in the building. 

The kid wearing the white shirt in this photo is Latrelle.  He was the one who was grumbling about how his fight went at the Loyola Park boxing show, and I had given him some advice.  Latrelle returned the favor by telling me, "Do the best that you can," before my fight with Edith. 

Latrelle didn't get a fight tonight, but several other kids in Loyola Park's youth boxing program did.  In the photo above, Barry sits on the ring steps watching one of the boys' fights.  He trains a girl, too, and she was going toe-to-toe with her opponent.  She got cut open, and she lost the fight, but her determination to stay in the battle was to be admired.  The "Hamlin killers" were out in force, and they won most of their fights.
I felt nervous before my fight, but not as nervous as I had felt in previous fights.  But as I stood across the ring from Edith before the bell rang -- Shifty was the referee -- I realized that I really hadn't formulated my own game plan.  Alan told me to strike first and hard to get her respect.  Edith had apparently been doing some extra practicing.  Yeah, I got a few good hits in to her face and head, but she answered those punches with a heavier force than she did the last time we fought.  We had gotten into a clinch when I tripped over my own feet and fell.  A roar went up from the crowd. 

This shot is of Bill and his corner guy watching another of their fighters challenging someone later in the show.  They were yelling out a lot of instructions to Edith during our match, and she was taking all of their advice. I got up off the canvas, and Shifty told me to wipe my gloves on my shirt.  "Are you okay?" he asked, giving me a suspicious look.  "I'm fine. .. fine," I said, and the action continued.  Happy that I didn't get an eight count, I steeled myself to throw as many punches as I could.  But that was not wise of me, as most of the punches I threw were wild, wide, and unfocused.  Edith was throwing wide punches, too.  I should have shot punches straight down the middle inbetween the ones she was throwing. 

Before we could engage in combat again, the bell rang.  I hurried over to Alan and Adam in the corner.  Suddenly, Jimmy Ray, who was at the judges table, started talking about stopping the fight.  "Come on, man!  She's only had one round!  She's fine!" Alan told him.  I was already pissed that I hadn't done well in the first round.  The last thing I needed to hear was plans to shut down the fight.  "What?" I snapped at Jimmy Ray.  The second round went on.

Edith and I just threw punches non-stop, and we were wrestling around.  My hands were down too often, but when I finally became aware of that and tried to correct it, Edith hit me full in the face. I was down on the canvas again.  The audience cheered it's approval.  I cursed to myself and got up again.  Shifty checked to make sure I was fine, but still, no eight count.  Edith and I went back to slugging each other.  I got a few more punches in to her face, but I couldn't effectively get many body shots in.  I took another punch to the face and fell again.  "S&^%!" I thought to myself as I rolled up off of the canvas after laying there for a second, the crowd's roaring in my ears.  I wanted to try again, but the fight was stopped.

I did something I've never done in the ring during any of the fights I've had.  I angrily pulled my gloves off, not waiting to get back to the corner so Alan could remove them.  I threw one glove to the canvas.  From the look on Alan's face, I could tell he knew how I felt.  I had to be reminded to go to the other corner and shake hands.  As I hugged Edith, I did praise her for that first punch she gave me that knocked me to the canvas.  She can really hit hard.

Here's Edith with the winner's trophy.  I learned that Jimmy Ray, the head of boxing for the Chicago Park District, didn't want the fight between us to be made.  According to him, we shouldn't have been fighting at the Loyola Park show.  He missed that show, but if he had, he would have never agreed to the bout because of the age difference between Edith and myself.  Call me cynical, but I have a feeling that I won't be getting any more fights at the boxing shows unless there is someone very close to my age.  The only person I can think of that would be a suitable opponent agewise is Meg, and even she is a few years younger than I.  But Meg and I can't keep only fighting each other every time a show takes place.  We've got to mix it up a little with others.  By the way, Meg did win the fight she had tonight.

I'm still pissed as I type this.  Not with Edith, not with Jimmy Ray (well, maybe a little), but with myself.  I was clumsy as hell in the ring.  "Is something wrong?  Why do you keep falling?" Alan asked in-between rounds.  When I was a kid, I was always bumping into things, walking into walls, and falling down the stairs.  For a time, I had grown out of that stage, but now that I'm middle-aged, I seem to be unsteady on my feet a majority of the time.  I'm always tripping over my feet everywhere else, too.  It's like my balance is always out of whack these days, and I have no idea why that is.  I should have done better with my punches, as well.  Alan pointed out that I do most punches correctly in the gym, but not during fights.  "I feel like I'm fighting the same way I was when I was in grade school," I told him.  I wasn't winning many fights then, either.  But the difference between now and then is, back then I was always fighting three to six kids at one time.  I should be able to handle one person in front of me, but that's not been the case lately.  It was my sixth fight, and my fourth loss (I don't count the exhibition match that Edith and I had). 

The photo above represents one bright spot that took place tonight: I got this shot featuring professional boxers David Diaz and Fres Oquendo, both of whom came out of Hamlin Park.  Oquendo is wearing the white shirt, and Diaz is standing to his left.

1 comment:

Lisa Creech Bledsoe said...

Boy, I can hear the frustration; I totally get it. A very disappointing fight for you. Good on you for brushing yourself off and getting back to the gym. Everybody has the crummy ones like that.