Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Few Who Boxed

 During Christmas Eve service at church Monday night, I saw Rob.  Rob used to train at Loyola Park back when Steve was the coach.  Rob fought in the Golden Gloves, and in several Park District shows.  Now Rob is the pastor of a church in the neighborhood.  Pastor Roger had invited him and a few other pastors, as well as their congregations, to come worship during the service.  Rob read a few passages of Scripture.  He told me he wants to bring his son by the gym to get him involved in boxing.  I remembered when his son was small.  Now his son is 15 years old, and I had to look up at him.  I told Rob and his son to come on in when they get the chance.

I didn't expect very many to show up at the gym Wednesday night.  Attendance is always way down the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.  Outside of Alan, only Andre and I were in the gym. 

Alan decided to work with Andre and I on our punches by using the punch shield, or donut, as it's sometimes nicknames.  Andre threw what seemed to be a lot of hard punches into the shield.  He told Alan and I that he has a push up bar at home, and he's started to use it. 

When I was in the ring with Alan, my balance was off, and my reactions were slow.  But my hands were up.  Good thing, too, because Alan reached his hand out to tap me on the side of my face, and I covered up before impact.  I threw several jabs to the middle of the shield, and Alan moved it as I threw the last one.  It caught him a little on the chin.  I cringed.  "It's okay," he said, and we continued.

You may be asking yourself, "For the third time, she's got a picture of Jack Benny on here.  What gives?"  Okay, I admit to being a bit obsessed with the late comedian recently (who by the way, passed away about 38 years ago on Wednesday).  While looking at videos on YouTube, I came across a clip from Dick Cavett's old talk show.  Smokin' Joe Frazier was one of the guests.  The other two were Bill Cosby, and -- you guessed it -- Jack Benny.  Frazier was talking about a recent fight he'd had with George Foreman.  Benny asked Frazier did he feel pain immediately upon taking a punch or did the pain show up later on.  Frazier said something along the lines of it was hard to explain how a punch felt in the heat of battle, especially when the goal is to keep going and get back at the opponent.  Cosby quipped to Frazier, "But doesn't something in your mind go 'uh-oh' when a punch is coming in?"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bean and Reygie

Reygie wondered aloud where Franco and Matt were.  "Matt said he was going to spar today!" Reygie said.  I wondered where they were, too.  The crowd at the gym was even smaller than Monday's gathering without them in attendance.

Bean sparred with Reygie, and I think that was the first time Bean sparred in the gym.  In between rounds, Bean told Alan that Reygie was too fast for him.  "I'm 55 years old, y'know?" Bean said.

Reygie was zipping and spinning all around the ring, while Bean tried to play catch-up.  "Put your jab all the way out," I told Bean.  Several times, Bean had his hands down, and Reygie took advantage of the situation.

They did two separate sparring sessions.  Reygie and I sparred in-between those sessions.  Once again, Reygie had some newer moves that I didn't have any strategies to counter act.  Alan had advised him to use a back handed punch with Bean, and Reygie did the same to me.  Sometimes, I saw it coming, and I was able to tap it down before I got caught.  During our last round, Reygie again encouraged me to go all out with my punches.  But my arms were feeling the strain, and I couldn't punch as hard as I wanted.

I received two Christmas gifts, and I appreciated them both. Reygie gave me a gift card to Burger King, a place I haven't been in awhile.  As I got into Alan's car after the gym was closed for the evening, I accidentally sat on the gift he gave me.  Fortunately, the chocolate covered almonds were not damaged by my ample backside. 

The field house is closed on Christmas Eve, so next week, I'll have to add an extra day of exercise.  Most likely I will get it by putting my apartment back together.  Plumbers had to do some work in the building, so the tenants were treated to having their possessions moved around.  Maybe it's me, but does it seem to be a law that maintenance people must just throw around tenants' property any kind of way?  There never seems to be any thoughtfulness regarding how the tenants' property is handled.  I found my clock radio in the bathtub.  Luckily, no water was dripping or I may have had to buy a new one.  A plastic bag was placed directly on top of the stove.  Regardless if the stove is on or not, it's never a good idea to set anything that is flammable on top of it.   I also have less closet space -- in an already small apartment -- because of pipes installed.  Oh, how I wish whatever problem with the plumbing had been caught several months ago when current building management first began renovating the place. That would have been better than trying to get it done around Christmas time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Boxing Publicly vs. Boxing Privately

The photo above shows the boxing trophies I've gained so far.  All of them came via the Chicago Park District.  Willie attends the church where I go, and he has also helped coach the kids in the youth boxing program at Loyola Park.  "I had so many of those trophies, I had to start throwing them away," he once told me.  Maybe I'll get as many as he has, but I don't think I'd want to part with any of mine. 

The Chicago Park District is a good place to learn how to box.  But not everybody is a fan.  Over the years I've heard many grumbles about the quality of the Park District program.  Most have higher praise for the private boxing gyms.  But what are the true pros and cons? 

1.  The price
It's often way cheaper to sign up for a city-run boxing program than it is to pull many dollars out of the wallet for a private gym.  For example, I know that what people pay monthly at some private boxing gyms is more than what the Chicago Park District charges for roughly two and a half months.  Depending on the municipality that runs the gym, those under 18 years of age may be able to attend boxing classes for free.  Everything is usually included: the coaching, the equipment, use of gloves and headgear. 

In a private gym, the monthly fee could be anywhere from fifty to a hundred and thirty or even more.  That's only covering being able to get inside the place, hit the bags, and use the locker room.  If lessons are desired, that will cost extra.  Some places have group lessons, but once again, that's a separate charge from the regular gym dues.  There may be a different fee levels depending on what the private gym offers.  For example, one plan that just allows use of the place may cost $60, but if a person wants that, plus the privilege of using a sauna and getting a rub down, that may cost $100. 

2.  The time
Municipal gyms follow a strict schedule.  Unless the coach has their own key to the gym and/or has free reign to come in on other days without having to ask permission, the gym is only open during specific times and days.  The kids use the gym a couple of times a week at Loyola Park, and the adults use the gym two days.  The kids and adults aren't allowed to be in the gym at the same time, so there's none of this, "Oh, I missed this day, so I'll just go when the kids are there." 

Some private gyms are open earlier and they close later.   There are gyms that are open 24 hours a day that accommodate every one's schedules. 

3.  The quality of the training
I've known guys who have switched from coach to coach within the Chicago Park District system.  Their reasons were based on coaching styles.  People who don't feel that one coach is doing the right things to bring them along in the game will jump from one field house to another.  People will switch from one private gym to another for the same reasons.

In defense of city-run gyms, the criticism about the coaches' training styles is a bit unfair.  Some adults forget that municipal boxing programs are about training good amateur boxers, not pros.  Many amateur coaches have no interest in getting involved in professional boxing.  They will work with people to learn the boxing basics, and faithfully be in their corners at all the amateur boxing shows and tournaments.  However, if someone has their mind on being the next Laila Ali or Manny Pacquiao, it would be best to find a coach that prepares fighters for the professional ranks.

4.  The equipment
Yep, private gyms can more than likely afford better gloves, head gear, speed bags, etc. than municipal gyms.  Whether or not the municipal gyms get new equipment - or get the old equipment replaced or fixed - depends on the municipality's budget. 

However, those who go to private gyms are also more likely to use their own gloves, head gear, jump ropes, and hand wraps because the private gym doesn't always supply those items.    But then, it's not always cool to stick one's hand in a sweaty glove that someone else just used during sparring in a municipal gym.

People have to choose what is better for them in terms of boxing training, and how much they want to get out of it when choosing where to train. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thirty Hard Seconds

Very light crowd at the gym Monday night: Franco and Matt (seen in the photo above), Alan, myself, and Reygie.  Franco and I tried to convince Matt to spar.  Alan told Matt he had a brand new, never used mouthpiece out in his car.  Matt wouldn't go for it.  "You could spar with Hillari!" Franco suggested.  "No!  Hillari's tough.  She might hurt me!" Matt said.  "I would go easy on you," I laughed.  "No, I'll wait.  I still have fear about sparring," he said.  "You have to push through that fear," Alan told him.

Reygie and Franco sparred for about three rounds.  I noticed that Franco kept turning his head.  Alan told him he had to look at Reygie to fight him.

Actually, Franco did well.  He took some pops from Reygie, but Franco returned some good jabs and rights. 

Reygie and I sparred, and he did a cool move I hadn't seen before.  During the second round, he stepped back, threw a quick flurry of punches, then side stepped me and pivoted out and away.  By the time I would throw punches in return, he was already gone.  I was able to get in a series of uppercuts at other times, but I kept smothering the punches.  "Step back from him and give yourself room to punch," Alan instructed. 

During the last thirty seconds of the third round, I had Reygie against the ropes.  He encouraged me to keep throwing punches.  Of course, none of my punches were hurting him.  Please. . .Reygie is 28 years old and he lifts weights.  But I got practice in throwing punches up and downstairs as boxing analyst Teddy Atlas always says.  "That was thirty hard seconds!" Reygie exclaimed.  I was worn out.

Matt took this picture of me after Reygie and I sparred.  I didn't realize until I saw the shot that Reygie was clowning behind me!  Reygie is so funny.

Alan told me he had two Whoppers for lunch.  I don't know where the man puts it.  "I didn't have breakfast this morning," he said.  "Don't you normally eat breakfast?  Or can't you eat that early?" I asked Alan.  I have a friend who absolutely can't put anything on her stomach until after mid-morning.  She gets sick otherwise.  "I can eat that early, but I'm usually too busy rushing around to do so,"  he answered.

Once again, you may ask, "What does comedian Jack Benny have to do with boxing?"  I was listening to one of his old radio shows, circa 1939, on YouTube.  Benny was training for a fight he wanted to have with his "rival", comedian Fred Allen.  He drove out to a barn owned by his buddy, Andy Devine, to train.  Don Wilson, Benny's announcer, agreed to spar with him.  Benny sucker punched him when Wilson wasn't looking.  Wilson decided not to continue sparring, so Benny called over his butler, Rochester to spar.  Rochester hesitated to participate at first, then hit Benny hard enough to knock his bridgework out of his mouth.  Benny scrambled to find his teeth, then snapped at Rochester to finish the sparring session.  But Rochester retreated to the loft, where he stayed.

Matt took some other shots of me and gave me some photography advice that he got from one of his uncles.  It's better to use one's hand as a mount for a camera.  The camera is more steady and the pictures come out better.

People at church keep saying that I look like I'm losing weight.  Currently, I'm 183 pounds.  I know, that still too big for someone who is 5'1", but it's better than being over 200 pounds, which I was a few years ago.  Next year, I plan to make some trips up to Hamlin to get some extra workouts in. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Battles at Brooks

In the above photo Shifty the referee presides over one of the many matches that took place at Brooks Park on Wednesday night.

I had stayed home all day.  On Tuesday, I was tired, sore, and worn out, but I went to work anyway and pushed through it.  But Wednesday morning, all systems were down.  I believe I had picked up part of a virus that Pastor Roger had contended with the other week.  I rested all day, then pulled myself up to get to the boxing show at Brooks Park. 

Andre and Reygie were already there when I arrived.  Reygie kept saying he was nervous.  "Nervous about what?" I asked.  I remembered how Reygie had taken out the opponent he faced last year at the same field house.  Thinking he would do that again, I assured Reygie that he had nothing to be worried about.  A bunch of his friends came in, and they were looking forward to seeing him fight.

Unfortunately, Andre didn't get a match.  It seems there was a guy he could have been matched up with, but the general opinion was that Andre was too big for the guy to take on.  "That's why sometimes I don't like coming out to these shows because I end up being disappointed," Andre said.  I had seen Big Chris on the premises, but I guess he wasn't looking to fight that evening. 

The first fight involved a couple of boys, one from Brooks Park and the other from Scottsdale Park, which is way out on the south side.  The kid from Brooks took some hard hits to the face, and I believe the ref gave him a standing eight count about three times.  The boxer from Scottsdale won.  In fact, Scottsdale won a few more matches against Brooks Park fighters. 

There was one female match between two girls who looked no older than fifteen years of age.  The girl named Frankie had no problem fighting on the inside.  Each time she was close up on the other boxer, Frankie would throw short but crisp punches to the head and body.  Frankie was declared the winner.  I congratulated her afterwards, and wished I could fight that well on the inside.

Another fight between two guys was stopped when one guy's nose began gushing blood after taking a direct hit.  His corner people tried to stop the flow, but couldn't get it to slow down enough so the guy could continue.  I saw the paramedics (who are always on hand at every boxing show) check him out afterwards.

I didn't count the number of matches before it was Reygie's turn, but seven to eight fights had to have taken place before that.  The boxing show started about fifteen minutes late because the coaches and officials took awhile to set up all the matches.  In the above photo, Reygie listens to instructions from Yale, who was the referee for the bout.  Alan didn't see me right away when he got to the field house, so he asked Andre to help him in the corner with Reygie.  Alan apologized, but I waved him off.  "It's okay.  Everybody needs to get the experience of working the corners," I told him.  I positioned myself near the ring with my camera.  The video wouldn't print here, but I do have it in another post.



Reygie's bout at Brooks Park

Reygie rocked his opponent a few times, but the tide changed later on.  Watch it and voice your opinion of the bout.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Before Brooks

There was a light crowd that consisted of Bean, Amy, Franco, and Reygie in addition to Alan and myself.  "Is this like this a lot?  I like this," Bean said, referring to the open space in the gym.  "It'll be like this until January," I said.  Bean was doing good for a guy who had been hit by a car recently.  It happened due to a driver not watching traffic.  He got scraped up a bit, and his bicycle was fine. 

Franco expressed some trepidation before stepping into the ring with Reygie.  They went around for a few rounds as Alan kept reminding Franco not to close his eyes, not to turn his back, and to grab Reygie's arms to slow down the onslaught. 

Reygie and I sparred for three rounds.  During the second round, I felt nauseous for some reason, but then it went away after I pushed through it.  I turned 51 years old over the weekend; maybe that was another sign of aging or perimenopause or both.  Reygie kept reminding me to go for his body.  I tried a shoeshine (uppercuts) when I got in close, but I wasn't that successful.  However, one of my right hooks landed the right way.  That was the second time in a few days a guy told me, "I felt that one!"
Franco and Reygie went another few rounds.  Reygie was switching back and forth between orthodox and southpaw stances.  Alan told Franco to move in order to avoid the right jab while Reygie was in southpaw mode. 

Reygie has a fight this Wednesday at Brooks Park.  Andre may have a fight, but that's not a guarantee.  I was hoping for a fight, but no women were on the list of available fighters, so the fight I had with Edith weeks ago was my last one for the year. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Birthday Boxing

It's funny how some of the guys in the gym always have stories about fights and near-fights they've been in.  The latest involved Reygie. He was dancing in a club with a woman, and the woman's boyfriend took offense.  "I didn't know she was with someone!  As she and the guy were leaving, the guy shoved me.  I thought, 'Okay, let's do this!'  The girl pushed the guy on out, and as soon as he walked away, she gave me her phone number," Reygie laughed.

Alan tried to convince Paul to spar with Reygie.  "Hell, no!  My nose needs to heal," Paul said, referring to when Andre hit him on Monday.  "Aw, come on, Paul. . .stop being soft," Alan teased him.  I couldn't blame Paul for wanting to be careful.  Paul told me his nose had never been bloodied up like that before.  There had been blood all over his shirt, and he wore it home that night.  His future mother-in-law (Paul is getting married next spring) saw the shirt and was shocked.

Reygie and Andre sparred, and he got several direct hits in to Andre's head.  Andre covers up very well, but Reygie gauged the distance correctly and got his punches in. 

Andre and I sparred, and an overhand right I executed got an "Ooh!" from Reygie and Paul.  "Knock him out!" Reygie added.  Alan had been talking to the other guys in the gym, so his attention was elsewhere.  "What happened?" I heard him asking.  "Aw, you missed it!" Reygie told him.  I like sparring with Andre because he gives me opportunities to work on my offense. 

During the last fifteen minutes or so of the evening, suddenly a mix of the field house staff and the other people in the gym came in singing, "Happy Birthday".  Alan had a Boston creme cake in his hand that had candles on it.  I wondered whose birthday it was.  Renata pointed at me, then the light bulb went off.  My birthday is this Saturday.  "We're not going to ask how old you are," Renata said when everyone finished singing.  "I don't care.  I'll be fifty-one," I said.   I heard twenty-year-old Andre say,  "Wow.  She just whipped me up tonight!"
I thought that was sweet of Alan to remember my birthday.   The cake was really good. 
Most everybody got a slice of the cake.  There was one piece left, and Alan gave me that to take home.  Today would have been my mother's 80th birthday; I told Alan she wanted me to be born on her day, but I guess I wasn't ready to come out of the oven yet. 
"So what will you do on your birthday?" Marcus asked.  "I might go up to Hamlin Park and get some sparring in.  Bill keeps asking about when I'll come in," I answered.  "Now that's a way to spend your birthday - getting hit in the face.  Some people go to the spa on their day, and you'll go to spar," Marcus grinned. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Contacts and Blood

What has comedian Jack Benny have to do with boxing, you may ask.  Due to insomnia, I've become hooked on Benny's long running TV show.  Reruns are shown four nights of the week at 1:00 AM, two episodes back to back.  One episode I saw involved Benny taking a woman out to see a classical violinist give a concert.  She kept trying to get him to take her to a boxing match instead.  Benny told her no, that she was going to be exposed to some culture for a change.  They went to the concert, but she eventually got bored.  The woman pulled out a transistor radio, turned it up loud, and listened to the boxing match.  The majority of the audience members sitting around Benny and the woman got offended and they got up to leave.  Benny had to apologize to them and to the musician onstage.

While walking to church on Sunday, I ran into Bean.  He hasn't been in the gym for awhile because he's had appointments with clients.  Bean is a personal trainer.  "Money is tight, so I have to take the work when it comes," he said. 

The crowd was small at the gym tonight: Amy, Igor, Reygie, Matt and big Andre.  Andre told us about a spectacular fight that happened when some guys at a club decided to roll up on him and his cousin.  Andre described how he had taken on a couple of guys at one time, while his cousin handled two others.  One guy was throwing wild, unfocused punches, and Andre just laid the guy out. I'm still trying to figure out why the guys thought they could rush Andre; he's not a small man. The manager of the club saw what happened, and concluded correctly that Andre and his cousin were not at fault.  The cops were called on the guys who started the fight.  The only injury Andre had was when he fell on his wrist the wrong way at a point during the dust up. 

Reygie may be the only person who has a fight at Brooks Park next week.  Alan explained that Brooks doesn't have any heavyweights or Andre could have gotten a match.  There won't be any women in the show this time, either, which dashes chances for Sarah and I to see some action. 

No, Andre didn't hit Reygie and make his head go up in this shot.  Reygie had just lost one of his contacts, and the action had to be stopped momentarily.  He took both of them out, and I grabbed a latex glove to put them on.  I laid the glove on the coach's desk. 

Reygie, who is nearsighted, started making jokes about different everyone looked.  "Hillari, you look like Beyonce from afar!" he said, and we all laughed.  He also said something to Alan about looking good. 

I wish I had put the glove with the contacts somewhere else after that sparring session was over.   When Reygie went to retrieve the contacts later, one of them was gone.  Igor had his bag on Alan's desk again, and he had been over there changing his clothes to leave.  Either the contact was knocked on the floor, or it got stuck to Igor's bag or clothes and went out the door with him.  If Igor wasn't so self-absorbed all the time, he would have seen the glove with the contact lenses before he started moving stuff around.  Luckily, Reygie had another pair of contact lenses in his car.

Paul and Andre were hanging in there together for a couple of rounds.  That is until Paul got a bloody nose.  Alan cleaned him up and sent him back out.  It wasn't long before Andre got in another punch that made Paul's nose turn into a gusher again. I was hoping that none of the blood would get on his white shirt, but it did.  Some of it was on the canvas, too.  Alan got it up with a towel.  "You're going to have to use hydrogen peroxide to get that blood out," I told Paul. 

I sparred with Andre, too, and he encouraged me to get some hooks in.  He was in one of the corners, and he told me to just keep working.  I kept using my right hook again and again on Andre's jaw and head. There were other times during the three rounds we did where my right hook kept connecting to his head.  The first several didn't faze him, but then I delivered one that caused Andre to shake his head.  "I felt that one!" he said.