Monday, April 29, 2013

Sparring With A Golden Gloves Winner

 Colonel said at the end of the evening, "There was a nice mix of people in here tonight!"  He and Kenny brought in three people from the Evanston Boxing Club: two guys, John and Jackie, and Erica, who I learned had competed in this year's Chicago Golden Gloves tournament.  She won in the 110 pound category.

Erica and I took turns sparring with Colonel, who did not get as winded this time around.  Alan told Erica to make sure she kept her right up to block Colonel's jabs, because he likes to throw a lot of them.  One of those jabs caught Erica off guard, and she fell to the canvas.  She was fine, and they continued on.

Alan asked Laina if she wanted to spar with Erica.  I guess she overheard that Erica had competed in the Golden Gloves, too.  Someone had a copy of the program that is sold during the finals of the Gloves, and there was Erica's picture.  Laina laughed nervously, "No, not with her!"  To tell the truth, I was a little nervous about getting into the ring with Erica.  She was obviously way younger than I, and as I soon found out, very fast on her feet.

She darted in and out, getting a lot of quick hits in to my head and face.  By the time I reacted to throw most punches, I was hitting air.  "Work your way in with the jab!" Alan told me, but Erica was extremely good at staying at a good distance so I couldn't reach her most of the time.  A few times we were tangled up enough that Alan had to call "Break!"  I remembered what Kenny told me awhile back about throwing a right over her jab.  That worked a couple of times, and Kenny, who was watching from ringside, expressed his approval.  We went two rounds.  Erica was throwing punches as if she was in a competitive match, so I had to really be alert.

"She's cold, isn't she?" Kenny said later, meaning that she's good.  "Yes, very," I agreed.  Erica appreciated the work.  "Wow, that power you have!  Most guys have never hit me that hard," she smiled.  "You do hit hard, that's why I keep telling you to work your way in, then once you're inside, dig into the other person," Alan told me later.

The guys took over the ring the rest of the time.  Emmanuel, Kenny, John, Jackie, and Sebastian exchanged punches.  Alan got on the black bag to workout a little, so I was the referee when Emmanuel and Sebastian were in the ring.

Sebastian seemed to hesitate a lot before throwing punches.  "Throw the jab!" I kept saying.  Emmanuel tagged him a couple of times, sending him to the ropes.  Their sparring session was energetic, however, and a lot of straight punches and hooks were exchanged.

Gabriel, Sebastian's younger brother by six years (he's 22 years old), is seen here on the red heavy bag.

I didn't catch the name of the guy in this picture, who is recording some of the sparring action on one of those newfangled tablets.  From what I could tell, the picture was very clear.  But I'm guessing maybe the battery went out, because the guy switched to recording everything on his cell phone.

John and Jackie size each other up during their sparring session.

Momo (Muhammad) and I pose for a picture.

On Sunday, the pastor's son, Issac, kept pointing at my bag and purse.  Knowing that the boy loves going through my stuff, I brought my sparring gloves to church.  I put the gloves on and playfully punched at him.  He put his left hand up and blocked a punch.  I keep saying that boy probably has some skills that just have to be developed.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Better Way to Spend Administrative Professionals' Day

Maybe it's true about rain and arthritis.  My knees were painin' me (my paternal grandmother's expression) some bad.  But I tried to ignore the aching the best I could while doing my workout at the gym.

Emmanuel (seen here working with Vachel on the punch mitts) was happy when he came in to see the gym a little more full than it was on Monday.  "Just want to see a steady bunch of people," Emmanuel commented.  Marcus, who hadn't been in for awhile, was in attendance.  Zeina did not come in, but I think she will again.  I don't think I'll be seeing Travis, Casey or Ashley anytime soon; they probably dropped out of the class.

 There was a lot of sparring action between most of the guys.  Sebastian attempts to back off from a left from Andre in the photo above.  Sebastian appears to like to get on the ropes, then loads up to throw big punches.  Alan suggested that Sebastian stay in the middle of the ring and box.

Alan advised Emmanuel to take it easy on Nathaniel.  Nathaniel dealt Emmanuel several hooks during their sparring match up.  Emmanuel ducked and bobbed a lot.  They took the action towards the ropes at the back of ring.  Nathaniel took a body blow to his right side and went down on the canvas.  Alan got in the ring and helped Nathaniel to his feet.  "That's where Hillari gets me all the time!" Vachel told Marcus.

A lot of work with the punch mitts was done.  Here, Sebastian works with Nathaniel.  St. Louis and Emmanuel also worked on the mitts.  Emmanuel asked Vachel to pay attention how that exercise worked so she could participate in it next.

Vachel and I sparred, and I found myself backing up a lot when she pressured me with her punches.  I countered with hooks, and a few of them landed, as well as some jabs and rights.  Whenever Vachel got caught with something, she'd stop for a few moments.  "Hit back!" Alan kept saying to her, as he pointed in my direction.   We only did two rounds, but I could have done a couple more.

When Alan told Vachel and I to suit up for sparring,  she started messing with him.  "It's about time!" she said.  "You see all these guys in the gym?" Alan grinned.  "Humph. . .all the guys.  It should have been 'ladies first' so we could get it out of the way," Vachel smiled.   

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Taking Turns With Leina and Vachel

 Emmanuel (on the left in the gray shirt) and Arnold have a conversation in the above photo.  Arnold wondered where all the regulars were.  Most of the new people weren't in the gym, either.  But enough were there to do round robins of sparring.

St. Louis was the go-to guy as he got in the ring with Nathaniel and later with Arnold (shown above).  Arnold hadn't been in the gym for awhile.  "I'm out of shape!" Arnold kept saying.  Like so many people from time to time, Arnold had been busy with things that kept him away from the place.  Arnold owns a preschool.  He just brought a new building for expansion purposes, and he's been busy getting that place ready.

St. Louis and Nathaniel go at it, in a shot I got of them as I leaned through the bottom ropes of the ring.

Alan had to remind St. Louis to take it easy a couple of times.  I think St. Louis is used to banging in the ring.

"Stop with the sound effects!" Alan told Vachel while she squealed as she sparred with Leina (finally got her name right).  Leina kept good form as usual, even as Vachel was rushing her and backing her up.  I learned that Leina is an architect who designs schools.

I noticed that Leina was pawing at Vachel sometimes with her left jab.  Vachel would let her hands go wildly at times.   Both weren't bad at slipping and ducking some punches.

Vachel always sees the hooks I throw from miles away.  I tagged her once with a right, and I think that was the first time I was able to get in sort of a hook on her.  Her headgear flew off, but that wasn't because of me; it wasn't fastened tight enough.  But she made sure I wasn't going to get another hook in again.  In the photo here of Leina and myself (I appreciated Arnold taking the photos), it looks as if it was one of the times I caught her with a right hook.  

I was daydreaming for a minute while Vachel and I were in the ring, and she clocked me with a right hook.  Leina has some solid hits, so there was no time for me to be unfocused. I tagged her with some jabs, rights, and a few more hooks, but I didn't think I was putting that much pepper on them.  But Leina stopped several times to take a breather.

Amazingly, I made it to the gym that night.  That morning, stomach cramps woke me up. "I thought I didn't have to deal with this monthly cycle stuff anymore," I thought to myself.  Luckily, it wasn't that, but let's just say I had to sit in the bathroom for awhile.  When there was no relief after a half-hour or so, I called Pastor to let him know that today was not going to be my day.  Sometime after noon, I began to feel a little better, but it was a few more hours before my digestive system completely calmed down.  

Emmanuel asked if I had seen Keith.  "I haven't seen him for a long, long, time," I answered.  The last I knew, Keith was still living in Evanston.  "Keith was the last guy I lost a fight against.  I always wanted a rematch.  Alan put me in with Keith knowing that Keith was 205 pounds to my 178!"  Emmanuel said.  "Come on, the Park District would not have allowed that match to go on if they knew there was that much of a weight difference," Alan protested.  "When we weighed in, Keith told me what his real weight was.  After we got into the ring, I found out that Keith was a southpaw.  Jay kept telling me to step to my right, and it finally clicked, so I was stepping on Keith's foot and getting those punches in.  Just as I was getting into my groove, the fight was over," Emmanuel explained.  "Those Park District fights are only one-minute rounds.  That's why you've got put it all in," Alan said.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Colonel, Kenny, Walter and Me

Doug works the double end bag in the picture above.  He was the only one of the newer people that was in the gym.  Leina, Ashley, Casey, Travis, and Fred were MIA.  St. Louis and Sarah were out, as well.  The rain fell heavily all day long, so that probably kept a lot of people away from the field house overall. Reygie has clients (he's a personal trainer now), so that will keep him out of the gym for awhile.

Some round robin action in the ring took place, involving myself, Walter, Colonel and Kenny.  In the photo above, Kenny watches Walter and Colonel as they spar.  Walter caught Colonel up against the ropes a few times, but the older man blocked most of the flurry of punches that Walter threw.

Kenny takes a bit of a rest at ringside in this photo.  I tried to be more aggressive when he and I sparred, but  I was hitting air most of the time as Kenny easily dodged my hands.  Both he and Alan told me that I had to try harder to get punches in: work the jab more, step in with the jab, etc.

I was more aggressive when Colonel and I sparred, but I worried.  Colonel announced "I left my inhaler at home!", and I didn't want to go very hard.  Alan said quietly before I got into the ring, "Stay on him."  I kept forcing Colonel in corners and against the ropes, but like his son, he easily slipped a lot of my punches.

Walter hung in there with both Colonel and Kenny, even though Walter's collarbone was bothering him due to an accident he'd had.  Later, he told me that a chiropractor told him he needed to rest it for several weeks.  We started talking about chiropractic care, and I realized how much I miss seeing one on a regular basis.  I always felt good after my appointments.  I could probably use one now.  

While Kenny sparred with his dad, he gave Colonel many training tips as they moved around.  I listened closely, as I do when I hear Alan giving directions to others (and when Steve was running the gym before him).  That's how I learn what works and what doesn't in regards to when I box, as well as what to look for while coaching others.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Finally Getting A Left Hook To Work

Alan observes Fred and St. Louis as they spar in the photo above.  It was a quiet night in the gym, which sorted suited me fine.  It had not been a good day.  I had jury duty at the Cook County Courthouse, known locally as "26th and California".  The County Jail sits next to it.  A cop and I got into it over my kubotan key ring.  For the second time in two years, I had another non-lethal weapon (which is supposedly legal to carry in Illinois) taken from me.  I was even more pissed that not only were kubotans NOT on the list of items not allowed in the court building, but the county cops overlooked the Mace in my purse.  I had told them it was there, and I was prepared to relinquish that (I had forgotten to take it out of my coat pocket before I left home).  The X-ray apparently didn't catch it, and they didn't look too closely inside my purse.  I should have NEVER been able to get into the building with that.  The Mace could do more damage than the kubotan.  Don't worry, I've already written a sarcastic letter to the Court Clerk.  It'll be in the mail tomorrow.

Most of the sparring was done by Sebastian, St. Louis, and Fred.  There was a bit of a scare when Fred was in the ring for a second time with St. Louis.  Fred hunched over and told Alan, "I can't breathe, man!"  He didn't finish the round, and Sebastian stepped in.  Minutes later, I walked down to the water fountain to fill the water bottles, and Fred was leaning over the fountain.  "Are you okay?" I asked.  "Yeah," he said, but it took a little while for him to recover.

Sarah and I sparred, and something happened that rarely does: I tagged Sarah with a left hook.  Most of the time, I was doing what I normally do, which is go for body shots.  Alan kept telling me to bend my knees and get those body shots in.  I got in a straight right to her mid-section, and when she dropped her hands, I came up with a left hook that connected.  "Whoa! Nice! I bet you can't do that again," Alan said.  I was very surprised that I did get it in, and no, I couldn't get in any hooks after that.

After sitting all day at the courthouse, and not getting picked for a jury, I should have had more energy, but I didn't.  I was moving around alright during sparring, but when I was on the bags, I was slow.  When my energy is low, that's a good time to focus on something that needs improvement, like my left hook, for example.  I also worked on my overhand right, but it didn't feel like I was doing it correctly, even when I was looking at myself in the mirror.  People always see it coming from Mississippi when I spar with them.  I either need to improve it or just drop it from my punches.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fighting In Cicero

This photo of Brandy after she warmed up on the punch mitts is from last year's Golden Gloves.  It was held at Gordon Tech High School.  This year, it's at a new venue, Cicero Stadium, a field house that is part of the Cicero, Illinois park district.  Alan couldn't go to the matches last night, but I went because two people I know - Metzger and Eric - competed.

It took me over two hours to get there.  I was poking around at my apartment, and I left late.  When I finally got to Cicero via the Chicago Transit Authority, my poor sense of direction delayed me finding the place.  Cicero Stadium is okay, but it's a little smaller than Gordon Tech's gym.  It's way smaller than St. Andrews' Gym where the Chicago Golden Gloves were held for decades.  I know that parking at St. Andrews was a problem, and that's one reason why the Gloves aren't held there anymore.  They had a small lot, and finding parking close on the street was difficult.  But the atmosphere seemed more charged at St. Andrews than it was at Gordon Tech or Cicero Stadium.  St. Andrews had history with the sport; the other two venues don't.

I arrived just in time to catch Eric's match.  The weight class for his match was in the 112 pound category.  He and the other guy were about even in the first round, with the other guy throwing a few more punches, but near the end of the second round, Eric used his long arm reach to pin the other boxer in the corner.  In the end, the judges felt the other guy was more aggressive, and Eric lost the match.

Metzger had a time with the guy he fought.  The other guy kept banging away, and Metzger had an eight count called on him twice.  The judges' decision wasn't in his favor, either.  On Facebook, Metzger thanked everyone who came out to see his fight.

Most of the trophies and belts were handed out to the winners by current and former professional boxers.  A guy stepped into the ring with a small boy in his arms to give out one of the awards.  The guy wasn't the celebrity.  Instead, the little boy was the focus: the kid was the grandson of Muhammad Ali.  One of his younger daughters, the boy's mom, smiled proudly at ringside.

There were a couple of female boxing matches.  As I watched them, I made my usual wish that I could compete in the Gloves, but I know those days have past.

I saw a lot of familiar faces, including Alan the judge, Celestino who had refereed at last week's Battle of the Badges, Rico, who was in attendance at that match, and Percy, who always works the glove table.  It was a nice time.  The best match of the night was the very last one, the 19th one, I believe.  Those two guys really took it to each other, and they got a standing ovation when it was over.

The Gloves are always a long night.  It took about an hour and a half for me to get back to my apartment.  I got home in time to watch "The Jack Benny Program".  That comes on at 1:00 AM.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Interviews and Rounds

All of the women present in the gym except for Amy, sparred: myself, Sarah, Vachel, and Lania (I still don't think I have the spelling of her name right).  I sparred with Sarah, Vachel, and also with Colonel, who was in the mix.  Vachel sparred with Sarah, and just like me, ran into the two challenges of Sarah being tall and having a long arm reach.  Alan told her that she had to go for Sarah's body, just like I did when I was in the ring.

Lania looked good in the ring against Colonel.  She kept her stance and her hands up the entire time.  "Dad, stop dropping your right and stop raising your feet!" Kenny told him from the sidelines.  Before he went into the ring with Sarah, Colonel told me, "Really give me a critique afterwards.  I don't give a s&*t, because I'm too old to be embarrassed."  Colonel was pawing at Sarah and Lania a lot of times.  Sarah backed him up against the ropes, and Colonel could have got some punches in to her middle, because Sarah's hands were way out.

Louis and St. Louis went in for several rounds.  St. Louis has got some moves like Kenny, and it was no wonder - Kenny had trained him in the past.  Louis would go in on St. Louis, but he'd take his eyes off of him, and not see the quick shots that came back at him.  They took a rest, then went back in.  Vachel commented that Louis looked tired.  It appeared that St. Louis was getting in more punches, while Louis wasn't throwing too many back.

In the above photo, Sebastian runs some drills with Louis using the punch mitts.  Sebastian's brother, Gabriel, is off in one corner watching them.

The gym was pretty busy tonight.  Alan mentioned to Gabriel later that in another week or so, it probably wouldn't be that many people coming in.  Several were not present, including Josh, who true to his word, did sign up for the gym.  I noticed a few people hanging around outside the gym door, craning their necks to see what was going on.  As the weather starts to get warmer, the "looky-loos" show up more often.  One woman had a exercise mat in her hand.  She had a look on her face that said she had wandered into the wrong room; the yoga class meets upstairs in the field house.

I learned that Colonel was also at the Battle of the Badges match last Friday.  He was sitting ringside next to the ring doctor and among the boxing judges and top brass of the police and fire departments.  I don't know how I could have missed him.  "You should have called me!  We could have met up there," he said.

Amy and Sarah had their usual workout with the medicine balls -- something I need to start doing again -- in the back of the gym.  Every time I see the two sisters together, I often imagine what it would have been like if my younger sister had lived long enough. She might have been good at it, but I couldn't see Cynthia actually signing up to take boxing lessons.  She thought I was crazy for participating in the sport.  But she might have visited the gym several times just to see what was going on.

A Television major from my alma mater, Columbia College, came in to do interviews with people.  He had a ten page project to do for a class.  Alan, myself, and Colonel all helped him out.

Alan and I might go to the first night of the Chicago Golden Gloves finals tomorrow night.  The final battles at the Gloves are usually the most entertaining and the most intense.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Pulling Punches and Going Light

Professor stopped in briefly; he's going to sign up for the gym soon.  Others in attendance were St. Louis and Gabriel (the two guys sparring in the photo above), Nathaniel, Igor, Vachel, Casey, Travis, Doug, Lania,  Walter, and Fred.

Vachel asked me to take it easy before we sparred, and I did.  But I still got in some body shots and a couple of hooks.  "Hit her back!" Alan kept telling her.  Vachel did get a couple of good punches to my forehead.  After the first round ended, Vachel told Alan she was tired.  He told her to keep her hands up, but she answered it was hard to do.  We only did one more round.  Casey and Lania watched with interest.

Later, I got in one more round, this time with Lania.  Alan tried to convince Casey to spar, but she said, "No, not until I know what I'm doing!"  Lania and I only went one round, but she hits hard.  She was also very good at blocking my lefts and rights.  Several times, I put jabs out there only to have them be decisively knocked down.  Both Vachel and St. Louis advised her to take things slow.  Lania was not wearing a mouthpiece, so I had to be very careful where I was aiming my punches and go light.

Alan was telling Casey that Vachel didn't want to spar at first, but "now she loves it!"  Most of the women who've been in the gym since Alan took over as coach have tried sparring at least once.  Most of them found not bad at all.  This is how I know that Alan is a good salesman at his day job, because he's had a high success rate of convincing women to get into the ring who may not have otherwise.

I've been losing a decent amount of weight.  It started when I had to take an at-home colon test.  One of the first things those of us over 50 are told to do is to get our colons checked, so I finally took that step. I'll spare people the details of what I had to do for the test -- which I turned in to the doctor's office today -- but I will divulge that I had to watch what I ate while participating in it.  I couldn't have red meat or pork, for example.  I did eat a lot of vegetables, fish and chicken, I drank a lot of water, and as usual, I watched my sugar and salt intake.  The scale read 176 pounds the last time I checked it.  I'm still a bit too hefty for my height, but that's a better number than when I was at my heaviest, which was 210 pounds.  I'm going to try my best to keep the momentum going.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Cops vs. Firefighters

The photo above is from Halloween, 2011, and Colonel is the guy in the middle wearing the suit.  Colonel is retired from the Chicago Fire Department.  He encouraged me to attend the Battle of Badges boxing match, which took place Friday night.  It was held at De La Salle Institute, a Catholic high school on the south side of the city.  "The event is usually standing room only!" Colonel told me earlier this week.  He wasn't kidding.

I got there early enough to get a seat on the bleachers, and to see the under card matches.  All of those bouts featured youths who fight through the Chicago Park District.  Jimmy Ray was doing the announcing.  He named all of the Park District boxing gyms, and mentioned a few times that kids can learn to box for free.  Finally, he mentioned that adults can train at those gyms, too.

The color guards of both the Chicago Police and the Chicago Fire Department were presented before the main event matches began. Bagpipes and drums were played. Posthumous awards were given to several police officers and firefighters.

Ten fights between the cops and firefighters took place after that, and the atmosphere got charged up.  People in the audience took sides.  Cops booed the firefighters and visa versa.   The referees got cursed out, too.  One of them, Celestino, gave a boxer an eight count after what looked like a slip, and most in the audience cried foul.  Most of the fights were wild slug fests, and the rounds weren't more than a minute or two.

One of the loudest uproars took place at the very end.  It was announced that the cops won five fights and the firefighters won five fights, so there was a draw.  Since the firefighters won more fights the year before, the championship trophy would remain with them.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Quiet At The Office, Quiet In The Gym

Normally, I haven't been wishing for work days at church to end quickly, but I did today.  Other than a meeting about identifying what maintenance needs the church has, Pastor and I still didn't have much to say to each other.  After Ken and Burk, who were also in that meeting, left, the church was very quiet.  It was just as well because I needed to think about some other things I need to deal with, at work and at home.

One of the other matters I need to deal with is my habit of being a bit lazy during training at the gym.  I didn't spar today because no one was available.  Alan teased Amy about sparring, Vachel didn't want to, and mostly everybody else in the gym were the new people who are not ready to spar just yet.  I shadow boxed and worked the bags, pushing myself to do a little more than I have been lately.  

However, brothers Sebastian (on the left) and Gabriel (on the right) were ready to go.  They have training in Muay Thai boxing, which explained why they seemed so comfortable in the ring.  

They were talking a lot with Louis, who got into the ring with Sebastian for a few rounds.  Later in the evening, Sebastian was telling Louis that he was about going to college right now.  "I'm 28 years old, and I'm just now trying to get a degree," he said.  "Don't feel bad.  I was 35 when I finally got my degree," I told him.  "I'm serious about getting my education, but in classes with mostly 19-year-olds who don't want to be there.  You know how it is," Sebastian said, and I nodded.  Sometimes, having to coordinate and complete class projects with some younger students whose minds were more on partying and playing around was a major challenge.

It was so quiet in the gym that at one point, Vachel started clapping her hands as she commented on the lack of sound.  "That must mean that everybody is really working out," she laughed.  Colonel wasn't there, so we didn't have his music, so we had to turn on the radio and put up with the bad hip-hop and rap that's played on WGCI.  

Josh came in late, as usual, but he surprised me by announcing that he signed up for the gym.  I know Alan had been admonishing Josh about getting that done for awhile.  He arrived just in time to see Sebastian and Gabriel going another round in the ring, and he immediately took interest.

The Portage Park field house allegedly has a beautiful new boxing gym with new equipment, but no coach to run the program.  I called to see what was up, and I was told they don't want to run the gym with volunteers at the moment, they want the Chicago Park District to hurry up and hire a coach.  Maybe if that gets listed on the job section of their web site -- I haven't seen it yet -- I'll apply for it.  A friend of mine, Eva, stopped in the gym and told me she had inquired about having boxing in the field house over in Willie White Park.  Eva sits on the advisory boards of Loyola Park and White Park.  There's no space for a boxing gym at White Park.  "That would have been great because you could have been over there working with the kids in that type of program," she told me.

Nathaniel (in the red shorts; Casey, one of the new people, is on the right) asked if anyone in the gym was in the Golden Gloves.  I explained about how Andre was going to compete until his first fight was scheduled in conflict with a class he had to be in that evening.  Kevin is also supposed to be competing, but like I told Nathaniel, Alan and I haven't seen him in weeks.

I showed Casey how to throw the jab and the cross.  We discovered she's a southpaw.  I also gave Bean some pointers on the speed bag, and he seemed to pick up the concept quickly.  Lenia (I hope I have the spelling right) and Ashley took one look at the bag and begged off learning it how to use it for the moment.  "We're not that advanced yet," Lenia laughed.  

Doug, another new person in the gym, takes on the heavy bag in this photo.

Here's my newly remodeled office at work.  Today was a secretarial work day, and I was happy, even though I don't have a new desk or file cabinet yet, to stay in my office and away from Pastor.  In case you're wondering, I don't think he reads this blog, but some others from church do from time to time.  Even if Pastor does, he already knows from my demeanor in the office that I'm still pissed, so what I write here won't be a surprise to him.  

This is another shot of the office facing the entry door.  It's going to look very nice once everything is organized.  I've toyed with the idea of putting up boxing pictures like I used to have in my old office at the social service agency.