Thursday, May 23, 2013

"I Don't Want You To Box Today"

 In this photo, Kenny (on the left) gives some boxing tips to Marcus.  Kenny told me how he bragged to people about an overhand punch I gave to Katie, a Golden Gloves winner, when she and I sparred a few weeks ago.  "Hillari, you really delivered that b&*$% to her!  Didn't you hear the people at ringside going 'Damn'?" he said.  He went on to tell me that the more I practice that punch, the easier it will be to throw it.  But getting the punch in is the hard part.

My left knee was wrapped up in a knee supporter again.  I don't know exactly what's going on with it.  It feels good for awhile, then "ping!" there it goes again.  Alan saw me as I was walking up to the field house.  He had just parked his car.  "How's your knee?" he asked, and I replied that my knee goes in and out.  Colonel and Sarah noticed how much I was limping on it, and they commented about it.  "Get some Epson salt, hop in the tub, and soak it until the skin is wrinkly," Colonel suggested.

Dante, the kid in this photo, hopped into the gym, wanting to talk to Alan.  Dante explained that he has been boxing since he was seven years old.  When he told Alan, "I boxed at Clarendon for four years," the coach was skeptical.  Clarendon Park's boxing program has been closed since 2008; that's when Alan took over as coach at Loyola Park.  "Some friends and I box on the outside of the field house in the park," Dante explained.  Alan gave Dante, who is 14 years old, the opportunity to move around in the ring with Kenny.  The coach couldn't resist it, especially after Dante declared that he boxes like "Money" as in Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Dante moved around a lot while sparring with Kenny.  Kenny was able to get in a lot of direct hits simply by timing Dante's movements.  But Dante wasn't bad; he had energy for days.  Colonel, Alan, and Kenny all encouraged Dante to start coming to the gym on the days when Barry is coaching.  Colonel and Alan also advised Dante to cool it with the bragging about skills.  "See, when guys hear that out of someone, they want to test a person," Alan said.

I was prepared to spar even though my knee was still wobbly.  But Alan had another idea.  "I don't want you to box today.  Stay off of that knee," he said.  Kenny wanted to spar with me; we were going to only use our left hands, working jabs, hooks, and uppercuts.  I figured, oh, I can do that, it won't be too much stress on my knee.  I told Kenny I was fine, but Colonel and Alan both chimed in and said, "No, she's lying!"  "Church lady, you're not supposed to be twisting the truth!" Colonel laughed.  So that was the end of that.
Sometimes, hard-headed people like me just have to be told to take a seat somewhere.

Using Kevin's old headgear, Alan decided to spar with Sarah.  They started off easy at first, but it wasn't long before the sparring turned into a mini-war.  Alan would catch Sarah with a jab to the face, she'd come back swinging hooks at him.  Alan would pop her with a few uppercuts, she pepper him with jabs and right crosses.  They kept getting tangled up, and Kenny and I would alternate on calling out, "Break!"  Every time Alan would get in a direct hit on Sarah, I was exclaiming, "Ooh!  Ooh!" like Joe E. Ross on the old TV show, "Car 54, Where Are You?"

Sarah didn't back down from Alan.  She kept coming forward and throwing punches the entire time.  The both of them were pretty much spent after three rounds.

Memorial Day is Monday, and I have to make a decision about whether or not to continue cooking.  Usually, the oven does not go on from that day until early October.  But since I don't eat out very often these days, I might have to change that rule.  It is an opportunity to eat healthier during the warm weather season, however, so I can just switch to lighter fare like salads, for example.  However, I don't make my own salads very well.  Some people will shake their heads and think, "But, Hillari, that's an easy meal that few can mess up."  But believe me, anything involving food and recipes, I can easily mess up.  I'll probably be buying a lot of pre-made salads from the grocery stores to be on the safe side.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The "Ping" In the Ring

St. Louis, who had been initially taught how to box by Colonel and Kenny, works the double end bag in the photo above.  There was the threat of rain -- and it is raining now -- but earlier in the evening, the weather was breezy and balmy.  For the first time this year, I wore shorts to the gym and no jacket or coat.

When Alan opened the gym, the only other person there outside of me was Mannan (Mohammad).  Alan remarked that he thought because of the nice weather, gym attendance would start slacking off.  Other than Mannan, St. Louis, and myself, there was Sarah, Amy, Gabriel, Walter, Colonel, and Lania.

The guys did not spar.  Sebastian was out due to some surgery he had.  Colonel's doctor told him to wait 30 days before attempting to spar again.  Walter was still recovering from a health issue.  Besides, now that the weather is warm, Walter will soon switch his workout to in-line skating until the fall.  Mannan's still working his way up to getting back to sparring again.  I guess Gabriel and St. Louis didn't feel like sparring.  So all the women, except for Lania, took turns in the ring.

The sisters went first, sparring a couple of rounds.

Then Sarah and I were in the ring.  I was dealing with my allergies acting up, plus I was moving slow.

This photo shows how long Sarah's reach is.  You see how her jab has connected with my head?  Now look at how short my return jab is.  I didn't have nothing on it.

The surprise of the night was when Amy and I sparred.  Amy usually does not spar with anyone other than Sarah.  Amy hits rather hard.  Just like with her sister, I had a hard time trying to get past a long arm reach.  Jabbing my way in on both sisters helped me get in some body shots.

Amy and I did one round.  I was chasing her around the ring, but she avoided most of my punches.

 Then Sarah and I did another round.  I tried left hooks, but I never time them correctly.  I was reading elsewhere on the Internet about what separates beginning boxers from advanced boxers.  One of the things mentioned was if a boxer had the ability to throw left hooks.  I guess I'm still at the beginning stages.

Right the beginning of the second round I did with Sarah, the familiar "ping!" started in my left knee.  I just pushed through it, but I moved more slowly than before.  Sarah clipped me in my right eye, and she got some good jabs in.  Alan noticed me limping afterwards, and he shook his head.  "Sarah really got you," he commented.

I'd like to recommend a book I've been reading called The Boxing Dictionary: "The language of the ring" by Jonn E. JaGazza.  It includes the meanings of words and phrases heard most in the boxing world.  I finally found out what "walking a man down" means.  It just means when one boxer pursues their opponent and eventually wears them out, both mentally and physically, with body and head shots.  Very entertaining reading, and a great reference for anyone who is interested in and/or participates in the sport.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Alan Spars Again

This picture is of Kevin's headgear.  Kevin hasn't been to the gym since around Christmas of 2011.  One of the last times I saw him, he asked me to keep this headgear in my locker, so I did.

Alan came in late.  The only other people around outside of the coach and I were Gabriel, Andres, Eric and Jackie (friends of Andres), and Igor.  Eric came in to specifically spar with Andres.  They had a rough sparring match, with both men (who are both heavyweights) taking rocking hits in their faces.  Eric said he hadn't sparred for a long, long time.  A few times, Eric had to stop to take deep breaths.  Jackie recorded the sparring.  I thought I had captured a few pictures of them with my camera, but I kept getting a "memory full" message.  Later, I would learn that there were some older pictures from February of this year that were still on the camera.

"I'll spar with you if you let me wear that headgear," Alan said, referring to the headgear in the photo above.  At first, I thought the coach was joking, but then I saw him pull a mouthpiece out of his bag.  Alan hadn't sparred in nearly a year, having told everyone that he was going to cool it because of an injury to his left eye that happened the last few times he sparred.  Before I could question if he was sure he wanted to spar, we were already in the ring.

The headgear did a good job of protecting his face and eyes.  I aimed punches there a few times during our four-round sparring session, and my gloves slid over the grill.  After being popped a few times, especially when my hands were down, I quickly remembered Alan's way of moving in the ring.  I was hitting air again, throwing punches when either a) Alan was not close enough to make an impact, and b) after Alan had already moved out of range.  I got backed up in the corners, but I would throw shots to the body, and try a few uppercuts.  I even grabbed his arm to hold him so I could deliver hooks to Alan's side with my other hand.  Yes, doing that move is illegal, and if a referee was there, I would have been warned about it.

Backing up into a corner again, I tripped over my own feet and fell.  By that time, Mannan (Mohammad) and Gabriel had stopped to watch what was going on.  "Are you okay?"  Mannan asked.  "Oh, yeah, I'm okay," I answered, as Alan helped me to my feet.  My left knee was much better today, but that fall set off another "ping!"  Fortunately, it subsided.  That time when we got into a clinch, I really let go with throwing hooks and uppercuts on the inside.  But Alan's longer reach and better experience still did me in.  A pop to my mouth rattled me, a pop to my mid-section shook me, and a hook to my right side caused me to stop and bend over.

Afterwards, Alan once again stated that he believes I hit him harder than I do anyone else with whom I spar. Mannan piped up with, "Hillari hits as hard as some dudes," echoing when Kenny told me some time ago that I hit hard for a female.  Alan wasn't crazy about some limited vision issues that the headgear creates, but overall, he thought the gear was okay.  "Thinking about sparring again, or was that just a one-time deal?" I asked.  "I'll talk to my eye doctor and show them that headgear, but I'll try it.  I'll start by sparring with people I'm heavier than" -- meaning myself and Sarah -- "before moving up to the guys again," Alan said.  "You're not going to tell Riva that you got me with that hook to the body. . . .she'll curse you out, Alan," I smiled.  "I'll tell her," Alan smiled.

Hmm. . ."Hogan's Heroes" is on the TV.  My father and I used to watch that show together when I was a toddler.  It also means that it's past 3:00 AM, and I need to spar with insomnia so I can go to sleep.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Refusing To Be Sidelined

Recognize the guy in the above picture?  It's Jack Palance who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in City Slickers (1991), a movie which also featured comedian Billy Crystal.  Did you know Palance had also been a professional boxer?  He fought under the name Jack Brazzo in the late 1930's.  His achievements in the ring included 15 victories and 12 knockouts.

I forgot the camera at home in my haste to hobble down to the gym.  Yeah, my left knee is still acting up.  It was fine when I woke up this morning.  Later in the day at work, I took a misstep as I went downstairs to check on cleaning supplies.  My knee went "Ping!" and I was back to being in pain again.  For a second, I thought to stay at home.  Alan told me that perhaps I should have.  "What am I going to do at home?" I said, typical of someone who's not a domestic type.

Vachel and Sarah were in attendance at the gym, but there was no way my knee was going to take all of the movement that sparring requires.  I shadow boxed, hit the heavy bags, and worked on the speed bag instead.

Amy sparred with Sarah.  She was pushing her sister back a lot with both fists.  Yet she did get in a few shots to Sarah's face.  Amy was turning away to avoid Sarah's punches; both Alan and I reminded her not to take her eyes off of her sister.

Vachel had the same problem I do whenever I spar with Sarah; trying to get around Sarah's long reach.   Vachel got frustrated. A few times during the action she just stopped and stood.  "What's wrong?" Alan asked the first time she stopped.  The both of us thought that perhaps Vachel had been hurt.  "I keep hitting air.  I hear you two telling me to get in close, but it's hard when she keeps hitting me in my 'effing face!" Vachel said.  Alan explained that she had to work her way in with jabs, then duck low and hand out body shots.  "I don't know how to do that," Vachel sighed.  She was concerned with coming in low with Sarah being able to still throw shots at her head.

Alan got into the ring briefly to show her what he meant.  Vachel was able to reach Sarah with some jabs, straight rights, and right hooks to the body after that.  However, she wasn't any less frustrated when their sparring session ended.  "I'm sorry for cursing.  But it was just so hard to get close to her!" she said.  I told Vachel how I always have to fight inside when Sarah and I spar.  I'm too short to do otherwise.  I explained to Vachel that while she may take some hits, she has to remember to keep her hands up going in.

Gabriel and Sebastian did some light sparring without headgear on.  Sebastian backed Gabriel up against the ropes.  For a minute, I thought Gabriel was going to flip backwards over the ropes and crash onto the floor. But his brother backed up a little, and Gabriel was able to slide out of the line of fire.  One of Sebastian's fingers was put out of joint during the last time he and Emmanuel sparred.  "It doesn't hurt, but my finger just feels numb.  It's going to be awhile before it gets better," he told me.

Doug was the only other person who showed up at the gym, making for a small crowd.

I wore a knee supporter to the gym.  It's still on as I type this.  If I thought it would fix my current knee issues, I'd wear the thing all night.  The pain killers I took before I went to the gym didn't do much help.  I had been drinking a honey and cinnamon concoction -- a recipe I got from Facebook -- for a few days.  It seemed to help for a minute, but then I was right back to being and feeling disabled.  As I put my sweatpants back on at the end of the evening, Alan observed, "Hillari, you can't even move your leg."  "I can barely bend my knee," I said.  Amy and Sarah noticed my limping around.  "This is just another part of getting old," I told them.  The constant problems with both knees, which seems to get worse as time goes by, is probably something I'm going to just have to live with for, well. . . .the rest of my life.

Another stab of pain happened as I was getting out of his car later.  The left side of that knee was hurting last week, now the right side is hurting.  I keep thinking there's fluid building up inside, too.  "Maybe you shouldn't come in on Wednesday," Alan said, looking very concerned.  "I hope there's not knee surgery in my future," I told Alan, but who knows?   I keep coming back to this: common sense would tell most to not go to the gym and to take a rest.  But I'm stubborn when it comes to being sidelined with injuries.  I just refuse to sit out.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Fighting With My Knee


I went out to eat lunch, which I seldom do these days.  A man and two women were sitting at the table in front of mine.  One of the women and the man asked, "Don't you box?  Haven't we seen you at the boxing shows?"  I was finished eating and was going to settle my bill, so I stopped to talk.  Collette, the woman, said, "I knew I had seen you before!"  She introduced me to Sally, the woman sitting at the end of their table, and she pointed to the man and said, "This is O'Shea."

I thought he looked familiar.  Tom O'Shea is one of the famous O'Shea brothers, all of whom are Chicago boxing legends.  All of them won National Golden Gloves trophies.  Tom went on to be a high school teacher in the Chicago Public Schools.  He also began to train boxers, something he still does via the Matador Boxing Club.   "If anyone uses boxing to bully others, the whole point of boxing is lost.  Young guys who box gain confidence, but they're not out in the streets looking for fights," he told me.  I agreed.  Most of the guys I know who box, especially those who are under 21 years of age, think twice before getting into with somebody.

Sally said she thought it was kind of sad that people do not teach their kids how to fight these days, and discourage kids from defending themselves.  She believes kids that know how to fight help a lot to keep bullying down.  I believe that, too.  I told them that I was one of the kids who was always found in the Principal's office for fighting because I attempted to stop other kids from picking on me.  "Did you have brothers at home who taught you to fight?" she asked.  "I had a younger brother, but both my younger sister and I used to beat up on him.  But we didn't take anyone else picking on him," I answered.  Tom smiled when I told him it wasn't my dad who first taught me how to fight, but my mom, who picked up tips from watching her father teach my uncles how to box.  It was a very pleasant conversation.  I hope to run into them again.

My left knee seemed to be doing better until later in the day.  Today was a cleaning day, and I switched tasks around, putting off the washrooms until the afternoon.  But I was only able to clean the men's and the unisex washrooms.  My knee was slowing me down by that time.  I'll have to clean the women's washroom first thing tomorrow morning.  I decided that I wasn't going to spar when I got to the gym.  It was too bad, because Sarah was game to spar, and Gabriel, Sebastian, Colonel, Emmanuel, and Nathaniel were up for it too.  I could have gotten several rounds in.

In this photo, Gabriel stands in the background, watching and giving tips to his brother Sebastian (in the dark shirt) who was sparring with Nathaniel.  I give Sebastian credit, because when he suits up for sparring, he really protects himself.  In addition to the headgear with a grill across it, he also wears a groin protector.  Most of us in the gym only put on the headgear and a mouthpiece, and that's it.

Nathaniel's been getting hurt every time he spars.  I made a mental note to make sure there's paper towels in the gym after Nathaniel's nose was bloodied up again.  He also another of those I-got-the-wind-knocked-out-of-me hits.  His girlfriend came in just as he and Sebastian started to spar.  She had to be cringing when those incidents happened.

Gabriel and Emmanuel had a wild sparring session.  During one of the rounds, Emmanuel had Gabriel totally pinned up in a corner.  All of the guys, including Colonel, were yelling out instructions to Gabriel as to how to extract himself as Emmanuel kept throwing punches.  It looked as if Emmanuel gave Gabriel a brief chance to move, but when he didn't, Emmanuel went back in for the attack.

Sarah and Gabriel were a good match up because the both of them are long and tall with an extended arm reach.

I've been trying acupressure on my knee.  The results are so-so, but maybe if I keep doing it more often, I'll have better results.  

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Comparing Headgear

Josh (on the right in the photo above) wanted someone to hold punch mitts for him.  It was late in the evening when he asked.  I was wore out.  On top of that, my left knee was really bothering me.  I was sitting down a lot during the last ten to fifteen minutes left in the gym.  Josh asked Sarah, and she couldn't hold mitts for him, either.  Alan pulled out the punch pad and held it for him.

Sebastian agreed to spar with both Sarah and myself.  I went first, and found out firsthand how quick Sebastian is on his feet.  His hands weren't very slow, either.  I was tagged good with a triple jab in one round, and a quick right to my mid-section in the next.  We did three rounds, but maybe I should not have sparred at all.  My left knee was still not right, and all the moving around made it worse.  I couldn't keep up with Sebastian.

It was Sarah's turn next, and she kept forcing Sebastian into the corners and up against the ropes.  "She just kept coming forward!" Sebastian said afterwards.  He did tag her a couple of time with some jabs and hooks.  But the rest of the time, she never let up on him.

Alan took a picture of Sebastian's headgear with his cell phone.  The headgear is not as padded as the ones that are available for use in the gym, nor like the one I own.  But it kind of makes up for that with a guard across the face.  "I can feel the impact of the punch, but it can't get past the guard to my face," Sebastian explained.  I pulled the headgear that Kevin left behind in my locker, and it was just about the same as the one Sebastian has.  Alan tried it on, and had me throw a straight right to his face.  He liked the headgear, but neither one of us could figure out why Kevin had left it behind.  I believe it was brand new when Kevin brought it a couple of years ago.

I told Alan I would put a heating pad on my knee when I got home.  It would be nice if I remembered where I put it.  It's amazing how things get misplaced in a small apartment, but I manage to do that all the time.  If I don't find it, which I might not because it's nearly 1:00 AM and I a) want to watch "The Jack Benny Program" and b) then go to sleep.  I think there's some Mineral Ice in the refrigerator.  That might have to do for the rest of the night.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

"Money" Schools Guerrero

I found out late last night that a nearby fast food place had brought the PPV of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Robert Guerrero fight.  They were charging five bucks to get in.  That was way less expensive than the $20 that Alan told me Rivers Casino out by O'Hare Airport was charging to see it.  I really didn't want to go all the way out to that casino via public transportation.  Neither did I want to go to the fast food place which is in walking distance from my house.  By that time of day, I was worn out from having to deal with my extremely sore left knee.  Something had went "pop" in that knee shortly after I woke up Thursday morning.  I had errands to run on Saturday, and I struggled to shuffle down streets and on and off buses and trains.  Enough was enough.

A buddy of mine on Facebook posted a link to where people could watch the fight online.  The picture could have been a little clearer, and an ad blocked part of the screen.  Sometimes, the audio and visual went in and out.  But I could see enough to view the action.  When it was all over, I was glad I hadn't paid for it.  It was another of Mayweather's usual shutouts against someone.

But say what you will about Mayweather's personality and past run-ins with the law -- the fight was an excellent boxing lesson.  Unfortunately, Guerrero didn't pass the final exam.  There was the anticipation that something might jump off.  Remember, Manny Pacquiao got knocked out during a fight by Juan Manuel Marquez back in December.  It's not that Pacquiao hadn't lost fights before, but people had gotten used to him not having lost a fight in a long, long time.  Pacquiao was thought to be practically unbeatable, then we all discovered there was a dent in the armor.  Mayweather had been rocked in a previous fight he had with "Sugar" Shane Mosley.  Mosley had "Money" stumbling, but could not capitalize on that punch for the rest of the fight.

Robert Guerrero came out of his corner at the beginning of the fight looking as if he was all about business.  Perhaps the recent battle he and his wife fought against her leukemia had given Guerrero an extra boost that would translate into some real power against Mayweather.  Indeed, Guerrero looked good in the first round, popping "Money" with head and body shots that riled the crowd up.  He won that round.

But now knowing what Guerrero was about, Mayweather fully committed to his own game plan.  Guerrero fought the way Mayweather wanted him to for the rest of the match.  It was painful to watch Guerrero hitting air most of the time, as Mayweather deftly darted out of the way after giving out hits.  Many times, it seemed that Guerrero had ample opportunities to jump Mayweather whenever the undefeated champ had been backed into corners.  But there was too much waiting to see how Mayweather was going to react.  By the time Guerrero thought to throw more than one punch at a time, Mayweather easily slipped out of the corners and sped away.  Guerrero kept getting tied up with Mayweather, punching on the inside and to the sides.  But referee Robert Byrd foiled Guerrero's efforts to stay in the pocket each time.

As Guerrero walked back to his corner for the rest period in-between the sixth and seventh round, there was a beaten look on his face.  The boxer's frustration with trying to catch Mayweather became even more apparent in the later rounds.  Guerrero never made any adjustments to what he was doing.  Meanwhile, Mayweather kept ducking, dodging, turning, and getting off clean shots.  Guerrero raised his hand after the 12th round, but it was unclear as to why.  Mayweather had shown no ring rust, and despite being in his mid-30's, the reflexes and movements were just as sharp as fighters a decade younger than he.

Of course, Mayweather can be beaten; I believe that based on the punch that Mosley gave him that one time. Unless he retires -- again -- undefeated, sooner or later someone is going to figure out how to get around him.  But Guerrero didn't figure it out last night.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Four Rounds For Me

Before Nathaniel stepped in the ring to spar with Gabriel, Alan gave him a few tips.

Right before Nathaniel stepped into the ring, his girlfriend walked into the gym.  She had an exercise mat with her, so I assume she was taking an aerobics or yoga class elsewhere in the field house.  Nathaniel was getting some good punches in, as seen in the photo above.  Then the tide turned.  Gabriel kept throwing straight lefts and rights to Nathaniel's face.  Nathaniel backed away, but Gabriel stayed on him.  Alan yelled at Nathaniel to keep his hands up.  When the round ended, and Nathaniel took a seat near the lockers, I saw that his nose was dripping blood.  "Do we have any towels around?" he asked as his girlfriend surveyed the damage.  I trotted down to the ladies' washroom, wet up some towels, and hurried to bring them back.  Nathaniel's girlfriend tended to his nose.

I sparred with St. Louis for two rounds; in this picture, you can see how far I had to reach up to him.  "Work your way in with the jab, then when you get inside, bang," Alan told me in-between the two rounds I sparred with St. Louis.  "But St. Louis' arms are long," I said.  During the second round, I had even less success trying to get in on the inside.  Did I mention that like Erica, whom I sparred with a couple of days ago, St. Louis had also fought in the Chicago Golden Gloves?

After resting for a couple of rounds, I went in for two more with Zeina.  I heard Alan tell her something about being "glove shy", and to keep her hands up.  Zeina threw a few jabs where I immediately came over with straight rights, catching her in the jaw.  Zeina hits very hard, so I had to make more of an effort to not only move my head, but to move my body, as well.  She caught me in the mid-section with a straight right that caused me to back up and cover up.  "Don't turn your back," Alan told her several times after she avoided some of my punches that way.

Muhammad was telling me that he's been trying hard to avoid certain foods in his quest to get back in shape. "I love rice.  I have to have it with most meals," he smiled.  It has been advised that diabetics -- like myself -- should avoid rice altogether because of the high carb content.  Luckily, I had grown tired of eating a lot of rice long before I was diagnosed, so that was easy to give up.  I'll eat it once in a blue moon these days.

Yesterday, I let myself be tempted by some blueberry turnovers.  Someone donated a good amount of food to the church's food pantry.  There wasn't room to store it all, so Vera and Terri, two of the volunteers, offered some of the food to me.  It's very hard to be a diabetic with a sweet tooth for pastries.  I had one of the turnovers for desert last night, ignoring the fact that I could have had some low-carb Greek frozen yogurt instead.  Perhaps I should get rid of the rest of the turnovers, but I keep hearing the grumblings of my late parents who were born during the Great Depression about wasting food.  I haven't had desert yet, so I'll pretend I don't see the blueberry turnovers when I open the refrigerator door and pull out the yogurt -- I hope.