Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Heart Fight

We went back again to Cicero Stadium for Andres final fight in the 2014 Chicago Golden Gloves.  It was also the last night of the tournament for this year.  Alan picked me up from the 'L train station closest to his house, and off we went.  Andres was already there.  He had to be there early to weigh in, as well as to make sure that his opponent, a guy named Edgar, fighting out of Rocket Boxing Club, would be there, too.  Andres' match was the third one of the evening.

All the usual people were there, even though I didn't get a chance to speak to everyone.  Percy, Rita, Alan the official, Shifty, Metzger, Sam, Johnny, Rodney. . . .George from Garfield Park was there.  "George, you remind me of my late father with all those photos I see on Facebook with you and those cigars," I laughed.  "I just got finished smoking one before I came in here," George said.  He had a 58 year old guy fighting in the Masters' Division, and the guy won the other night.  "How come you ain't fighting in this?" George asked me.  "I'm too old," I said, which is partially the truth.  There were many women fighting at senior novice level, but it's hard to find women fighting at the Masters' level in Chicago.

Alan the official announced that Montrell, who was the star of Loyola Park's youth boxing program a few years ago, is coming back to boxing.  Barry had spread the news around.  I was glad to hear that, but I was also shocked to learn that Montrell's disappearance from the sport was due to jail time.  But I pray for that brother like I pray for everyone else in the boxing program.

In this photo, Alan wraps Andres' hands for the fight.  That had to be done early because Andres fight was near the top of the program.  Also, there was also the possibility that the first two fights would not go the distance, so we had to be ready.  I watched closely as Alan put the gauze and tape on, but I really need to learn how to do that myself.  I made a mental note to ask Alan at another time to show me how.

Alan's wrists can't always take holding the punch mitts all the time due to compounded injuries over the years.  He told me that when he first took over coaching at Loyola Park.  Fortunately, Arnold was there, so he held the punch mitts for Andres.  We went into what we thought was a secluded corner, but there was a lot of activity going on.  Two other fighters were in and out of that corner preparing for their matches, and members of the audience kept walking by.  Arnold's girlfriend Jasmine and I kept an eye on the fights that were going on so we could let Alan know when it was time for Andres to take his place in the ring.

Cicero Stadium was a bit more crowded than it had been during the preliminary and semi-finals fights.  Alan had to park about a block away from the place because of the extra cars around.  But there still wasn't as many audience members as I remembered from when the Chicago Golden Gloves were held at St. Andrews and at Gordon Tech.

Andres was nervous, but he was ready to go.  It seemed like we all were waiting a long time for the second fight to end so Andres' fight could go on.  Alan was giving Andres a lot of advice, while I became nervous for Andres.  Edgar was not as tall as Andres, but Edgar was not a small man, either.  The bell rang, and for a time, things were not going Andres' way.  Edgar loved to throw hooks, and when Andres had his hands down, Edgar got in a lot of straight jabs and rights in the middle of Andres' face, too.  The referee gave Andres an eight count.  I was so focused on what had happened that I forgot to bring the spit bucket up to the apron.  Alan had to remind me to go and get it.

"What are you doing, Andres?  That's not how we fought in the gym!"  Alan told him.  Andres basically lost the first round because he was fighting Edgar's fight.

The second round heated up.  Andres caught Edgar off guard with some hard, hard jabs and rights.  Alan started yelling instructions to Andres.  Arnold and I basically lost our minds,  and we were screaming "hands up", "hit the body", "get off the ropes", and several other orders.  Edgar hit Andres with something, and I could see that Andres was stunned.  Arnold said in a worried tone, "Andres is hurt!"  Andres was tired too, and Edgar was showing signs of winding down as well.  Andres reached down, pulled up some energy, and fired on Edgar continuously, backing him into the ropes.  "Stay on him!" Alan, myself, and Arnold yelled. Edgar got an eight count, and the audience clapped.  Alan gave Andres water during the break after that round, and handed the bottle to me to hold.  There was blood all over the bottle and on my hand.  I thought, "This is some serious stuff going on here."

A couple of times during the third and final round, Edgar's mouthpiece fell out.  While Andres stood in a neutral corner, Alan kept telling him, "Breathe!"  Edgar barreled into Andres, throwing many hooks, jabs, and rights.  The two men kept finding themselves on the ropes, with Andres being the one who was pinned most of the time.  Each time they came off the ropes, both men were throwing bombs at each other. My heart was in my mouth as I kept screaming while trying to remain seated on a stool. Alan moved off of the chair he was sitting on for a second, and Alan R., the official motioned for him to sit down. When Andres let loose on Edgar, pushing him up against the corner, I commented, "That's what I'm talkin' about!"  Edgar ended up getting another eight count.  I think Edgar had three eight counts called on him in total during the entire fight.  After the last one, the fight resumed, but then the bell rang, ending that round.

I believe the decision was unanimous.  When Andres' hand was raised in victory, someone should have had a camera on me, because I was acting a fool.  I jumped up and down on the apron in joy.  Arnold kept hugging Andres, and Andres kept hugging Alan.

Here's one shot of Arnold and Andres.  Andres was a little bloody, but so was Edgar.  Edgar actually congratulated Alan and I twice; once at ringside, and later on before we left the stadium.  Edgar seems like a good guy.  Alan told him, "Maybe we'll see you again at another tournament."

Here's another shot of Arnold and Andres.

I didn't really take a good look at this shot until I saved it to my computer.  It's funny. . .Alan doesn't smile much in these types of pictures.  The woman in red is Andres' mom.  She looked way too young to have a son that old and that big.  Andres' mom thanked Alan for all he did in coaching her son to victory.  She was nervous about her son being in the ring, but was very happy when he won.

Another shot, this time with Andres' mom, the winner, and myself.

Another highlight of the evening was meeting Rudy Cisneros, seen here standing with Andres.  Rudy and I connected on Facebook months ago, but we had never met in person until now.  Rudy was a professional boxer who had previously won the Chicago Golden Gloves in the year 2000.  He also has a bronze medal that he won during the 2004 Olympics.  Alan was one of his former coaches.  Rudy was also a contestant on the boxing reality show, "The Contenders", during that show's second season.  You know, there's a difference between famous people in boxing and famous entertainers.  I've met a lot of entertainers and gotten a few autographs, but with the exception of a few, there always seems to be an invisible wall there that doesn't allow for a complete connection.  But with professional boxers, what you see is exactly what you get, and Rudy is just a real guy.  He had me cracking up with his stories about his adventures in boxing.  Rudy had a match with a Cuban boxer back in the day.  "There's a difference between taking a beat down and getting my a%% whipped.  When I fought with the Cuban guy, I got my a%% whipped!" Rudy said.

Ahhh. . .. it's so nice to see another person from Loyola Park with a Chicago Golden Gloves trophy.

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