Thursday, May 29, 2014

Low Energy Evening

Alan works on the "Roger" bag as Katie jumps rope in the background in this photo.  It was a very quiet time in the gym.  Only Professor, Katie, Vachel, and Nayhomee showed up.  Vachel limped in because she twisted her ankle sliding into a base while playing softball.

I had some all-day business out in the western suburbs earlier in the day.  It involved me getting up before dawn to take a three hour ride.  It also took that long to return to the city.  My boxing gear was with me, because I knew by the time I came back, it would be time to go to the gym.  But when I got there, I was too tired to do much.  I didn't spar, and I spent a lot of time sitting down.

Nayohmee and Katie sparred.  Nayhomee had to reach up to get some hits in, but she got them in.  Katie displayed some good footwork moving around the ring.

Later, Nayhomee tackled a heavy bag. . . .

. . . .as did Katie.

Nayhomee took a rest at one point.  Normally she sits inside the tire, which is funny to me because she fits inside it perfectly.

Vachel left early because of her sore ankle.  Alan also left early because he had to go pick up his car way out in the northern suburbs.  One by one, everyone else eased out until I was the last one on the premises.  I dragged myself home and laid down.  I managed to get through David Letterman's show, but before Craig Ferguson finished his opening monologue, I was knocked out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Long Three Minutes

In the photo above, Antonio shadow boxes in one of the mirrors.

Weather-wise it was a nice day.  I had a very good interview in the morning, and the rest of the day was generally pleasant.  For the first time this year, I wore no coat or jacket as I made my way to the gym.  Jilberto opened the door, and the air felt cool inside.  But as I worked out, and more people came in, I became very sweaty.

Diana throws a jab at me in this photo.  She's getting better at throwing punches.  Now she has to work on covering up her mid-section.  When I couldn't get around her arms, I just went for the body.  Alan told her to use her height.  "Yeah, you're a little than me," I told her.

Our first round seemed to go on for the longest time.  "Shouldn't the bell be ringing now?" I thought to myself.  The timer was acting up again (it has a short), so it didn't ring.  Professor reset it.  Diana and I did a second round and we were very tired out.

Regardless of how tired I was, I sparred with Nayhomee.  She got in many good shots, and her punches were fast.  Alan told her that she was becoming more comfortable with me and feeling more confident.

I tried chasing Nayhomee like I did a couple of days ago when we sparred, but I quickly gave that up.  She moves constantly.  I waited for her to come to me, which is not always a good strategy.  As soon as the other boxer figures it out, they keep moving around, and they attempt to draw the other person to them.  It usually gives the other person the idea that, "Ah-ha!  The fighter across from me is tired!"  Then they start picking their shots and breaking the other person down.

Andres stopped in.  He's been going on a lot of auditions, including ones for musicals.  I didn't know that he knew how to sing.  I asked Andres if he was a tenor, and he told me he usually tells directors that he can sing high and low.  "I don't know the terms for different voices, so that's what I write down," he said.

Monday, May 19, 2014

My Mouthpiece Takes A Beating

I told Alan he should go to the doctor again. . .. .his elbow was swollen and looked to be filled with fluid.  Also, his foot has been giving him problems.  The foot may be experiencing residual injury from when Alan took that spectacular fall down some stairs in his home the other week.  Ah. . .the process of getting older is a trip.  Nayhomee and I sparred near the end of the evening, and I'm sitting here with a sore right shoulder, and a stiff upper back.

Keith sparred with Antonio, a new guy with some experience who joined the gym today.

I had begged off sparring earlier, so Alan matched Geniece with Kenny.  Kenny had to move quick, because Geniece was firing back and hard.  She backed Kenny up in a corner and aimed jabs and rights at his head.  Kenny quickly spun out of that situation.  He made good use of the ropes in avoiding a lot of her punches, too.

Later, I did spar with Nayhomee.  She asked Alan if it was okay to keep moving around the ring.  "Hitting people in the kidneys or in the back of the head is illegal, but it's fine to keep moving around someone," Alan smiled.  I found myself chasing Nayhomee a lot during the three rounds of sparring we did.  I spit out my mouthpiece because it was choking me, and Nayhomee kicked it to the side so Alan could get it.  "It's okay. I have to wash it out anyway," I told Alan, but he gave me a questioning look.  "Keep your mouth closed," Alan warned.

Alan rinsed the mouthpiece out and put it back in my mouth in-between rounds.  It wasn't long before I spit it out again.  I kicked it to the other side of the ring.  "She's just did that to get a rest," Alan grinned.  "No, that wasn't the reason," I said as Nayhomee and I continued to spar.  "Grab and hold her when she comes in with punches," Alan told her.  The next time I came charging in, she grabbed me and threw me to the canvas.  "Wrestling on WWE!" I thought as I went down.  "You don't have to toss her," Alan told Nayhomee.  Nayhomee apologized, and I was fine; I understood she was just trying to get me off of her.

Professor works the punch mitts with Geniece while Igor lurks in the background.  Kenny also worked the punch mitts with Jason.

Colonel was in the ring when I took this shot.

The weather is warming up this week so instead of me acting like a hermit like I have been over the past several months, I'm going to force myself to get out, get some fresh air, and begin to do more exercises outside.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Listening To Boxing

From what I read, JJ's fight in New York this past Thursday turned into a blood bath.  The fight concluded with a split draw decision.  There is talk of a rematch.  I wish I could have watched it somewhere, but as far as I could tell, it wasn't being aired anywhere.

Maybe it'll be mentioned on one of the boxing podcasts around the Internet.  Unfortunately, boxing is not shown regularly on network television anymore; people have to subscribe to cable to see any matches.  The newspapers seldom cover the big fights let alone the many fights that take place between journeymen (and women).  Over the air radio might mention boxing in passing.  Fortunately, there are many boxing shows that can be found on the Internet.

Here is a list of some of them:

The Next Round Podcasts on
Fight Network Boxing Weekly on
On The Ropes Boxing Radio on
Boxing News Podcast on iTunes
Art of Boxing Show on
The Boxing Voice Radio Show on
Heavy Hitting Boxing on
Bad Left Hook on

A search of the Internet will come up with many more shows than these.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Keith and The Ladies

In this photo, Vachel spars with Keith.

Keith sparred with Brandy.  They had some good exchanges and worked very well together.

Keith also sparred with Geniece.  As you can see, Keith was the man of the evening when it came to working in the ring.

Nayhomee and I sparred for three rounds.  In between rounds, Alan gave her some pointers ending with something about not standing and trading punching with me because "Hillari is too big."  Jokingly, I asked "What do you mean by 'big'?"  The bell rang to start the round.  I heard Alan say, "Big in personality!"  Nayhomee is 31 years younger than me, and I wasn't fast enough to chase her around the ring.  She got some good hooks in on me, as well as some shots my middle.

I never touched any of the bags, I just shadow boxed.  Alan still had to help me out of the ring after I sparred, but my left leg is greatly improved from what it has been.  Perhaps by the beginning of summer next month, I won't feel any pain in my leg at all.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Sweating Begins

Eighteen people signed up for the gym this spring session, but way less than that showed up to train.  The weather was nice today, I so figured most would rather be outside instead of in a hot gym.  When Alan opened the door to the gym, everyone commented on how cool it felt inside.  But that didn't last long. After a couple of rounds of shadow boxing, I was sweating heavily.

Alan was lucky to have made it in to the gym.  The coach had taken a bad fall backwards down some stairs in his home.  An ambulance took him to the hospital where doctors checked him and praise God, found no major damage.  But Alan was bruised up a little and had a cut on his shoulder.  He didn't work out because he wanted to take it easy.

I didn't spar because my body felt a bit off.  Instead of just going ahead and sparring anyway, I decided to listen to my body.  I overheard Igor telling Alan he wanted to spar "next week".  "Igor, you're not going to spar next week," Alan told him.  If Igor had been serious for once about actually wanting to spar and had wanted to do it right then, I might have ignored my body and raised my hand to step in the ring with him.  Igor is all talk and no action most of the time.

Katie and Vachel sparred.  I believe they only did two rounds.  Vachel's punches were a little wild, and Katie wasn't always throwing her punches all the way out.  But they got a workout in because both were huffing and puffing afterwards.

Geniece didn't spar, but Alan held the punch shield for her.  She was pounding punches into the shield.  Alan told me, "She hits hard!"  "I know!  I've been on the end of those punches!" I told him.  I'll be glad when we get our hands on the Chicago Park District boxing show schedule for this year.  Geniece would do well in those bouts.

JJ, who used to train in the gym, is currently in New York City, where JJ will compete for the WBC International Title against Steve Bujaj this Thursday.  I wish him the best of luck, and I hope he wins.

No Remorse -- To An Extent

During the finals of the most recent Chicago Golden Gloves, Andres had told Alan that he talked a little with the guy whom he fought for the championship.  Alan half-joked along the lines of "why be friendly with the other guy?'

I've been told that too before bouts I've had.  But try as I might, I can't stir up any hostility against someone across the ring from me.  I never knew any of the people I fought before I stepped in the ring with them, so I had nothing to hold against them.  During the fights, I tried to keep my mind on anticipating their next moves, figuring out how I was going to counter those moves, and score points.

But I do agree that fighters can't have a whole lot of remorse about the damage given out.  Boxing is a chess game, and it involves outwitting opponents as much as outlasting them.  But boxing is also a sport of hurt.  People get cut open, bruised up, and knocked out.  When people step into a ring for a bout, or even for sparring, that has to be understood.  If there's a constant worry about getting hit or hitting back. . . .well, there's always aerobic boxing where only the equipment takes the punishment.  Or taking up a non-contact sport.

Steve, the former coach at Loyola Park, used to get on me for apologizing to people during sparring sessions after I had punched them.  Once in awhile, I still say "I'm sorry", if I stepped on somebody's foot or if I had thrown a hard punch during sparring.  Sparring is not a contest to see who is better; it is for practicing skills. But in the middle of an actual boxing match, feeling sorry for the other person can be inappropriate.  It would be like feeling apologetic for slapping the hell out of someone out in public who tried to pull something dangerous like a robbery.

But if someone really became seriously hurt during a match. . . .that is when fighters have to learn to back off.  Most likely, they've already won, but depending on how much time is left on the clock, work still has to be put in.  But it has to be done within the rules.  There are few boxers walking around -- both in the amateur and professional ranks -- who are carrying remorse for permanently injuring or killing someone in the ring.  People are quick to blame referees for not stopping contests, and in some cases, like the 1962 fight between Griffith and Paret, a strong argument can be made for that.  But remember, the fighters are in the ring, too, and have say so in maintaining control.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Bangin' In The Ring

Another night of mostly women's sparring sessions; in this photo, Alan gives instructions to Geniece and Brandy.  I was in the mix, too, sparring with Geniece, Brandy, Diana, and Nayhomee.

Brandy was popping me all upside my head and in my mid-section.  I made a conscious effort to keep my hands up, but my left eye and my nose got battered.  Brandy is very good at landing punches on the exact spot.  She picks her punches very well.  We sparred for two rounds.

Geniece is a banger.  I told Alan we need to get her some fights.  Geniece almost knocked me off my feet (so did Brandy).  "She fights like a man," Alan said.  We did one round.

Nayhomee's advantage is that she is tiny and can move quickly.  I got some hooks and overhand rights in, but I had to chase her to throw those punches.  I tried to back her up into the corners, but Nayhomee telegraphed what I was doing, and she didn't allow me to push her there.  We did one round.

Both Professor and Alan helped me up and down the stairs leading up to the ring.  "Hillari, you can hardly walk up the stairs, but you're sparring," Alan said, shaking his head.  "I know, that is funny," I laughed.  Then when I was getting out of the ring after sparring with Geniece, my foot grazed Alan in, uh, let's say a sensitive spot.  Alan grinned, winced,  and shook his head.  "I'm sorry!  That's the second time I've done that to a guy in here," I said.  The last guy I did that accidentally to was the former coach, Steve.

Diana and Nayhomee spar in this picture.  Later, Diana asked me to help her learn how to avoid side punches to her mid-section.  I showed her how to use her arms to block those side shots.

In addition to coaching others in the ring, Kenny and Professor worked on some techniques themselves in the ring.

Professor sparred with Brandy, the only guy in the gym that sparred.

Before this photo was taken (Professor did the honors), Alan joked, "What is this?  The senior citizens' picture?"  That's what I had in mind when I asked him and Professor to get in the shot with me.  Colonel is 66 years old, I'm 52 years old, and Alan will be 63 years old next month.  Yes, older people do box.  Alan was grumbling about his upcoming birthday, and I told him, "Praise God that you got this far!"  "Yes, I thank God for seeing another birthday, but wow, I'm getting up there," he said.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

When There Isn't A Win

When Andre won the super heavyweight trophy in this year's Chicago Golden Gloves, I was very happy.  It always feels good to be in the winner's corner.  But what if the decision has been given to the other fighter?
Like Barry once said, "It's hard to know what to say to the fighter who lost."

A lot of what can and should be said will depend on the mood of the fighter.  If they say something along the lines of, "Eh, I should have did this or that, I should have been more focused.  I messed up.  I'll have to work on my skills in the gym," then some gentle constructive criticism may be offered.  It will be heard.

But if a fighter is angry, different approaches have to be done.  The fighter could be justified about their feelings if the decision was clearly a bad call by the referee, the judges, or both.  Assurances should be made that the fighter did their best in the ring, but also emphasis the importance of not leaving the outcome entirely in the judges and officials' hands.  If the loss because of a fighter having not trained enough, not given their all, etc., immediately after the fight may not be the time to point those facts out.  Let them cool off.  But the very next time they come into the gym, go over what went wrong, and work with them to correct those things.

Recently, Alan was telling someone, Geniece, I think, about what happens at the Chicago Park District boxing shows.  He told her that the referees are quick to stop fights at any sign of trouble.  I told her how Alan had stopped a fight between Meg and I a few years ago.  "She never lets me forget that," Alan said.  I was angry when that happened, but over time I realized that Alan was right in what he did.  I was taking too many punches from Meg and not answering them.  However, it can be a touchy situation when the coach stops a fight.  There may be some frost going on between the fighter and the coach afterwards for awhile.  But the lines of communication have to kept open so the situation can be worked through and resolved so they can be a team again.

Above all, the main message should be that there will be another time to fight.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Sparring Cut Short For Me

I started sparring with Brandy, but I started choking, and I had to stop.  I felt like a punk.  It was a combination of something I ate earlier coming back up my esophagus and the mouthpiece moving around funny.  Sigh.  I really wanted to get at least a few rounds in.

Brandy ended up sparring with Vachel, who kept squealing.  Alan stood in the ring.  He told Vachel, "Fight back!"  Afterwards, Vachel told me, "She was all up in here," motioning how Brandy kept getting her in the face.  "Yeah, that's how she nearly won her fight at the Golden Gloves a couple of years ago," I said.

Diana sparred with Little Bit, er, Naomi.  We had the hardest time finding a headgear to fit Diana.  She has a lot of hair.  The two of them were moving around the length and width of the ring, using all of the space.

In this photo, Professor and Colonel watch while Kenny and Keith spar.

Kenny also worked with Keith on the pads.

I did a lot of shadow boxing.  It seems I move way better -- head movement, footwork -- while doing that then I do when sparring or participating in an actual match.

Friday, May 02, 2014

If I Owned A Private Boxing Gym

1.  Everybody would have to be there to work. I've been in health clubs that were little more than singles' bars without the alcohol.  There are also gyms where it appears that a constant show is going on daily to determine who is the most well-dressed and well-toned.  I've seen guys too busy flirting with their latest girlfriend of the week to hit the equipment.  However, there's not much going on in terms of getting a workout done. Chatting with people, having laughs, and having fun while in the gym is not a problem.  But always using the place as a social club instead of for its real purpose is not.

No one would be allowed to spar unless I saw they have been consistently putting in a workout.  Sparring alone without doing anything else: roadwork, shadow boxing, jumping rope, etc., is not going to win fights.

2.  No special treatment allowed.  Everybody who walks through the door of the gym gets treated the same.  No red carpets rolled out, none of this "I want to monopolize the coach and/or the assistant coach's time each day regardless of the fact there are 50 other people here because I'm special."  I'll do some hand-holding up to an extent.  But after a minute, I'm going to expect adults to act like adults.

3.  No kids under the age of 18 unless it's their time to be in the gym.  Before people get up in arms (especially the ones who know I'm childfree), let me explain.  If I had a private gym, I would have kids' boxing classes during the week and on the weekends.  But under no circumstances would I accommodate kids in the gym at other times.  I would have to consider safety issues.  My mother was a single parent; I understand about babysitting issues.  However, the last thing I would want to happen is some kid getting injured in the gym because they wouldn't stay in one spot while their parents were working out.

I also don't want to be put in the position of telling grown folks to watch their language and their conversation around kids who shouldn't be there.

4.  No using the ring to settle grudges.  There are times I won't spar because I'm ticked off at someone outside of the gym, and I don't want to take my anger out on a sparring partner in the gym.  That's what the equipment should be used to do.  Now I'm aware that there are some gyms who will allow people who work out their arguments with each other during sparring sessions.  In my opinion, that's a dangerous situation because two people stepping into the ring already have it in mind that it's not going to just be a sparring session.  There's no need to have anyone going to the hospital.  People have to find another way to settle their differences, preferably not in my gym.

5.  No tolerance for sexism.  I would have a co-ed gym.  Both men and women can learn from each other when it comes to boxing.  I would create an environment that was welcoming to all.  But the first time some guy exhibited an attitude about women being in the gym, let alone about me coaching, the door would be held open for them to exit.  I'd even refund their money.

6.  No free rides.  A private gym is a business.  If I let one person walk in for free, word will get around, and several others will want the same favor.  If people can't afford the yearly fee, then they can pay the monthly fee.  If paying the monthly fee is difficult, than people can pay a day fee to work out.  However, I can't keep the doors open by giving out freebies.

7.  I'd think twice about offering other fighting arts.  Many gyms that were strictly about boxing have added MMA, standard martial arts, and self-defense classes in order to stay competitive and remain in business.  It works in some gyms.  In other gyms, more emphasis may be put on one fighting art over another, ending up in quality of instruction not being as it should.  People say women are excellent at multi-tasking, but I'd rather focus on one thing at a time.