Thursday, September 18, 2014
Reunion at Loyola Park
I helped out at Loyola Park's annual boxing show. I had been in the "war room" during previous shows before, but it was different being there as a coach. I walked in the room, and Tommy introduced me as the new coach at LaFollette. There were surprised looks all around with the exception of Alan, Barry, and Bill, who said, "I knew you would make it."
Kitchens, who I hadn't seen in a long time, was there, along with Sean. Kitchens was on a cane. "I just do the Park District shows now. I don't go to the Golden Gloves or the pro shows anymore. I don't take pictures at the shows, either," he told me. He and Sean have known each other for over 50 years. I told Kitchens I saw a photo of him when he had won a championship back in the early 1960's. The photo was in a book that Sean wrote about Chicago boxing.
The coaches on hand were Pat, who is at Brooks Park; Sims, who is at Bessemer; Tommy, who is not only the head of the boxing program for the parks, but also coaches at Portage Park; Ernie, who is the coach at Fuller; and Johnny, who helps Bill out at Hamlin. I learned from them that Clarendon Park, where Alan used to coach at was once the jewel of the Park District boxing program.
This is a photo of a couple of Barry's boys before the show started. The boy in the back near the ring is Gus. I didn't recognize him at first. Gus has got to be about seventeen years old now, and Gus has muscle.
Gene, who is Anthony's dad, was there. Haven't seen Anthony in a long, long time. I think he's training at another park.
Meg was there, and I'm so sorry that she and Geniece did not get to fight. Alan was disappointed as well. They were ready to go, but Bill was concerned about the weight difference between the two women. There was talk of them perhaps doing an exhibition match, but that idea was nixed, too. I have no doubt their fight would have been the highlight of the evening. Hopefully, there will be a next time.
Meg wants to really advocate the idea of more girls in boxing, and so do I. We talked about maybe having a girls' boxing day at some point, perhaps at LaFollette. As soon as I get an idea of how many youths I will have, I would love to help make that happen. I still don't have any youths yet, even though the fall session has started. Bill gave me some encouragement. "When I started at Hamlin, I spent three months there drinking coffee in the kitchen because I had no fighters. But don't worry, the kids will eventually show up," he said. Adrian, who was the DJ at the boxing show, told me it will take some time to build up the program as well. I'm ready to work with the kids, so I will continue to do more promoting to get them in the gym.
Collette, who is part of the famous O'Shea family of boxing, was at the show. She was very pleased to hear that I was a coach. "We've got to make some strides," she said. She is willing to send some kids over my way as she comes across them.
Tommy (in the red shirt) talks with Ernie in this photo. Tommy was busy weighing boxers in and making the matches. During the show, Tommy had to be in the corner with his fighters, so I was the timekeeper. That was the first time I had done that; I'm always happy to pick up a new skill.
Pat sits in the background, Johnny stands behind Bill, and Bill talks to Ben, one of Hamlin's fighters. Ben won his match.
I had to keep my eye on the stopwatch, so I didn't catch very many details of each fight. John fought with Gus in an exhibition match. Gus didn't seem to be throwing heavy punches, from what I could tell.
Justin fought with a guy who came out of the corner throwing wild punches. Justin kept getting smothered, and lost the match.
Barry warmed up Jeremiah before his fight. Jeremiah won a clear victory.
This was the fight announcer, who was cool on the mic. He mentioned JJ's upcoming fight in Brooklyn, New York. The announcer said JJ was an alumni of Loyola Park.
Keith, Alan, and John have a conversation after the show. John invited Keith and I over to his and his wife Jinn's apartment afterwards. "We miss you at the gym, Hillari. It's not the same without you there," he told me. It's nice to be missed. I miss all of them, too. When the program is up and running, John, Keith, Colonel (who was at the show videotaping the matches), want to come up to LaFollette and check it out.