Monday, October 24, 2016


Professor stands in the doorway in this photo and watches as Robert, Rojan, and Matthew work out.

The ring at Loyola Park was busy as one sparring session after another took place.  The first few sessions were all-female ones, featuring Kathy, Lauren, and Gabs.  I begged off because my knees had been super wobbly all day long.  The pain killer I took before I went to the gym hadn't kicked in fast enough to make a difference.

Then it was the guys' (Matthew, Rojan, Robert, Connor, Lawrence, Alan) turn to show out.  I ended up monitoring the sparring between Matthew and Alan. I don't remember how many times I yelled out, "Break!" to those two, but it was a lot.  I could have sworn I heard Alan tell Matt, "Who are you angry with down at your job?" after Matt caught his father with a hard punch.

Alan reminded me that Humboldt Park's boxing show is next week.  He's planning on taking some people.  I'm hoping the ones in my gym that are usually up for going to shows -- Donovan and James -- can attend that one.  I was suggesting that Maz should attend the show at Brooks Park in late November. His parents said for me to let them know if he will be ready for that one.  Right now it looks as if Maz may not qualify.  He's been missing days in the gym here and there.

What I ain't gonna do is chase youths down about showing up at the gym on a regular basis.  My attitude about that is not going to change even as the youths' training time will expand next year.  The park district is offering an opportunity, but if the youths don't want to take it, I can't make them.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Going, Going. . .Finally Gone

The adult boxing class at LaFollette Park is now officially off the schedule.  Today, I expanded the hours for the youth and teen winter classes which will begin in January.  The number of participants who can register for those classes were raised as well.

I tried with the adult class.  If I had not asked for that class to be canceled, I'm sure the park district would have eventually ended it.  The main issues were too few registrations and low attendance numbers.  I expected to have a vibrant class similar to the adult boxing class at Loyola Park, but it just did not work.  Initially, I was told that adults were eager to have a boxing class at LaFollette, but that proved to be false.

Now I'm thinking that an adult boxing program was a bad fit for LaFollette from the jump.  The kids and teens need that program more.  Youths in neighborhoods such as Austin need as many positive programs as possible to keep them away from what lays in wait for them out in the streets.  Some of the youths don't fully commit to the program.  Too many of them are forced into it by parents who think they're doing what is best for their kids without actually asking the kids what they want.  Other parents and guardians use the class as a time killer to keep their kids away from the house as much as possible and try to put me into the position of being a glorified babysitter.  But at least the kids do show up.  I do get a few kids who are actually interested in the sport and are willing to put in the work.  Most of the adults just wasted their money by disappearing after showing up once or twice.

Of course, this means I'll have to rearrange my lesson plans again.  But I feel that the change will make the program more manageable and give it more room to grow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sparring With 13 Year Olds

Summer sparred with James during the youth boxing class at LaFollette Park. James did a little better than he usually does, but Summer got more licks in than he did.  I can't seem to break James out of the habit of pushing his opponents with his fists as opposed to punching them.  Summer didn't knock him down, however; Donovan did that when it was James' turn to face him.

Later, Summer complained about her head hurting.  "That's what happens in boxing," I told her.  I still don't get why some kids are so surprised about being hurt that after the first time they spar.  "Boxing is a hurt business," I told her, repeating something that I heard a professional boxer -- I think it was Joe Frazier -- say.

Maz and Lauren were the only two who showed up to the teen class.  Lauren immediately let me know that she did not want to spar with Maz.  She was worried about Maz going hard on her.  I sparred with Maz, who like Lauren, is thirteen years old and a little taller than I.  He has good footwork, and he moves well around the ring.  I was bopped in the nose a few times.  We did go light because I had left my mouthpiece at home.

After seeing that, Lauren changes her mind about sparring.  But she wanted to spar with me.  "Please go light," she said.  She's good at swatting punches away, but like James, she loves to hug the ropes.  I told her not to allow me to keep backing her up into them.  Lauren also has to put her punches out there.  She was very hesitant about doing that.

I talked to Steve about canceling out the adult boxing class, but I waited a little too late.  If a class or activity is not removed before a certain date, the computer system updates it to appear the next session.  There may still be a way to take it off before the end of the year, but I'm not banking on that.  I might still have to look at an empty gym during the adult class during the winter season.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Returning Fighters

Sarah takes aim at the speed bag at Loyola Park boxing gym in the photo above.  She has returned to train, and I heard Alan asking her to bring her mouthpiece in the next time.  It appears that he's eager to have her spar and compete again.  But Sarah wants to ease back into the routine.

I sparred with Kathy for the first time in about three months.  Ben was impressed with how I slipped some of her punches.  I wish my feet could have moved as fast as my head was.  Kathy danced around the ring, and I plodded after her.  She caught me in the face with a right; the impact left my teeth shivering.  Good thing I was biting down on my mouthpiece.

John (whom I learned recently got married), Ben, and Rojan went around for several rounds a piece of sparring.  Alan was asking people about going to Fuller Park's boxing show, which is later this week.  Some of those guys may attend.  I'm staying at "home" at LaFollette.  I have too many kids who are new and not ready for competition.  Also, not many people want to go out south, where Fuller Park is located.

The Ben who is at LaFollette Park walked into the gym late last week.  Surprise, surprise as Gomer Pyle would say.  His father said his son has been playing football, which is why he hasn't been in the gym.  Football?  This is the kid who seemed to keep waiting for perfect conditions to participate in a boxing show? Ben now has no problem with being tackled and knocked down in a different sport?  "I'm going to sign him again for boxing soon," his dad said.  It's now the fifth week of the fall session, I believe, so Ben will be coming in a little late.  Luckily, there's one spot left in that class.  But even if Ben returns, I'll be dealing with yet another kid who is trying to do more than sport at a time.

Mr. Hopkins Is On Point

Claressa Shields is FINALLY on the front cover of The Ring magazine.  She should have been featured there four years ago when she received her first Olympic gold medal.

Before the article about Ms. Shields, there is an excellent opinion piece by Bernard Hopkins entitled "Boxing Is Losing Black Kids".  He hit on most of the things that frustrate me as an amateur boxing coach -- unmotivated, soft, and undisciplined youths; lack of support for amateur boxing programs, especially from parents and guardians; the closing of amateur boxing programs; youths being lured away by football, basketball, and dreams of being rappers.  He could have also added the problem of youths confusing professional wrestling and MMA with boxing.  They know more about what's going on in the WWE and the UFC than they do about professional boxing.

Mr. Hopkins stated that he did not believe that boxing would ever go back to the time of having "multiple African-American superstar fighters after this current generation".  Unfortunately, the man is probably right.  Boxing has fallen out of favor not only with Black youths but with all American youths in general.  The field house I work in sits in an area populated by both Black and Latino youths.  Gentrification is slowly creeping in, and I've seen some white people occupying some properties nearby.  But getting any of those youths, regardless of their ethnicity, to sign up for the boxing program and stick with it is a hard task.

The situation is enough for any amateur boxing coach to want to throw the towel in.  It is only the love of the sport and the fact that sometimes we get one or two kids who are really interested that keeps most of us around.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Chilling At Hamlin Park

The video above shows an interesting gentleman that I met at the Hamlin Park boxing show named Phil.  In his younger days, he was a boxer as well as a bodybuilder.  He was showing me pictures of himself doing both 50 years ago.  He has trained boxers, as well.  Phil was showing me how he trains boxers to step into their punches, and how to pivot so they can put more power behind them.  Phil was one of the judges at the show along with Gary.  I can't wait to get back to LaFollette Park to pass Phil's wisdom to the youths.

Alan was there for awhile.  He had expected Rojan to show up, but Rojan wasn't able to make it.  I had stayed home on Monday night, thinking that Loyola Park was closed for Columbus Day.  Alan told me the gym was open, so I missed one of my workout days.

Ernest, Kenny, Barry, Jeff, Gerald, Marty, and Marlon were the other coaches present.  Marty didn't have any fighters with him, but the other guys did.  Both Donovan and James told me they could not attend the show, so I had no fighters with me either.  I helped Barry in the corner with Solomon, one of his fighters. Solomon fought one of David Diaz's fighters; he did well but didn't get the win.

It was chilly in the basketball gym where the ring was set up.  All the windows in the gym were open.  The temperatures are dropping fast in Chicago; during the day, the temps reached the upper fifties but had gone down to the forties when the sun set.   I was already a little chilled when I got to Hamlin.  I left my car at home and decided to take the bus instead.  Not willing to accept that summer is past, I just wore a hoodie with a very light jacket over it.

A young lady who played "The Star Spangled Banner" on her violin at the top of the show also had a fight (check out her story here at She knocked down the woman she with whom she was in the ring.  Barry exclaimed, "She's really working the jab on her!"  The violinist won her fight.

I've got about two weeks to try and get the youths at LaFollette prepared for Humboldt Park's boxing show.  I'm going to need a whole lot of patience.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Just Like Frank Sinatra

The last time I was at work, I realized that I had to do some planning for the end of this year.  The holiday season will kick off as soon as Halloween has ended, so I've got to be prepared.  One of the best things Thomas told the coaches was, "You run your gyms the way you see fit."  He didn't have to tell me that twice.

I'm going to shut down LaFollette Park boxing gym after the last class of the fall session ends in early December.  I'm going to play like Sinatra and do it my way like I did last year.  I'll take that time to do my administrative stuff, and check and clean the equipment.  I might also take one or two days off, depending on what may come up in December.  I'll have to physically keep the gym doors open for those who wander in and ask questions about the program.  But I'm not putting out one piece of equipment, except for the radio to keep me company.

I'm also tentatively planning not to have an adult class in the 2017 winter session. Keeping that class going has become like beating a dead horse.  I'm tired of empty promises from those who act all hyped up about signing up for that class. I'm also tired of people becoming no-shows after two or three classes.  Sitting and staring out at an empty gym for an hour and a half is not my idea of being productive. In November, I'm going to make a case to my boss to drop the class permanently.  I'd rather expand the times of the youth classes.  

Time is running out for those who want to compete in the park district boxing shows.  Later this week, Hamlin Park's show will take place.  That's a popular one; I'm trying to convince Donovan, James, and Ariel to attend that one.  As for the other participants, most of them are too new to talk about putting in a fight.  I have already given up on some who have shown no discipline nor major interest in showing up to the class consistently.  If the youths are indifferent, bored, etc., about training while the boxing shows are happening, what are they going to do for that long stretch between January and June when those shows aren't taking place?  Scottsdale Park's show is the last on the list in February of next year.  But west side residents are not that interested in going out south, or to the north side, for that matter, to participate in anything.

Most of the parents/guardians and youths don't recognize what doors boxing can open up for them.  I would have never figured that I would become a boxing coach when I first took up the sport, but here I am.  I know others who've gone a lot further.  So many opportunities, in and out of the ring are waiting, but people do not take advantage of them.  It's hard to fight against mentalities that only go to the edge of the 12-to-14 block neighborhood that people live in.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Calmer Times At Simons Park

The boxing show at Simons Park was a much more pleasant experience than what I experienced there last year.  I still get irritated when I think about De-Fetrick's ugly meltdown and the fact the guy walked off with the athletic cup I lent him for his fight.

None of my fighters were there, which was just as well.  The only two who were qualified to go would have been James and Donovan.  KeVonte has some skills, but the kid's attendance has become sporadic.  KeVonte also has a major problem with following and taking direction.  Maz hasn't been back since his bike was stolen the last time he attended class. Some of the kids, like Kewan for example, have taken to showing up late and leaving early if they show up at all.

I spent part of the time at the boxing show working the corner of Jamal, a boy who fights out of Taylor Park.  There was no one from his park to help him out; I don't know why.  Jamal did not win his fight, but he put on a good showing.  I was surprised when the kid who beat Jamal came over to the corner after to fight to shake my hand.  "Thank you!" I told him as I shook his hand.  Sometimes, the boxers in the other corners don't acknowledge me afterward.  I was appreciative of the fact that kid did.

The latter part of the show I spent judging the remaining fights.  The main event was between two adults, a couple of heavyweights named Don and Johnny.   Johnny kept waiting too long on Don to make moves.  Don stepped up and the majority of the punches were on target.  Johnny was clinching Don a lot.  The unanimous decision went to Don.

Friday is sparring day.  I didn't allow any sparring this past Wednesday because the only person prepared to spar was James.  Donovan didn't come in and Jaymerson is not allowed to spar.  As for the other kids, they all showed up late with no explanations nor apologies.  Now I have put down a new law:  when people show up late, they don't get to spar that day.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Running It For Alan

AJ shadow boxes in the ring in the photo above.  It was his first time in the class.

Alan was out for Rosh Hashanah, so Paul and I were running the gym.  Paul worked with the new people including AJ and Lawrence, then I monitored the people -- Kathy, Connor, and Robert -- who sparred.  Connor knows how to box from both orthodox and southpaw positions.  He switched up from time to time on Kathy.  Connor showed me how using foot position can help an orthodox boxer keep control over a southpaw.  I'll have to show the kids that down at LaFollette.

Here is Jenny (Paul's wife) on the double-end bag, while AJ moves around in the ring.  For some reason, the double-end bag was installed upside down.  Plus, an extra strap was attached, I guess to pull it down so the kids can use it on Tuesdays and Thursday.

I didn't get much of a workout in, so I'll make it up when I'm at LaFollette, or try to fit in a day of exercise at home.  While putting up a new shower liner in my bathroom last week, I caught sight of myself in the mirror.  I'm carrying way too much body fat around my middle.  Yeah, I do portion control and try to eat the right foods, but obviously, there's something I'm not doing right.  I have to step my game up.

I forgot about Simons Park's boxing show later this week.  I'll try to get James and maybe KeVonte to commit to participating in that show.