Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Women Sparring

I admire Alicia (shown here on the speed bag) and her dedication to becoming fit.  She never stops working from the time she comes in the gym to the time she leaves.  It's paying off, too.  I've noticed that she's lost a little more weight.  I wish I was as disciplined as she is.  I just forced myself to put up the raspberry gelato I was eating before typing this entry.  Supposedly I only ate the recommended portion which is a half-cup (one regular sized scoop).

It was another evening where attendance was sort of thin.  Igor didn't come in, which wasn't much of a surprise.  But Jason didn't show up either, which was unusual. A few of the new people didn't come in, but there was enough to have some sparring sessions.

Here, Alan gives instruction to Brandy and Stephanie (Stephanie is in the photo, but out of view).

Stephanie and Brandy were popping each other from what I saw, and judging from Vachel's reactions.

Vachel and I sparred, and she didn't do much squealing and screaming this time out.  We did three rounds.  Beforehand, Vachel asked how could she block punches.  "When I throw a jab, turn your right hand to catch it as if catching a ball, or just tap it down," I explained.  Once the bell rang, I was blocking her jabs.  But Vachel sneaked in some punches when I wasn't paying attention, and I had my hands down.  A right to my face backed me up and nearly knocked me over.  Once again, I didn't throw my overhand rights correctly, and Vachel ducked every one that I threw.

Katie and I sparred, and I quickly learned that she can throw a hard right.  I got caught with it a few times.  It was a little easy to come over Vachel's right with a jab, but Katie had a longer reach.  I had to concentrate on trying to get in on the inside, which wasn't easy either.  I backed up Katie into a corner, and Alan told her to clinch.  Instead, Katie threw a punch, I tried to move fast to avoid it (which is still not easy because of my left hip), and I fell to the canvas.  "I'm sorry!" Katie said, looking worried.  "I'm okay!" I assured her.  Brandy pointed out that I end up falling every other week that I spar, which is true.  "How can you do four rounds like that?" Katie asked me afterwards.  "After awhile, you get used to it," I answered.

Alan had to help me down the ring stairs.  I just don't trust walking down them; the stairs are slippery to me.  I usually sit down on the apron and scoot down the steps.  Several people wondered if I was okay.  "I'm an old woman," I said, but Alan came back with, "No, she won't go to the damn doctor!"  Maybe I'll bite the bullet and spend a day at Stroger Hospital.

Brandy has another skill -- she can hold the punch mitts very well.  She held the mitts for Keith.

Vachel was wondering if the attendance was always as low as it seems to be lately.  "It used to be a month would go by before people started dropping off.  Now one or two weeks go by and people start dropping out," I said.  "Well, I guess it depends on what people want to get out of boxing," Vachel said.  She was right.

There are two openings for boxing coaches in the Chicago Park District; one at Portage Park, and one at LaFollette Park.  Try, try again, people keep saying.  . . .I wonder.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chill Time In The Gym

Stephanie asked, "Why aren't that many people here?"  Over past weekend, temperatures reached as high as 71 degrees.  But today, it was snowing with temperatures in the 30s.  This is typical of Chicago weather this time of year.  I figured the snow would keep some people out, even though not much of it fell nor stuck to the ground.

Alan was out because this is the first day of Passover.  If I had remembered, I would have reminded Alan earlier to put in a time-off request with Mary.  I had forgotten about Palm Sunday; I made a rare appearance at Rogers Park Baptist Church during the weekend.  It didn't dawn on me what day it was until I noticed that everyone had crosses pinned to their clothes.

Carolyn opened up the gym when I got there.  I was the first person in.  Igor showed up next, followed by Brandy, Stephanie, and Diana.  Patrick, Keith, and Colonel came in after them.  I told everyone about Andres' win at the Chicago Golden Gloves.  Colonel told people about the Police vs. Firefighters tournament that had also taken place over the weekend.  The police won.  "There were nine fights and the fire fighters lost six of them!  I need to come back and coach them," Colonel said, shaking his head.  Colonel is retired from the Chicago Fire Department.

Professor held the punch mitts for whoever wanted to get the practice.  I would have taken him up on it, but both of my knees were grumbling.  The last few times of me sparring, plus working Andres' corner at the Golden Gloves really did a number on them.  In the photo above, Keith stands on the apron and watches as Professor works with Patrick.  Professor really had Patrick moving around in the ring.

Patrick was hanging over the ropes afterwards.  He saw me staring at him, and smiled.  "Are you okay?" I asked.  "Yes, I'm fine," he assured me.

It was a pretty chill time in the gym.  No people wandering in to look around and no one who hasn't been in the gym in ages showing up out of blue to get a free workout.  I always hope for an easy time when Alan is away from the gym.

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.