I knew how the fight was going to end as soon as he threw that first punch. It was a right cross, thrown correctly. This guy was serious and he knew what he was doing. Instead of flailing away with a wild haymaker, his punch came at me in a straight line. The whole thing had started with his shoulder lurching forward, driving his rear hand from his cheek toward my head almost faster than I could follow with my eyes. But sight wasn’t the sense with which I would experience this punch or the several that came after it. He had rolled his knuckles slightly forward so that the hard part of the bone dug into my cheek as his fist came home. In addition to the force of the impact and the white starburst of near unconsciousness that flashed behind my eyeballs, I felt my eyes start to tear up just a little bit. I didn’t fall, but I rocked back and wobbled a bit as I tried to find my feet. Lots of times, a guy throws a punch like that and he gets a little movie playing in his mind. He might perceive that time slows down a little bit as he strikes. In his head, the soft, dull thump of meat slamming against meat becomes the clean thwack that only ever comes out of Hollywood foley shops. In those few, slowed-down seconds he might start to think about what a bad-ass he is; how he really is that guy: the one-punk Knockout King, badder than Tyson, Lee, and Lesner combined. He might just stand still for those few seconds after a really clean punch lands thinking how he just rung your bell or pushed your button and waiting for you to fall. Those few seconds after the one clean punch can make or break the fight. If you get rocked and immediately recoil you can take advantage of a moment of weakness, when it is there. As I started to launch my retaliatory strike, I noticed that this guy wasn’t standing still to take in his handy work. He was following up with another punch. If the fist entering the far right of my field of vision was any indication, it was a left hook moving in an elliptical motion toward my right temple
Tagged in: boxing
Well, Friday came and went. I was unable to participate in Friday Night Fights, because I was busy participating in Friday Night Fights. It only sounds like nonsense. You see, I was participating in some good old fashioned fisticuffs on Friday Night so I was unable to post a scan of comic book characters fighting. The boxing bootcamp culminated in a night of fighting, as we put our six weeks of blood, sweat, and embarrassing encounters to use in the ring.
This wasn’t my first time boxing, but I’m still pretty green. This match-up was much closer than the last time I gloved up. That time I was boxing a man who does this whole “punching hard” thing for a living, and while I think I did all right, it was clear that he was pacing me. Not so, this time. My opponent was more my equal in both size and skill level. I had a few pounds on him but he was quicker and slightly more agile. Our experience levels seemed about the same, so when we entered the fray it was a full-on battle royale. I will never be known for my finesse, either in the ring or in everyday life. I’m more inclined to stand and trade blows like a drunken 19th century Irishman or a Rock ’em Sock ’em Robot than to float like a butterfly. I was also slow to respond to the idea that I should actually be throwing punches. I had to eat one or ten jabs to the jaw before I settled down enough to start putting the things I learned to work for me. I may have even remembered to bob, though I almost certainly forgot to weave.
I landed a number of good solid rights, and worked his body at the start of every clinch. If there were judges, they probably would have awarded the first round to the other guy, but it would have been close. But after conferring with my cornerman and having some water poured on my head, I entered the second round with a little more strategy. I started working serious combos and probing for weaknesses in my opponents defense. I probably still looked a little sloppy, but I was thinking more like a sweet scientist than a back-alley brawler. I was landing serious blows, and I could see they were taking their toll on my foe. He was slowing down and his jabs were less controlled. He started clinching more.
Then, about halfway through the second round, it happened. On the advice of my corner, I threw a low jab at his solar plexus. He rolled his front guard down to cover just a little too late. I followed up with a big right hook aimed right at the side of his head. Time slowed down. The lights got just a little bit brighter. I couldn’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure reality actually shifted into slow motion. When the punch landed, the thump of leather meeting leather and fist meeting skull echoed through the room. I’m told everyone in the crowd heard the hit, and I could hear their collective intake of breath as my hook hit home. My opponent buckled just a little, swaying woozily as the referee started a standing eight count. He didn’t get very far before waving his hands to signal the end of the fight.
My second foray into the world of boxing ended in a knockout, albeit one of the technical variety. That was something new for me, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good. It was a good thing it came when it did, though, because I was seriously losing gas and I don’t know if I had the legs for another round. Fighter safety is a big concern so everyone made sure he was okay before we hugged it out. There were no hard feelings, and I think he is a consummate sportsman. He’s also a practicing attorney here in San Francisco, so I’m sure I’ll be pestering him for a job when summer rolls around.
I am now at the midway point of my boxing bootcamp, and things are progressing nicely. Timing, strength, and overall conditioning is improving. I’ve lost some weight, to the point where I don’t have to hold the ends of the towel together when I drape it across my post-shower nether regions. They meet comfortably and I can once more roam the locker room with both hands free. I have even shaved my head, both to look tougher and increase aerodynamics.
But it isn’t helping. I still can’t run. Lacking an adrenaline surge from mortal danger, I just can’t pump my legs for any length of time. without panting and slowing to a walk. Its a good thing bears are so few and far between in San Francisco, or I would surely have been eaten by now. I know part if it is psychological. I don’t think I should have to run, for I am large and strong.
I know that boxers, indeed fighters of all disciplines, need the conditioning. I’m not arguing that Road Work isn’t a vital key to success in the ring. I’m just bitching about it because I am so bad it. I try to control my breathing and just focus on moving forward, and that has helped me make improvements. Today, I ran most of the way without retreating to my customary hands-on-hips walking breath-catch. Sure, I was panting. But I did it. Then, we ran some sprints and did some calisthenics. Okay. Then we ran some more, this time in the topographically ridiculous Potrero Hill neighborhood (photo by Toby Silver).
It’ has the word “Hill” in the title, fer crying out loud. I was doomed. I was reared in the wilds of Florida, a state perfectly sensible in its level uniformity. That is how God intended for us to move about the earth, on a flat plane. None of this ridiculous incline business. I got to the bottom of the first hill, and with all that sideways sidewalk staring back at me, I knew I was doomed. I tried to start running. I really did.
It was like when I was a kid. I remember watching The Empire Strikes Back about a million times. Specifically, the scene where Luke Skywalker is hanging upside down in the snow-beast’s cave. His lightsaber was just out of reach, and the creature was fast approaching. Using his Jedi mind powers, he was able to telekinetically summon it to his outstretched hand. You know the scene. After watching it, I just sort of naturally assumed I could do the same thing if I could juts concentrate hard enough. I used to spend hours (and I mean long hours) staring at objects and trying to move them with my mind. I would stare, squint and hold my breath, but unsurprisingly, the objects wouldn’t move no matter how red my face got.
That’s how I felt trying to run those hills this morning. I wanted to move my legs as bad as I wanted to levitate my childhood matchbox cars, but I was just as unsuccessful. There was no juice. At least not enough to run up the hills. I walked. Again. I guess the force (of running) is just not strong with this one.
My body failed me today.
It’s been a rough first week of my boxing bootcamp, since I am more out of shape going in for this round than I was back in January. At the same time, I have decided to supplement the awesome cardio action with some weight lifting later in the day. The idea is that I’ll be a little leaner and a little stronger when the moment of truth comes. My fundamentals are decent if not spectacular. My footwork is passable and timing not totally ridiculous. Still, I’ve noticed I have some trouble delivering punching power. I suspect it has something to do with the comical shortness of my arms and the fact that I get tired so quickly, but I want to hear that killer thump and watch my opponent wince a little bit when the punch drives home. Hence the lifting…
The downside is that my muscles are in full revolt having grown used to the sloth-like leisure they had previously enjoyed. The bootcamp workouts haven’t even reached their full pitch of intensity yet. We are still in what the coaches lovingly refer to as “Pussy Week.” And yet, today my body failed me. I’ve been getting along through the calisthenics, and the boxing drills haven’t made too much of a dent.
But the running is killing me. I am not made to be a runner. I have neither the ability nor the inclination. Roadwork is a part of the game, though and I have to pay my dues. I would say that I am genetically predispositioned to be a poor runner, but my brother was a cross country superstar who ran four miles to warm up. Madness! Sprints I can deal with, but distance? Forget it.
Today, we were running down by the San Francisco Bay and it seemed like it would never end. At a certain point my legs just stopped responding. I could run no more. There is a difference between being too tired to run anymore or being too sore to run anymore and what I experienced today. I was willing my legs to move and they refused. My body has turned against me. I had to walk back to the gym.
It happened again at the corner store. After I was done buying my post-workout bottle of water, I dropped my wallet in the parking lot. When I bent down to pick it up, I was unable to stand. I wasn’t in pain, per se, yet I knew that the act of rising to my feet would send shock-waves of pain throughout my legs. My thighs were already groaning. It took me a full three minutes of kneeling in the parking lot before I was able summon the strength and courage to return to a standing position.
Five days down, Twenty-Five to go…
The time has come once again to subject myself running ungodly distances at unthinkable hours of the morning and spending more time with a jumprope in my hands than would seem befitting for a grown man. For some reason, I’ve signed up for another boxing bootcamp at the Third Street Gym in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch neighborhood. And by historic, I mean “pain in the ass to get to every morning at 6:00 am.” Last time, getting there was a snap because I lived just a few blocks away. Having moved literally across the city, I was hesitant about taking the plunge into this pugilistic pastime once again. I had a great time, and I could use the extra impetus to force my ass into shape. I have become rather indolent as of late, and my expanding waistline is a sure sign that I need to take drastic measures.
The last boxing bootcamp that I did was back in January and I’m looking forward to getting back in shape. The good thing about bootcamps is that I feel motivated to see the thing through. I actually feel bad when I miss a day. The fact that the punishment for absence includes a being thrown in the San Francisco Bay is also a strong motivating factor. The fellas who run the thing are pretty cool. They strike a fine balance between meaning business and pushing you during the boot camp and cracking jokes.
I am not a very good boxer. My arms are short and my rhythm is highly suspect. But on the plus side I find a good punch to the jaw an exhilarating way to start the day. I’m mostly in it for the cardio, although these things traditionally end with a public display of fisticuffs. I suppose I’ll have to lace up my gloves when the time comes.
In the meantime, I am sore and tired. Being reliant on Muni, I have to get up at 4:30 in order to make it down to the gym in time for the days boxing lesson. I’m having problems because there are no other buses for me to catch. Not only do I have to wake up stupid-early, I also have to lug my boxing gear with me (gloves, headgear, jumprope, Survivor cd) and my ridiculously overstuffed backpack with me, because I go straight to school afterwards. Then, when I am going to school I have to lug the same crap around with me all day. Lockers don’t seem to be an option, unfortunately…
But I’m not one to let some minor logistical annoyances get in the way of a good exercise regime, so it’s cups of coffee and early bedtimes for me. It seems like my life is either at the gym, the classroom, or the library right now. It seems that way, because it’s true. Two days down, 28 more to go.
If you’re in the Bay Area, and would like to see man who specializes in grappling and kicking try to fight without doing either one:
Who’s that handsome fella there at the bottom? He looks like a bad ass. Seriously though, this is my first attempt at flat-out boxing and it should be entertaining. I’m not a very good boxer. I have short arms and while my punching mechanics are good, I tire easily so I’m likely to take at least a medium-size beating. Come along, won’t you?
The reason why I posted the greatest Survivor song of all time in prose form earlier this week is this. I have recently signed up for a boxing bootcamp, and am rising way earlier than a normal person should to train for an hour-and-a-half before work. My body is adjusting to the shock of exercise. I haven’t really exerted myself since relocating to the West Coast, and a serious workout is long over due. The time has come for me to cast off the oh-so-comfortable lethargy of the last few months and once again become a pugilist. Sedentary no more! Despite my fighting career, I am a horrible striker and know very little about the sweet science. As a grappler, my strategy was usually to get punched in the face repeatedly until I could take down my opponent and ground and pound. It worked, but tended to mar my movie-star good looks for a few days.
This bootcamp is ideal for me, because it assumes a very basic level of boxing knowledge and focuses more on fundamentals and fitness. The workouts are good, but not too intense. I’m no Jack Dempsey, but I’m getting better. If only I could find a way to lengthen my arms and improve my reach, I would be unstoppable. As it is, I’ve been compared to everything from a Tyranasaurus Rex to a bulldog. Fierce and mighty creatures, to be sure, but hampered by a lack of arm length. Imagine the sheer lethal carnage that a T-Rex with long arms could cause. But I digress.
I admit the running is the hardest part for me. Even in the best of shape, I was a horrible runner. Slow and labored. And now when I do I can’t get “Eye of the Tiger” out of my head.
Dun. Dun Dun Dun. Dun Dun Dun. Dun Dun DUN…
Rising up back on the street, I did my time and took my chances. I went the distance and now I’m back on my feet: just a man and his will to survive. So many times it happens too fast. You trade your passion for glory, but don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past. You must fight just to keep them alive.
Face to face out in the heat, I’m hanging tough and staying hungry. They stack the odds, but still we take to the street for the kill, with the skill to survive. Because I’m rising up. Straight to the top, because I had the guts, and so got the glory. I went the distance, and now I’m not going to stop. I’m just a man and his will to survive.
It’s the Eye of the Tiger, my friends. It’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival. And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night. He’s watching us all.
With the Eye of the Tiger
Rant/ This past weekend, I hit the road. I journeyed to Santa Rosa in search of cathartic violence and the (vicarious) thrill of the fight at Caged Combat. All in all, I don’t think its an event I’ll be returning to any time soon. The fights were all pretty good, as near as I could tell. The venue was piss poor. The cage was not very high, and the seating was on level ground. All of that wouldn’t be too bad, except the promoters hadn’t seen fit to shell out the extra dough for a screen on which people could watch the action when the fight rolled out of view (which was often). As it was, unless you had ringside seats it was next to impossible to see the action when the fight went to the ground. Anyone who has ever seen a mixed martial arts fight knows that the ground is where most of the action is. Frustrating me further was the fact that I had bought floor seats, since the ticketmaster floor plan made it look much more attractive than the bleachers. Turns out, the bleachers had the best view. But it really didn’t matter, because once you were in the door, nobody checked your ticket for anything. People who paid for bleacher tickets could sit on the floor, poor schmucks like me who paid (almost double!) for floor tickets could sit in the bleachers. And none of us could see the fights. \rant