Part II – Looking Back: A Walk in the City
I traverse the crowds at Penn Station now, like someone with a wonderful secret…can’t help smiling as I make my way up 7th Avenue, and you know what? It doesn’t matter what side of the street I walk on – but I recall yesterdays when it did. Couldn’t get to the gym fast enough…every moment was eagerly awaited, exciting – the train ride, the walk, the three flights up.
After a good fight…during my ‘few days,’ I flew up those steps two at a time – reveling in the moment I arrived back. Anticipating the welcoming familiar faces that meant so much to me.
Now there’s no sparring schedule, no canvas awaiting sweat and blood, no doubters, no boulder…no boulder!!!
I reach the door and pop my head in.
You know what?
You’ve got to be a ‘fighter-first, to box’, but you don’t have to be a ‘boxer at all, to fight’ – boxing is simply the tool the fighter uses…an important perspective for the members of my gym, and my profession – we were all ‘fighters’. Fighting is much more intense and personal than ‘boxing’…the two terms can’t even be compared. The things that create ‘boxers’ are all around you: trainers, wrapping, gloves, the ring, heavy bags, speed bags, jump ropes… but what made us fighters? Well, that answer’s as diverse and complex as anything ever considered…since the dawn of time…the impetus that enabled us to climb onto the bloody canvas day in and day out…that created an invisible, powerful bond of mutual respect…even admiration between us.
After a win, the ‘audience’ at the gym was the most vital of all…fighters and ex-fighters congratulating you. We weren’t on the same team – we were all rogue, individual fighters…some I sparred with…others I was destined to fight.
Whatever our individual reasons for climbing onto the canvas, it was the part most honored…made it all worth while: connection with the people I respected most, in the place I respected most. We all beat our chest, declaring to the world our relevance – as professionals, as men…as fighters. It was the ‘war room’, the canvas, sweat, stench, Vaseline-covered skin, white tape, noise…the yells, grunts and bell ringing (non-stop) every 3 minutes…then every minute, the speed bag…endless drumming… non-stop ‘taps’, the rattling chains of the heavy bags, jump ropes whistling… The sights were intimidating; the sounds put you on guard; the odor hung in the air…and I stood there…an invited and honored guest!
Watch for more memoirs…coming soon!