Written in Fall 2008
The Mexican Fighter
His jump rope never stops whipping the floor.
In between rounds he jumps and after our hands are wrapped and our gloves are on he still jumps.
His shirt with the red white and green flag is badly faded but there are three drops of blood above the eagle in the center which bring a certain vibrancy to the old garment.
Left foot out right foot down, Right foot out left foot down.
He jumps tirelessly while we pound slowly on the heavy bag.
Finally he is done.
He quickly puts his rope into his gym bag and snaps off his warm ups to show sharp pointy knees under green shorts. Very thin yet chiseled calves and ankle weights atop laced white shoes.
One of us encourages the other to keep swinging on the bag while holding it steady for the other. The thuds become softer and several seconds elapse between each sloppy punch until the round is over. We double over searching for breath.
He wraps his hands and leaves his gloves in his gym bag. He stands facing the mirror. Knees quarter ways bent. Left foot in the front. Right foot in the back. Both heels on the floor. Left fist sideways about 8 inches in the front of his mouth. Right fist pressed against his temple, and he just stands there in front of the mirror like a 65 inch bronze statue. Then he starts throwing punches into midair.
Light and fast, chin down, elbows in and he pivots around in tight circle as he cuts the stale, pungent, gym air with each precise blow.
What heart this man has, what dedication, what a damn good boxer as far as we can see.
We catch his attention in between rounds and nod our approval as we mouth the words;
The taller guy shot a job but the smaller guy countered to the body;
then stepped back and fiented another one.
“Don’t be lazy with that jab Will!”
The buzzer sounds and the green light changes to yellow.
Thirty seconds left in the round.
The smaller fighter is faster on his toes and quicker with his hands,
he goes once more to the body.
This time the bigger fighter deflects the blow
with his left elbow then one- two;
A left jab overhand right combination sends waves through the smaller fighters face
but he has heart and he has a good left hook.
He throws it wildly but it still connects to the jaw.
“Keep your left hand up when you throw that right Will!”
The larger fighter withstands the blow and throws a right cross downward to meet his smaller
opponent but he misses badly.
The buzzer sounds again and the light turns red, the round is over.
The larger fighter taps the smaller one respectfully on the top of his head gear with his glove.
They go to their corners heaving air in hard through their mouths.
The smaller fighter gets a mouth full of water from his trainer,
he spits it into the bucket.
The water comes out bright red.
The buzzer sounds and the light turns green.
The fighters come out for round two.
When Andre Comes
He walks in and the whole gym stops for a quarter second. Then when people realize who has come everyone starts working twice as hard like a power surge after a black out. The speed bag thuds fast like rain coming down in torrents on a rusted tin roof. The punching bag pops in a quick up tempo rhythm and the jump ropes whip the floor hard and fast like a mother spanking her child for public misbehavior.
It is a working man’s symphony
A harmonious cacophony
Everyone sweats but no one is tired. He walks into the gym as comfortably as a man walking into his own living room. His eyes intense but always relaxed. He is always relaxed. He does his mitt work relaxed. He spars relaxed, and he beats men into submission completely relaxed. His arms hang nearly to his knees as he walks toward his trainer. They stretch.
We work but we glance, some stare, but we all respect
Our Olympic gold medalist
Our fight when we are too weak to fight
Our Andre Ward