|KO KID||Saturday, 16th June|
|I have a lot of rage. I know I don’t seem like it, but I do. I keep it bottled away, which I’ve learned isn’t a good thing. So last year, I was driving somewhere in Hollywood and passed by a faded sign that read ‘Wildcard Boxing Gym.’ You couldn’t even see the gym from the road, you had to turn into the lot and drive in.|
I’ll always remember the first time I saw it. It didn’t even look like a gym. It was on the second floor of a decrepit two story building above a Chinese Laundromat. The paint was peeling, the window blinds closed. From inside I could hear the sounds of clenched fists hitting a speed bag.
I walked in and everyone seemed to just stop what they were doing and stare. All the fighters were ragged and had this menacing look. I reached into my pocket and made sure my wallet was secure.
I had discovered a secret boxing lair. In the land of beauty, fame and dreams was a place of blood, sweat and reality. The walls were lined with mirrors and cutout pictures of well-chiseled boxers. An old boxing ring was in the center of the room while large heavy bags hung from the ceilings. This was the real deal.
I started working out that day and have continued to make a trip to Wildcard twice a week. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to learn and respect the art of boxing and work off a lot of stress.
I’m not a bad, but certainly far from great or being considered a ‘prospect.’ I’ve been in the ring enough times with my trainer, Jason, to learn that I always drop my hands, and I get exhausted after a few rounds.
Jason is a former pro fighter. He is smaller than me, but won the New York Golden Gloves boxing award. He is a cool guy who never made the Olympic team, but one day hopes to be an actor like everyone else in this town.
I get along with almost everyone who works out there. The key word is ‘almost.’
The first time I saw ‘Baby Drago’ was a chance encounter. I was headed to my car and he was shadow boxing outside on the street. He was a white kid with a crew cut who always wore a gold warm-up jacket. He looks like a smaller version of the bad guy from Rocky 4 so I nicknamed him ‘Baby Drago.’ He is also very skilled with his hands and seemed to have been boxing a lot longer than me.
Sometimes when I worked out, I’d catch him watching. I thought he was measuring me up. We had the same proportions. Height, weight, arm reach. Which means, if we were real fighters, we’d be in the ring together.
One day I was wrapping hands (you wrap your hands with tape before you put on boxing gloves) and I heard a voice directly above me. “Let’s fight, three rounds.” I looked up, sure enough, there he was looking down.
“Lets fight!” He repeated. He had a baritone voice, and I was a bit taken back that he really did sound like a movie bad guy without the foreign accent.
“No thanks. I don’t spar.” Which was the truth. The only time I go into the ring was with a trainer who is there to teach me.
“Come on, just for fun!”
Wow-wee! Me getting punched in the face sounded like a great time!! “NO THANKS!”
A few weeks later, I was hitting the heavy bag and ‘Baby Drago’ comes up to me again. “Come on, lets go one round!” I looked at him incredulously and then continued with my workout without saying anything. “p****.” He turned and walked away.
One afternoon, I had just walked in the front entrance and sure enough, there was my new-found boxing friend using a jump rope. He saw me and quickly climbed into the ring.
“Hey! Taroon!” I was a bit surprised that he even knew my name because I rarely talk to him. “Hey! Lets go!” Now he was dancing around the ring, bouncing off the ropes and had this big stupid smile on his face.
At the time, I was at the gym with my friend Adam. I was in a really bad mood and was there because I really needed to hit something. “s**** this.” I said. “I don’t care what happens. “
It wasn’t till I got halfway to the ring that I realized that this was a big mistake. As playful as he looked, I knew that once I stepped inside he would try to knock me out. Normally you wear padded headgear, (which neither of us were wearing) so this was just a street fight with gloves in a boxing ring.
I could hear my heart beat though my shirt. Everybody was watching so I couldn’t back out. Like a captured sailor walking the plank, I climbed the stairs to the ring and was about to face doomsday.
“Hey!” I turned around and there was Jason, putting on his gloves. “I’ll go a few rounds! I need a workout!”
I let out a sigh of relief and went back to the floor. Baby Drago’s eyes widened as Jason climbed through the ropes. I knew what he was thinking. Professional fighters are on another level. They work their entire lives to learn how to take a shot and most importantly, hit back.
They fought. It lasted about 30 seconds. I could tell Jason wasn’t even trying and was holding his punches. Still, those Golden Glove hands moved lightning fast, throwing swift punch combinations. Baby Drago backed into the corner and waved off the onslaught.
Jason climbed back outside and hit me in the shoulder. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Next time you can fight.” He smiled and resumed working the speed bag in the corner.
“Yeah, next time.”
I happily resumed my workout in peace. I learned an important lesson that day. It’s good to have friends, and even better if those friends can kick a**.