Monthly Archives: July 2016

Sparring, speed-dating style

It wasn’t the 2 hour open session slot that got me in the end.  That was actually pretty civilized.  I had a shower afterwards and made myself a cup of tea and sat in the lounge while I waited for the kids class to finish.  It was the sparring.  Those old hurts got to me in the end.  Someone cuffed me on my bad elbow and I could feel that nerve crippling numbness shooting straight up my arm.  Anyway, I just shelled up and moved around for the rest of the round waiting for my elbow to stop throbbing.

It was a touch too busy.  You’ve got like sixteen or more people waiting to spar and the whole thing is like masochistic speed date where you find a partner, spar 3-minutes and then a minute’s rest and then find another partner.  The other problem is that if you’re not in a ring you’re just fighting to find some open floor space.  I can count a handful of occasions where I must have bumped into a hanging bag or some other guy.  I watched as one guy moved backwards, tripped over something and flew backwards straight onto his back, onto the mat.

I was so conscious of where I was in relation to everything else I didn’t feel like I could move feely enough at times.  It’s not like a ring where you know its set dimensions.

It does seem like a weird speed date because there’s such a mix of people of different abilities.  One kid had the strangest movement you’ve ever seen.  It was wild.  It was like watching Ben Stiller when he’s dancing in that movie Along Came Polly and he’s jigging side to side.  If I wasn’t concentrating so much I may have actually smiled.  I can’t see me going to something like this again any time soon.

I preferred the open training because it’s still only 4pm – people are at work, there’s only a handful of people – maybe five or so.  You can just walk up to someone and ask them if they fancy a spar. I don’t know how to describe that – it just feels like a more natural, organic experience.

I did actually approach someone with his trainer at the open training but he apologized and explained he’d just had laser eye surgery so he was strictly only doing pad work for a while.  That was a good conversation actually!

The speed dating-style sparring…  I got through seven rounds with different people. I missed having the guidance of one-to-one with someone watching over me pointing out stuff.  If you’re up against someone better they’ll give you some advice and there was a couple of people who spoke to me afterwards and I appreciated that.

… people learning to box are some of the friendliest people you’ll come across.  Everyone’s helpful.  Maybe it’s because it’s a hard sport to learn or that it can take so much out of you.  It’s like a strange family you don’t know but you share something underneath.

I was driving home and I was trying to think about what I had learned from that session.  Well, I tried using a Philly Shell defence and I actually really liked it so I think I’ll persevere with that kind of a style.  I managed to roll off a few blows to my head that glanced harmlessly off my shoulder.  There’s a whole lot of stuff to learn though.  Like when someone jabs I need to practice jabbing back over the top of it or hooking with my lead right and not just ducking.  General ring craft stuff.  There’s nothing like being humbled by other boxer to make you concentrate on how hard you have to work in future.

I’m looking forward to next time I’m home and Gary’s back from his holiday and I can hopefully show him some more stuff in the ring and he can give me some constructive feedback to work on.  Like I say, that’s what I missed most of all.  I don’t think I did too badly for a someone who’s just been boxing for a little under half a year but there’s a lot of learning ahead.

My elbow’s still sore this morning.  I had to brush my teeth with my other hand!  I need to rest.

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Studying boxing – trying to probe and defend

I was still thinking about my sparring experience from last week and how I reacted against Umar who had a slight size advantage and more experience.  I wasn’t throwing nearly as many punches against Umar because I was a lot more wary of him so I figure I need to learn and practice techniques for probing someone’s defence without getting whacked in the chin.

So what I enjoyed doing for some of yesterday was trawling YouTube for videos of pros and amateurs boxing.  I found a highlight reel someone made of Lomachenko’s, a gifted Ukranian southpaw boxer.  It was really interesting from a boxing perspective.  He’ll do things like “paw” away at your guard with light taps and then suddenly he’ll change the tempo and ferocity of his punch.  Another thing is he’ll feint a lot and watch your reaction and then he’ll employ the same feint again shortly after.  But because he knows how you’re going to react to it, Lomachenko will punch through whatever gap is created.  That all sounds like simple stuff but to have the intelligence and speed of thought to employ it while you’re in a fight is really impressive.  Plus his movement is really good.  In and out, side to side.  I really enjoyed watching him box on those videos.

I also caught some highlight reels of Floyd Mayweather Junior.  I never really watched any of his fights.  All I heard was that he “runs” and doesn’t want to box but when I watched the videos of him, I didn’t see a man running from anything.  His defence is absolutely amazing.  The way he tucks himself into that shell and just dips and rolls away from someone trying to hit him.  Most of the time his opponents are punching thin air.

I went on Expertboxing and used Pinterest to save little guides of the tricks Mayweather will try.  One thing he does is he’ll just sort of lunge in with a jab and he’ll just duck and roll away immediately after.  He’s just probing someone’s defence – something I need to learn to do.

I went on a run this morning to warm up and used my double end bag in my garage to practice the things I need for when I spar against someone.  So I tried probing jabs where I just come in and quickly duck out of the way of the bag.  Quick in; quick out.  I’d practice a quick two or three punch combination and get my body into a shell like I see Mayweather doing.  (I’m trying to create some muscle memory so that my reactions become more like an instinct)  I want my hands to automatically be in a certain position when I’m trying to pull away from someone.

I really enjoyed that session.  I’ll let you know if it helped when I try and put some of this stuff into practice next week but I’m a great believer in practice makes permanent.

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Those videos I studied below and the links so you can have a look if you’re interested!


Me and more boxing sparring

I was pretty relieved when Gary told me I’d be doing some more sparring today.  It’s another hot day in Glasgow (just for a change) and I’d just spent the whole morning trimming down a large seven foot high hedge, sawing off tree branches and mowing the lawn – all before midday.  I was pretty tired.

I couldn’t have faced another day of doing heavy bag drills!  I would have tried my best, don’t get me wrong but it would have ruined me.

Lewis was in again so I sparred three rounds with him.  He’s smaller than me so I have a height advantage but he wants to fight too so he’ll always come in and take a few shots just to get into my body.  He’s also a southpaw like me so it’s less complicated with regards to movement because my stance will always mirror his.

Umar was a different prospect.  An orthodox fighter who’s a  little larger than me with maybe 10 kg (22 lbs) on me.  He’s got much more ring experience and he moved like it too.  I don’t know – just something about the way a person will carry themselves inside the ring.

I actually know enough theory to know that I need to pivot around and stay on his outside but reading it and doing it is something completely different!  Maybe what’s happening is I’m too pensive.  I should be trying my hardest to dart fast around him and just come in with jabs over the top and leading right hooks.  I know it’s just gentle sparring but that doesn’t mean I can’t move my lazy arse and show some agility and some movement.  I was smaller and I was probably more agile too.  I should have used that to my advantage.  I’d better note that to myself for next time.

I spent a total of three rounds with Umar and it was good to get some practice against an orthodox fighter.  It was useful to experience the problems I’ll have facing people with an opposite stance.

I also practiced a couple of exercises with Gary and Umar… no contact but it was all movement based.  It involved me needing to “hunt down” Umar and keep on him and keep on his outside and Omar would try and evade me.  This felt a little strange and at times, I felt a little off balance trying to chase someone around the ring (probably because maybe I was off balance at times!) but it was useful again.

Umar and Lewis are two very different styles.  Lewis will come in and take a few shots in order to land some on me.  With Umar (maybe because of his experience and size) that was much more tactical.  It involved me wanting to size him up and trying to work out how to get around him so I could land something decent.  I didn’t throw nearly as many punches as with Lewis.  I’d have liked to have seen a video of myself to see what my guard and my movement was like.   But if it was bad, I know Gary would have told me off anyway!

Another thing I need to work on is that I jab and I don’t follow up enough.  It’s just a range finding punch but if it lands semi decent I should be following it up with other punches, pivoting round, and doing all kinds of things to make new angles for myself.  I’m still learning though and it is really enjoyable every time.

At the end I did one more round in the ring with Lewis for good measure.

Seven rounds doesn’t sound much but I was caked in sweat afterwards.  Wore the old face guard again.  It’s like the “condom wisdom”.  I’d rather have one and not need it than need it and not have it.  It’s true that by wearing a face guard, there are some people, who mistakenly think they’ve been given a license to hit you harder.  But as long as they don’t mind me hitting them just as hard, I can live with that.

Right now I’m sitting at home writing this and I’m pretty happy but my right arm is a little tired.  That old injury again where I have to do my old physiotherapy exercises to keep straightening my arm to maintain its range of movement.  It’s sore. Probably tired from jabbing and holding up a heavy-ass electric hedge trimmer.

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Umar practicing on the heavy bag

The benefits of deep-tissue massage

When someone grabs you on the shoulders or your back (or you grab them) and you hear these crunching sounds or encounter what feels like a hard ball under your skin – those things are called knots and they’re definitely not meant to be there.

I spend a lot of time in coach class on an aeroplane and although I’m not a big guy it can force your shoulders inwards (especially if you’re sitting between two bigger people).  A large part of my work is with computers and I stare at a lot of monitors – a bit like Homer Simpson, so my neck, head and shoulders are never in a good way.

As a boxer, that situation isn’t going to improve as you’re in a sport that requires your body to be compact and tucked in.  Your elbows are into your body, your chin is tucked in.  Your stance is intended to make yourself into a smaller target.

I try and help myself out:  Yoga-type stretches, neck and shoulder stretches etc, etc but some areas of your body you can’t reach by yourself.

I’ve actually been going to Rob, my masseuse, since I was maybe twenty-four years old.  That’s over twelve years he’s known me.  Even though I live in a completely different city – he’s the only guy I’ll go to regularly. (I’ve been to a lot of different parts of the world and had a lot of different experiences of massage!)

Finding a good masseuse is difficult.  There aren’t many.  You get the girls at the large hotel spas and beauty salons but they (very often) just follow a set pattern of movements around your body.  The pressure is so light it’s not doing you any good and if by chance they hit an area where you’re sore, they don’t spend extra time working that area because they’re following a set routine they’ve been taught.  No good and you’re paying a very premium price as well (if it’s attached to a fancy hotel).

Rob’s by far the best masseuse I’ve ever come across hands down.  The knowledge of where the pressure points are on the body, how to manipulate your muscles and joints so that the soreness and the knots get alleviated – you don’t often find someone with that depth of knowledge very easily.  The work he does on your neck and your head is phenomenal and worth paying just for that.

I’ll get a two hour massage every time I come home from an offshore trip.  So basically I get a massage six times a year and maybe it’s one of the most worthwhile and consistent things I’ve done throughout my adult life.

If I need an appointment with Rob I’ll have to maybe book, minimum, three weeks in advance.  Rob reached that stage, long ago, where he doesn’t need any advertising.  He’s got an established hardcore stream of loyal patients who’ll happily rave on about him but he’s truly that good.

When you’re comfortable with your body, and if you’re able to, find a good masseuse.  Even if you’re not too comfortable with your body – try to be! – and find someone who can look after it.  Make sure you feel comfortable with him/her.  You should go in and come out with all your pain reduced or completely removed.  I was lucky to have met Rob so early on because I’ve had plenty of massages on my travels that were nowhere near as technical or beneficial.

Look after yourselves and if you know you’re going to be in Edinburgh then look this guy up.  He’s got more than enough clients that he doesn’t need me to advertise for him but I truly think he’s possibly among the best in Scotland and the U.K.

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Rob McNicholl owns the practice Robert Stone Therapeutics in Edinburgh, Scotland

 

I’ve moved to a self-hosted site

As of yesterday, I’ve moved from WordPress.com to a self-hosted site.  That basically means that if you’re following my blog, unless you’re following via email, you won’t be notified whenever I publicize a new post.  It won’t appear in the Reader anymore.

If you want to continue being updated you can just go to my website and “follow by email” which is available on the sidebar.

I really enjoy interacting with my readers and try to comment where I can – it always gives me a lot of encouragement to see people replying to stuff so I think it’s really important.  I’ve also struck up some good friendships in the blogosphere and I’d love to carry on doing that as well.  I’ll be sure to log into WordPress regularly and check my reader.  I’ve already started to visit followers sites so I can follow them via email.

Thanks everyone!

 

Heavy bag drills on a hot day

23.1°C was the max temperature recorded by the Met today in Glasgow.  That’s 73.6°F.  Pretty warm for Scotland!  It was hard going in the gym today.  The heat that seemed to hang in the air… my arms weren’t tired from punching but my chest felt really heavy like I was fighting for more oxygen.

My trainer played a dirty trick on me today too.

Gary: Pick a number from one to nine.

Me: Errr, okay… seven.

Gary: Okay that’s seven of the heavy bags.  So you’re going to do a two minutes on each bag followed by 30 seconds of fast punching and then I’ll give you an exercise of ten reps, (push-ups, jumping squats or crunches) and then onto the next bag.

Me: Shit.

I was wasted just after three of those bags.  Imagine how I felt when I looked at the other side of the room at the other four bags waiting for me.  I had very-little to nothing-left when I reached the last bag.

I enjoyed some of the pad work too.  There’s something really satisfying about popping some light shots off a pad that someone’s holding.  I got some slip training in as well – rolling my shoulders so that blows glance off me.  I’d love to do more of that so I can become quicker at it and become one of those really annoying slick fighters with good head movement.  Hard to hit, technically good so I could box my way out of trouble rather than be a brawler.  That was my dream but I don’t think you can pick the type of boxer you become anymore than you can pick whether you’re a man or a woman.  You are what you are and eventually your true nature reveals itself.

I had this moment near the end where I looked at Gary and said… “I’ll do whatever you want  me to.  I’m yours for this hour.  Just call it chief and I’ll do my best.”

Maybe it sounds hokey but I like moments like that.  That’s a warrior’s promise.  Yes I’m paying for Gary’s time but if you give me your time, I’ll forsake whatever physical disadvantages I have and be the best boxer I can be.  A person’s body, your physical beauty  – whether you believe that’s God-given or an act of nature – it has a finite shelf life and because of that, your journey and the destination, you have to think about it a little.  What do I want from this?  – That kind of thing.

I have to admit though… I miss the adrenaline rush and the buzz of being inside the ring.  It’s weird.  Nothing seems to compare to it.  I have practiced Kendo which is a Japanese form of fencing but nothing compares to that feeling I had being inside a ring.  You feel so alive, so wired up.

I miss it and I feel a bit like a junkie wondering when my next fix is going to be.  Gary’s taking some vacation time next week.  He’s back to Australia for two weeks so I’m fitting two one-to-one sessions this week before he goes so I don’t lose training time with him.

I think what I may do while he is away is drive down to SK Boxing Gym down in Govan – they have a couple of nights where they have an hour’s session dedicated to sparring…

… I’m hoping I can find a dance partner.

One thing though… I’m a student of Lusby’s Boxing Gym, Gary’s my trainer and although we’re not a large gym I’m very proud of those roots.  Whatever gym I choose to practice at – whoever I’m sparring against, I never forget that.

Gary on the right, me on the left at Lusby’s Boxing Gym.

Making shapes with shadow boxing

 

I spend a lot of time searching YouTube for pro boxers and their shadow boxing routines.  Something to do with my trainer always telling me to keep loose and keep flowing so I’m always looking for examples.

I started learning to shadow box by reading a guide by Johnny N then watching YouTube videos of Paul Williams, Manny Pacquiao, then Amir Khan, even an Instagram clip of Ivan Delgado.  Yesterday I came across Chris Eubank Junior’s 10-minute warm up.

His warm up was really impressive.  He’s stretching all his limbs and in between he’s shadowboxing – really small arm and shoulder movements at times but what I found impressive was watching him practice shifting his body weight:  A small step back, a little shuffle right, a subtle tilt of his body left.  Really deliberate.  It was like watching a sleek panther limbering up and moving.  Just watching him made me want to  start throwing and that was around midnight.

Like watching performance art.


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You’re always lucky if you find something that makes you feel free.  Exercise can be a horrible thing (I personally hate interval training!) but I don’t think of boxing as exercise (or football/soccer) – more about expression.  Hope everyone reading this has an activity that makes them feel the same.  It’s good to unburden the soul.

My first supervised sparring session

 

The sparring? – That was great!  I can’t even remember the name of the kid I was sparring with – that’s really bad – I went off on a tangent writing this – that’s why my memory has gone.

It was just light stuff – no need for even a gum shield but I chose to wear my face guard because I didn’t know the guy.  I didn’t know how hard he would hit.  Plus I hate it when I get punched in the face and it knocks out a contact lens.  I thought it would be good to get used to wearing a face guard… and lastly in the back of my mind… maybe I thought the face guard would encourage the kid to come at me a bit more.

Hmmm I was catching him in the face a little more than he was catching me (at least that’s how I felt it was going) and I read somewhere that the person who’s stronger should  let up a little and try and encourage the other guy to box more.  So I tried not to discourage the kid completely by unloading non stop and not let him get near me.  I was fitter as well but I knew the kid had spent the week boozing at the T-In-The-Park Music Festival so he hadn’t exactly been conditioning himself prior to today.

I tried to work on my movement a little and tucking into my guard just to get used to taking a few body shots.  I think we had something like a total of 3 rounds of 2-minutes.  I got some good feedback from Gary afterwards.  I was a little stiff in my movement and I need to just relax everything and flow a little better.

I really enjoyed it and I hope it didn’t put off the other guy either.  He’d just started out as well.  (Jeez why can’t I remember that kid’s name!? – Was it Kevin?) – I asked Gary if he was in his early twenties – he was seventeen.  Seventeen.

I would love more practice at sparring.  I told Gary that’s where I wanted to be.  Eventually I’d like to get my medical card so I can box at amateur level, competitively.  There are a couple of clubs that offer days that are just sparring and if I start to go to some of those evenings regularly I’d improve but if Gary can find me regular people I can spar with and help with my ring craft then that’s even better.

I always get a little nervous coming back to my trainer.  I try and reason it out and I think maybe I just care about Gary’s opinion and I wouldn’t want him to look at me training, one day and think he was wasting his time.

In a fantastical, ideal world, I’d be 27 years old (not 37) and I’d at least have a chance to win something where Gary would need to put up a shelf to hang a trophy on. Some small amateur competition or a piece of fighting memorabilia like a fight poster of mine.

There’s nothing wrong with an older man dreaming. 🙂

Some things you do in life are purely for your own selfish reasons – maybe even ashamedly so at times but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the people close to me… Helping me, training me, putting up with me day in, day out.

Even if they despise this sport I love, or can’t see or feel what I see and feel when I lace up my gloves.

I always imagine my first competitive amateur fight will be alone – I don’t think I’d want anyone I know to see me go through something like that.  But it doesn’t mean they’re not in my thoughts in some deep recess where my heart and guts are.

People can think you don’t care because you never call, or you’re never at some family function/special occasion. Maybe you haven’t taken time to meet a new baby that just popped out but those people are always part of you.  I see their faces and hear their voices for a split second when I’m struggling to push myself up or when I’m crying into my towel.  I love those people.  They don’t know it but I can make their strength my own and even on the bad days when I hate myself, I can convince the damaged part of me that I can still do anything.  That it’s not too late.

Is that being over dramatic?  What was this about again?…

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It was a great feeling being in a ring.  It really was.

 

Back at home

Hmm what can I write about?  You ever get that?

Well I’ve been training away and that’s a normal part of my life now so nothing really new there.  Went to Lusby’s during the open mat slot around 16:00 and I was pretty much on my own but that was fine. I lent my iPod to one of the Filipinos, Sherwin, back on the boat.   Sherwin’s iPod broke down and he’s away at sea for three months at a time and I felt bad for him so that was my good deed but I could have done with having my iPod with me, today.

I always get a touch nervous going to my own gym.  Maybe because my trainer is in there and I don’t want to look like a moron.  I needn’t have worried on this occasion.  I was pretty much alone but I managed to get a decent workout and I needed to get a feel for the place again before I come in again this Thursday.  Different gyms have different atmospheres and vibes.  I need to acclimatize a little.

I’ve done a lot of bag work while I was offshore.  To be honest, this time round I’m hoping to learn more ring craft stuff but I’ll speak to Gary and ultimately he’ll determine when I’m ready to learn more. But like the guy said in the movie Creed…

– Kid’s hungry, you gotta feed him sometimes.

I’m enjoying my writing too, just now.  I sent a manuscript for a short story to a couple of publications for some feedback so I’m waiting on that.  Could be a couple of months though. I find it’s quite an anti-social thing being a writer.  I zone out because I’m concentrating a lot on what I’m writing but that’s not good for Emma because it’s bad enough my work takes me away for half the year.  It’s like the boxing though – I just don’t want to waste any more time because suddenly I’m aware that I’m not getting any younger.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all that old either but I don’t have so much time I can casually piss away.  Procrastination is a terrible thing.

Certain topics are easier to write than others.  The boxing stories like The Journeyman I wrote just seem to flow – it’s easier than writing something like a Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings style fantasy.  You don’t have to imagine whole worlds and  create stuff in your head from scratch.  I was thinking of maybe writing a larger fictional story.  Boxing themed again.  Something cathartic, on the theme of redemption – the stuff I wanted the movie Southpaw to be but (for me) didn’t quite manage.

We’ll see. I’m starting to build up a list of writing projects.  Some of them are more ambitious than others.  I’m not such a prolific writer that I can just crap out works of fiction.  My friend Vicki (a writer) was right… It’s important to finish something.  So many ideas never see the light of day – or the light at the end of the tunnel.  I needed to write some shorter stories so that I could know what finishing a story felt like.

The boxing training’s important to me, too.  I can’t always explain it so gracefully but I want to be good in a ring. I don’t want to go in there and look like I’ve just been taken out of a pub brawl.  It’d be nice to look back on all of this some day and say: Yeah, I could box a little bit.

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The Journeyman (a short story)

“Alright Law that’s you done for today.”  I bent my head back and blew hard air.

I stood shattered as all around me, the other patrons of Macklin’s Gym continued to work.  The air was filled with the usual three-beat drumming of the speed bags, the sound of wire ropes striking the wooden floor and the “Shhhh, shhhh” of people shadowboxing in the corner of the room.

“How did I do, Al?” I asked.

“Nae bad this time son.” Al said in his rich Glaswegian brogue. “Could use a polish.  You need to stay looser and you’ve got a fair way to go yet.”

I nodded.  Maybe I was slightly despondent because Al’s face lit up.  “Aye, but I’ll make a boxer of you yet.”  The old man slapped me on the back a couple of times for good measure.

Albert “Doc” Docherty had been a pro boxer back in the day.  Born in Glasgow, Scotland and parents from Ireland. Albert worked two jobs in his youth. A full day down at a construction site was followed by a bar shift pouring drinks for the city slicksters in the wealthy part of the Merchant City. But even the daily toil of the work site and the late nights rarely deterred Albert from the two training sessions a day he’d somehow fit in.

In the mornings he would flip the mattress of his bed over to make a primitive punchbag much to his parent’s consternation.  This was followed by a five mile run to his day job on the construction site. When that shift ended, he would run down to the gym to train before showering and beginning his night shift at the bar.  And while the other employees enjoyed some banter and their free drink at the end of the night, Albert was already making his way home to sleep only to begin the whole cycle again the next day.

The name “Doc” had nothing to do with his surname Docherty which was a common misgiving.  His long time friend and business partner Gordon Macklin made a rare visit to the gym one day.  On that occasion he came over to talk to Albert while I was mid-session. While Albert disappeared into the office, Gordon decided to verse me in some boxing history.

“What a jab he had.”  Gordon said.

“Surgical.

“That’s why we called him “Doc”. It wouldn’t matter how hard you covered up he’d find that gap and the angles he’d throw it from.” Gordon shook his head as if the solution still eluded him.

“He had some power as well.  He could be two inches from you but he could still knock the wind out of you. We’d spar together since we were kids but once we grew up a bit and Doc started to get some strength, you couldn’t get near him.  He was a different class.”

I’d done my homework on him. The Doc had been a genuine contender in the welterweight division back in the day.  Back when the titles were far fewer and the opposition in that particular division had an abundance in riches.  A detached retina had cut his career short before it really had a chance to blossom but Albert, who had a heart even larger than his talent, scraped together enough money to put himself through college and studied architecture.  Long years after a successful business behind him, he returned together with Gordon, to his first great love which was boxing.

I asked him if he ever regretted his career ending so soon but all he did was smile and say.  “I think maybe that was the Good Lord’s way of wanting me to go one better and teach these good folk how to box instead.”

He meant it too.  The Doc’s boxing legacy was pinned on the far wall where numerous black and white photos stood.  There was the standard “fists up” pose but my favourite was a picture of Gordon and Albert maybe no more than seventeen or eighteen together with several men, part of a construction site.  How callow they both looked compared to the men standing next to them.  The whole world was there for them and as faded as that photo was today, the Doc’s eyes were still shining.

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I walked towards the ring trying to bite apart the knot tying my gloves and watched one boxer training with another.  “Come on, come on. Work him son.  Work him.”  Called out the trainer at the ropes.

I watched as a young boxer put a fast series of combinations together only for the other, boxer to slip them casually and turn him round into the ropes.

“Let me help you with that son.”

“Thanks Al.” I said giving him my glove.

“He’s good.” I said nodding at the other boxer in the ring.  He was wearing a faded grey Nike T-shirt

Him?” Said Al. I nodded.

“Would you believe me if I told you he’s lost a hundred fights.”

“No way!” I said.

“Aye. Don’t let that statistic fool you son. When I tell the youngsters that, they start to take the mick and make fun of him but you know what? None of those youngsters can do what he does. His offense isn’t so great but…” he paused and smiled.  “One of the best defences in the country I reckon.”

I watched as I saw the boxer land a seemingly flawless punch that sprayed sweat into the sky but the man in the faded Nike T-shirt only smiled and seemed to laugh it off.  “…Only don’t you go telling him that.” Said Al.  “Riot Act’s got a big enough ego as it is.”

“Riot Act?” I said laughing.

Al chuckled and nodded.

I walked into the office which was neatly tucked away in the back of the gym. My month’s fees were due.  Gordon the gym’s owner, rarely visited nowadays and Albert was more of a coach and trainer.  The man who did most of the administration and book work was another man named Steve Sidwell.  He was on the phone and just waved me in.

“Yeah, yeah.” Steve said on the phone.  He motioned me to sit down and then he made another gesture that indicated he’d only be a few seconds.

“You don’t say? I’m not sure pal.  It’s pretty short notice.  Most of my guys are unavailable.  Maybe.  I think I can have someone lined up though.  Yeah OK cheers.  I’ll let you know.”  Steve put the phone down.

“You okay? What can I do you for son?”

“My month’s fees are due.”  I said.  Just then there came a knock at the door.

“Hey Sid you wanted to see me?”  Said a voice.

“Danny boy!” Said Steve gregariously.  Steve looked at me.  “Sorry son, this won’t take a few minutes.” He said apologetically.

I turned round and there was the man named Riot Act.  He had taken off his face guard now but he still had his gloves on.  I put him in his early thirties.  His hair was short and it was the type that despite being sweaty still managed to look good.

“How much do you weigh just now?” Said Steve.

“One-four-seven. Why?” Said Danny.

“That’s close enough.  Are you free tonight? Just got a last minute call from Iain McGregor up in Glasgow.  They’ve had a last minute cancellation.  Their man’s come down with some kind of stomach bug and they need someone for tonight’s fight.”

“I don’t know man.  Karen and me are supposed to be going out tonight.”

“Come on Seds.” Said Steve in a pleading tone. “It’s a nice little earner. Three grand.”

“Who am I meant to be fighting?”

“Some new kid looking to make a name for himself. The usual thing.  Who cares? What do you reckon?”

“Sixty-forty.” Said Danny.

“The usual.  Sixty for me.  Forty for you.” Said Steve.

“Fuck that. Sixty for me. Forty for you.  You’re the desperate one remember?  Unless you know another fighter at one-four-seven who can fight tonight.”

Steve started to laugh. “Nice try Seds. I’ll tell you what, since I’m in a jam for fighters. I’ll make this a one off fifty-fifty right down the middle. Job’s cash in hand.”

“Fifty-fifty then. And you’re driving.  Get another guy as well.”

“Another guy?”  Frowned Steve.

“I’m not staring at your ugly mug for six rounds.  Find another guy for our corner.”

“Are you serious?  It’ll cost us.”  Steve said.

“Yeah I’m serious. No offence but you’re fucking depressing company as well.  I’m not spending five hours in a car with you.”

“Well he can get paid out of your share then.  Where the fuck am I going to find a guy from at this short notice?”

“What about you Bruce Lee?”  Said Riot Act looking at me.

“Jesus.” Said Steve with his head in his hands.

“Me?” I said looking at him.

“Yeah.” Danny winked.  “I’ve seen you training around the gym. Know anything about being a corner man?”

“No.” I said laughing.

“There’s nothing to it. Hold some water for me to sip, a bucket for me to spit in, wipe my head and face occasionally.  You ever been to a fight? Ringside seat.  Think of it as some work experience kid.”

“Work experience?” I laughed and did he just call me Kid? I was probably older than he was.

“What’s my take?” I said.

“The thrill of watching The Riot Act isn’t enough for you?  You should come man.”

“What time’s the fight?” I said.

“I don’t know, what time is the fight Steve?”

“Eight.” Said Steve.

“Eight.” The Riot Act repeated looking at me.

This whole thing was becoming surreal but I was actually really enjoying it.  I thought about all the bargaining programmes I’d watched on television  Dominic Littlewood sprang to mind.  “Boys I’m not doing it for free.”  I said.  “My month’s gym fees and throw in a nice dinner after the fight and I’ll come.”

The Riot Act grinned and nodded. “Alright Bruce.”  He said approvingly.

I have to admit, even with the racial jokes I liked the guy immediately.  He had charisma in abundance.  It was just impossible not to warm to the guy.  He had something about him.  He was like a slick salesman but without the dick factor.

“Your gym fees are on Steve and guess what Steve?  Dinner’s on Steve too.” Said The Riot Act winking at Steve.  “I know this nice place.  Good lighting.  Good food.  Pretty waitresses.  Good enough for you Bruce?”

Here was this guy, a professional fighter and he was inviting me to go ringside with him.  Was I honestly going to turn that down? “Sure. I’ll do it.” I said.

“Good man.” Said the Riot Act. “What’s your name?”

“Law.”  I said.

“That a first name or a last name?”

“Last”

“What’s your first name?”

“Detroit.” I said.

“Fuck off.” Said Riot Act grinning.  “That’s never your real name.” That was a reaction I was used to by now.  I took out a credit card from my wallet and showed it to him.

“That’s really your name man.  Fuck me.  What a name.” He said grinning. “You’re like an oriental McLovin”

Even I hadn’t heard that one before.  I started to laugh.

“I’m getting good vibes from this.  I’m Danny.  Danny Seddon. Most of my mates just call me Dan or Seds.” The Riot Act held out a glove.  I made a fist and gave it a light thump.  He nodded and grinned.

“Alright.  We’re on for tonight then.”

“What time is it now?” I said.

“Ten-thirty-seven.” Said Steve.  “It’s about a six hour drive up to Glasgow.  Let’s meet up in a couple of hours back here and we’ll drive up.  I’ve got to pop out quickly and run some errands.

“Where’s the fight?” Asked The Riot Act.

“MGM.  Bellahouston.”

“I know the place.” Danny said looking at me.  “I’m going home to get my other shit together and talk to Karen, I’ll see you boys later.”

#

“Nice glasses.” He said looking at me.  We were in the car park.

“Thanks”. I said.

“Where the fuck is he?”  Said the Riot Act.  “I thought I was late.”

I had no idea.  “Not sure.” I said.

He stood there in his Todds and jeans, a well-tailored black shirt and a leather jacket.  He could have easily come off a catwalk in Milan but somehow gave the impression he didn’t give a shit.  I was wearing something not too dissimilar but I was convinced I didn’t look nearly as good.  I was beginning to feel like Hiro Nakamura stood next to David Beckham.  Lucky bastard.

The Riot Act took out his pristine looking Samsung Edge and dialled Steve Sidwell’s number.  “Useless.  It’s engaged.  You wouldn’t think it possible for a person to be non-contactable in this day and age but there you go.”

“It’s starting to get a bit late.” I said.

“Fuck it.  We’ll just have to go without him.”

“Can we do that?”  I asked.

“I’ve had a few fights for MGM.  I’ve been there a few times.  They know me over there.”

“Do you want me to drive us in my car?”  I asked.

“Mine’s due a service actually.  Better to play it safe and take yours if you don’t mind… unless you drive a Robin Reliant or some other piece of shit.  Please tell me it’s road worthy.”

“It’s road worthy, don’t worry.”  I said.

We piled our stuff into my Jeep Cherokee and began to set off.

“Nice ride.” The Riot Act said.

“Yeah, it’s okay.” I said.  “Steering’s a little light but it’s not a bad drive.  Probably wouldn’t go for one again.  If you know anyone looking for a Jeep Cherokee for sale…”

“What do you do for a living Law-man?”

“I work offshore.”

“Like on the rigs?”

“No, on the boats.  It’s IT-type, boring stuff.”

“How long are you away for?”

“Five weeks on, five weeks off.”

“What’s that like?”

“Okay. You probably spend your five weeks off trying to cram everything you missed in your five weeks away – miss every other birthday, every other Christmas, every other anniversary etc etc but I like it.  Pays the bills.”

“What about you?  How long have you been pro for?”

“Thirteen years.”  Answered the Riot Act.

I knew this already having Googled him up but it was good to get a conversation flowing.

“Nine wins, a-hundred-and-one losses and one draw.” He continued.

“A hundred-and-one losses?!” I said. I knew this too but as I looked at The Riot Act, that all too familiar grin had spread infectiously across his face and we both sat there laughing.  Slowly at first and then for some reason it turned into uncontrolled laughter.  “How the hell does that happen?”  I said wiping a tear away from my eye.

“You ever heard of the word journeyman?”

I nodded.  “Do you know what one is?”

I racked my brain.  “Not sure.  What is it? Like someone who practices his trade all over the place?”

“Not quite.” Said the Riot Act. “Boxing’s basically a business Law-man, first and foremost.  No matter what they say about the Noble Art and the Marquis of Queensbury and all that other shit. Boxing’s business – especially small hall boxing.  Let’s say you’re young and starting out. Your typical manager doesn’t necessary go for the guy with the most talent although don’t get me wrong, that does play a part.  It’s down to which fighter can sell the most tickets.  It’s a popularity contest.  Doesn’t matter if a fighter’s technically great – it’s useless unless they can fill a hall.  So that’s your first hurdle right away.  You need to be able to sell.  So once your hall is full that brings you to another matter.  The home and away fighter.”

The Riot Act continued to explain:

“Home and away fighter has nothing to do with geography or where you’re from.  It refers to more the support or the manager that owns the venue.  You’re a manager with this up and coming fighter, your hall is full and it’s full of support for your new boy but you need someone to fight against.  Now it’s important to keep your boy popular so he can keep selling tickets and that’s where someone like me comes in.  The away fighter.  I’ll come in and take that fight.  I get paid and in return I’ll box.  I’ll give that guy a boxing education, blood him a little but I’m not necessarily there to win.  A guy like me will take it all the way to the last round in most cases.  Then, it’s down to a points decision and unless I pull off an incredibly convincing performance, it’ll be the home fighter that wins.  The home fighter, mister up-and-coming-popular gets another win on their record. The crowd goes home happy eager for the next fight and the away fighter, me, gets paid and I go off to the next fight.”

I sat there fascinated.  “Sounds depressing.” I said voicing my immediate thoughts aloud.  “Don’t you ever want to win?  Don’t you ever get tired of losing?”

“At first yeah but let’s say I do win then the first thing that happens is I won’t get a call for a long time.

“What manager is going to put their prospect up against someone unpredictable who might hand their boy a beating?  They lose out.  No more tickets, the hot prospect’s name loses a little bit of its shine and someone like me won’t get another fight anytime soon.  No income.”

The next few minutes were held in silence as we both considered the realities.

“Journeyman.  A worker or sports player who is reliable but not outstanding.” Riot Act recited.

As we edged closer to Glasgow I began to get more of a feel for Danny Seddon.  Despite his losing record the Riot Act was a consummate professional.  He fought across two weight divisions sometimes taking three or four fights a month.  He had built an arsenal of survival tricks throughout his a-hundred-and-twelve fight career in which he hadn’t suffered a cut for the last fifty fights.  Any injury meant the boxing board would prevent him from boxing for twenty eight days.  Twenty eight days where he would have no income.

He worked in hostile venues where the crowd would mostly be against him.  Venues where he endured horrendous abuse at times.  The Riot Act told me how in the early days, Karen, his wife of eight years, accompanied him to one of those venues and left in tears unable to listen to the vitriol of the home crowd.  That was the first and last time he ever took her to one of his fights.

#

When I heard “MGM” I’d pictured a glamorous hotel with bright lights, lasers and dry ice.  What I got was a dressed up sports hall in Bellahouston.

We were sat in the temporary office of the manager of one Jamie McGowan, one of those young hopeful types that the Riot Act had described on the journey up.  Jamie’s manager was a swarthy, overweight man named Freddie Benson.  He eyed the two of us suspiciously and while I’d warmed to the Riot Act immediately, the reverse seemed to be true for this man Freddie Benson.  He had an unfortunate squashed, pig-like face and stone eyes that held a lifetime supply of suspicion and mistrust.  He was flanked by two toughs, in muted silence, wearing matching over-tight T-shirts.  They stood like two stone gargoyles.

“So where’s Steve then?” He asked.

“He couldn’t make it.” Said the Riot Act.

“He mentioned he had someone lined up.  So you’re Danny Seddon.”

“Guilty.” Smiled Riot Act.

There was no humour in Freddie Benson’s face.  “Two grand.  You’ll get your money after the fight.”

The Riot Act looked at me and I stared back at him.  Maybe it was because I was the elder statesman but I suddenly felt compelled to say something.

“Excuse me, Mr. Benson, but Steve said Mr. Seddon’s cut would be three-thousand.”  Mr. SeddonI liked that.  So did the Riot Act, I think.  He nodded approvingly at me.

“That’s right Mr.Benson.” Said the Riot Act. “I know…”  But he was cut off abruptly by Benson.

“You don’t like the terms of the agreement then you and the chink can fuck off back over Hadrian’s Wall.”

Freddie Benson leant back in his chair and fixed his stone eyes on him.  The Riot Act turned and looked at me as if he wasn’t sure he heard Freddie Benson correctly.  He gave me a look and it was the same thing I was thinking.  Who the hell is this guy?

“Money up front.” Said the Riot Act.

“Fuck off.  Half now; half later.”

“Law-man we’re out of here.” Said Riot Act never taking his eyes away from Freddie Benson.  “How many people are in this place? A thousand? Two thousand? What is that fifty, maybe a hundred grand?  Good luck refunding those ticket sales mate.”

The Riot Act got up.  So did I.  We were just about to turn when Freddie Benson spoke up. “Wait.”

He slid open one of his drawers and took out two bricks of notes and placed them on the table.  The Riot Act laughed and shook his head in mock disbelief.  “Maybe you didn’t hear Law-man earlier but the deal was for three grand.”

“Maybe you didn’t hear me earlier.” Said Freddie Benson getting up.  He leaned forward placing his two fat arms on the desk.  “My deal was with Steve Sidwell – not fucking Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Two grand up front.  That’s your deal.”

The Riot Act walked forward, leaned over the desk and placed a hand on the cash.  He quickly snapped his head sideways cracking Freddie Benson’s jaw.  The two Gargoyles stepped forward instantly.  “HOLD IT!” Commanded Benson.  The two toughs froze in their tracks.

Freddie Benson glared at the Riot Act nursing his busted lip.

“They’re bloody good.” Said Riot Act.  “What breed are they?”

“I wouldn’t get stupid if I was you.”  Said Benson.

“No, they’re here already.”  Said the Riot Act nodding at the two gargoyles.

“That was for insulting my friend.” The Riot Act said.

Freddie Benson smirked.  He brought out a white handkerchief and dabbed the side of his lip which was already starting to swell.

He looked up at one of the gargoyles.  “Take them both to their changing room.”

#

“YOUR WIFE’S GONNA BE A FUCKING WIDOW SEDDON!”

“YOU’RE FUCKING SHITE SEDDON!”

And those were some of the nicer insults aimed at us on the way to the ring.  This wasn’t the largest hall in the world but at that moment it felt incredibly claustrophobic.  “Thanks for earlier.” I said to Riot Act.

“Forget it.” He said above the catcalls.  “I’m a fan of Chinese food as much as the next guy.”

I had to laugh at that.

“That fucking arsehole Benson.” He said.  “I’m still fucked off at this whole thing.”

“Just forget it and try and concentrate on the fight.” I said.

I climbed up into the ring.  “I’ve never done this before, you know.”

“Piece of piss Law-man. You’ll pick it up no problem. Just be handy with the water and the bucket.  Keep my face mopped.  Bit of vaseline.  Bright lad like you.  It’ll be a doddle.”

We watched as the home fighter made his way into the ring.  He had to be in his very early twenties.  A mop of dark hair.  We watched as he did a little shuffle and shadowbox to the delight of the spectators.  Young Jamie McGowan appeared to be milking every drop of the adulation.  The Riot Act looked at me, nodded to Jamie, and rolled his eyes heavenward.  His face said it all.  Young, dumb and too full of cum.

What a buzz this was though.  I’d never felt anything like it.  I loved this next bit.  Always have.  The part where the Ring Announcer introduced the two fighters.  His rich baritone filled the entire sports centre.

“Fighting in the blue corner hailing from Kensington, London, in the purple and black shorts… weighing a hundred and forty seven pounds.  His record at nine wins, a hundred-and-one losses and one draw. Ladies and gentlemen, one of the great servants of boxing. Daaanieeel, Riooot Act… Seddon.”

A chorus of boos filled the hall.

“SEDDON YOU’RE FUCKING SHITE MAN!” Came a loud call followed by laughter.  The Riot Act turned round.  Looking in the vague direction of the catcall… I watched as the Riot Act grabbed his balls and made a couple of kissing gestures, grinning the whole time and sparking a new wave of auditory bile.

I read the tattoo on his back just below the neck.  Nemo vir est qui mundum non reddat meliorem. I’d have to ask him about that one later.

“… Fighting out of the red corner weighing in at a-hundred-and-forty-six pounds, his record stands flawless at four wins, no losses and no draws.  Hailing from Bellahouston, Glasgow, Jaaaamie Govan McGowan.”

There was a deafening roar that I swear, shook the sports centre.

“Hey what does that tattoo say on your back?” I asked rinsing his mouthguard.

“It’s something the old man said to me when I was a kid.”  He said casually.

“What’s that?”

He was about to answer when he glanced at the referee waving him over.  “Showtime.”  He flashed me a grin and opened his mouth.  I popped in the mouthguard.  He punched me once on the shoulder and winked.

I wasn’t sure if it was the absurdity of my day getting to me… or maybe it was the Riot Act’s little display in Freddie Benson’s office.  Or perhaps it was the fact that we were alone in this sports hall packed with people baying for the Riot Act’s blood.  I mean, yeah The Riot Act looked annoyingly like David Beckham version two-point-zero.  Did I mention he had virtually every woman we walked past doing a double take?  He was like a vampire draining what little confidence I had in my ability with the opposite sex.   He also had this shit-eating grin.

But with all this stuff going on…  fuck me, I could almost feel myself welling up as he strode over to ring centre.

The bell sounded and I watched as the Riot Act trotted out.  They sized each other up, just out of punching range, the Riot Act’s head and shoulders turning slightly and bobbing.  McGowan flashed out a combination that the Riot Act just casually rolled off his shoulders.

This maybe went on for a minute and although I had a limited boxing IQ, a realization hit me and I knew for certain, the Riot Act knew it too.

The Riot Act was technically a better boxer than Jamie McGowan.

McGowan couldn’t get anywhere near him and the Riot Act knew it.  I was about to get a lesson in why Danny Seddon was named “Riot Act”.

For the next six rounds the Riot Act went through his entire repertoire…

He would dance and pivot around McGowan and instead of counter punching he’d slap McGowan on the arse.  He grinned and grabbed his balls repeatedly at McGowan’s supporters.  He would kiss McGowan when they clinched.  He pretended to wobble and hold his glove to his forehead feigning dizziness from a couple of McGowan’s punches that had no hope of hitting him.  On a few occasions McGowan would appear to catch him flush with the odd punch that sent sweat spraying into the sky but the Riot Act would hold his glove to his mouth and make an “Ooooooooh!” gesture like Kenneth Williams from a Carry On movie.  He’d wave his glove side to side in a “Naughty, naughty.” Gesture and just laugh.

He just completely took the piss.

Even the home support was starting to laugh and celebrate with him.  It was insane.  The referee had warned the Riot Act a few times already but never really acted further.  In fact, I think I caught the referee laughing on more than one occasion.  The Riot Act was having a great time as well.  When the bell rang he’d plonk himself on the stool I brought out, arms resting out wide on the ropes – like he was sat in a jacuzzi.  Jamie McGowan would stare at him from across the ring with daggers coming out of his eyes  and the Riot Act would wink back, or make a kiss gesture with his lips.

“You’re doing a first class job Godzilla.” He said to me at the end of Round Four.

“Godzilla’s Japanese.”  I said laughing.  Then Riot Act looked at me and pulled a face like Kenneth Williams in Carry On.  That now familiar “Oooooooh” that he occasionally flashed at McGowan whenever he got hit.

Riot Act looked ridiculous when he did that.  The thing is, he did that impersonation so well.  It was hilarious.  He had me in stitches round after round.  I almost had to use the sponge to wipe the tears from my eyes.

McGowan had to endure six rounds of misery before the final bell ended.  The judges had no choice but to score 58-57 in favour of The Riot Act and believe me, that score really flattered McGowan.

From what the Riot Act told me in the car, a journeyman fighter will, very occasionally, get paid extra to “show a fighter around” and that was as blatant as you could get without saying “Let my man win” but in most cases, the away fighter wasn’t meant to win.  The thing is, I think The Riot Act was still pissed at Freddie Benson and the way the whole evening had started.

I don’t think it happened often but tonight, I don’t think journeyman Daniel Seddon cared that he was the away fighter.

#


20160617_003604

Daniel Seddon and the story of “The Journeyman” was something I thought up while reading a book by Mark Turley. Some things just flow and I really enjoyed writing this to the point where I turned it over pretty quickly.  It’s my attempt at one of those funny boxing stories. The rest of the manuscript is tucked safely away but I honestly hope it’s enjoyable.  I’ll dedicate it to the hard grafting athletes, and workers out there.  Those men and women that are often forgotten amid the glitz, glamor and razzmatazz.  If you’re interested try looking up Jody Meikle, journeyman and true entertainer.