Friday, February 17, 2012

On Boxing (Apologies to Ms Oates)

The squeezette and I finally made our way to boxing training. I say finally because we have been intending to get down there for several months, but put it off on the grounds that we needed to get fit and lose some weight before we actually went to boxing training to get fit and lose some weight.
Our boxing gym of choice was an ancient community hall hidden under an overpass in the back streets of Oakleigh. How did we find it? As you drove up the overpass, if you were quick enough and glanced to your left you were met with an ancient sign full of detail: Boxing Gym. Naturally, this example of marketing expertise was enough to force us to turn left then turn left again, then almost give up - where was this damn hall? We parked the car and went walking. We found what seemed to be the hall, but our 21st century need for signage made us doubt ourselves. Fortunately, an old guy (76) who hung outside on the off chance that at any moment a potential new member was going to walk around the corner came to our rescue. Come in, take a look around. We did. It was indeed an old community hall with a couple of rings, ancient speed bags, heavy backs, a couple of bikes, weights up the far corner. Scanning this suburban homage to Rocky, we knew we had found the place. No lycra! The Burgess Meredith look alike kept selling. Not only was there all of the equipment as we could see, there was also the availability of separate male and female dressing rooms. This may have worked on the squeezette; it was vaguely disappointing to me. We left promising to return the next day and free our inner Rocky. Reality stepped in. It took six months, but we got there.
I love the mythology of boxing. The fact that Joyce Carol Oates can take time out from publishing her seven million books and teaching wanna be writers to write a small book titled, originally enough: On Boxing, Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando giving it to Rod Steiger in the back of the car: You were supposed to be looking after me Charlie... It wasn't my time?... It was my time Charlie. Paul Newman, Somebody up there likes me... Rocky Balboa, Stacey Keach in Fat City. Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction... I could go on.
As an aside, I should mention that when writing about boxing it's only fair that I assist myself by listening to Miles Davis: The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. and now is a good time to express my regret that they have not yet created a volume setting of 20.
And then there's reality. One of my earliest childhood memories, crammed around a radio listening to the Rose Gatellari fight. Lionel Rose versus Rocky Gatellari. What a fight. Lionel Rose is (a) built - take a look at those arms and (b) like an attack dog. He just keeps coming in, safe in the knowledge that Gatellari cannot hurt him. That's not taking anything away from Gatellari. Gatelarri spends 13 rounds doing his best not to get bit, but some there he must have realised that sooner or later it's going to come. That's 39 plus minutes those guys go at each other. The Squeezette and I spent a couple of hours punching into pads and I have to tell you, when you hit that pad square you hear a very pleasant whacking sound that for want of a better phrase: turns me on.
Four weeks in two nights a week the old guy comes up to me and says, we didn't think we'd see you two back here, but you stuck. You got that right buddy, old halls are hard to find.
Kid, this ain't your night. You could create an entire civilization around those words.

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