Sunday, March 23, 2008

Whole Lot of Nothing

So it hasn't been a lack of time so much as a lack of activities worth writing about that has kept me silent lately. Training has been slow the past two weeks. I've only been making it out to Allston to box 2-3x/week and cross-training 1-2x/week on top of that. I've stayed pretty busy with Celtics games, March Madness, and late nights at work, but then again, I guess that's the point of this blog – it ain't going to be easy finding the balance between work, play and boxing and still trying to accomplish so much in the ring.

- I got some solid sparring in last night with two guys who will be great to work with. Vlad is about 3 inches taller than me, has great head and body movement, and hits like a mule. Antonio is about 2 inches shorter than me, has great lateral movement, and is a little quicker than I am. They both arrive late every night and are seasoned, competitive boxers on about the same schedule and skill level as me (for now). One of them has keys to the gym too, so hopefully exchanging numbers with them last night could lead to some opportunities other than just picking up a couple of solid sparring partners. I'm definitely in a groove in terms of training with the right people, and hopefully some phone calls also will make me plan workouts in advance and not ditch the gym in favor of, well, plans that don't involve me boxing.

- I've noticed that I've gotten better and better at not only predicting the winners of boxing matches, but calling the fashion in which the bout will end as well (see the Pacquiao decision in my previous post, let alone the 3 fights I've scored big on the sportsbook with this month). I guess I'm especially proud of this because boxing is televised so rarely, so most of the footage I see of a fighter is either clips, individual rounds, highlights, or bouts every couple of months that I fork over $10 at a bar to watch on pay-per-view. I'm seriously considering getting HBO and Showtime to help fix this problem, but I really REALLY hate Comcast and don't want to give them a dime more than I have to. Watching a lot more boxing vs. supporting Comcast. You decide. (I'm leaning towards more boxing.)

- Speaking of viewing more boxing, I'm going to watch Kassim Ouma fight on Friday Night Fights tonight. Not only is he a very active, entertaining fighter, but as this article will show, he has one hell of a story to tell. And unfortunately, it still hasn't quite had a very happy ending.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quick hits

Wowee, I'm starting to neglect this thing. Balancing my job, lifestyle and (most importantly) training is tough enough as is, let alone trying to whittle out some time to make a worthwhile post on here. I think I'll try incorporating some posts with a little different format - some "quick hitters" that have bulleted thoughts, links and updates to bridge the gap between opportunities to write more.

- This has been a very inconsistent and frustrating week as far as boxing goes. Just as I felt like I had truly found a rhythm with my schedule, routines and training partners, I run into a week like this where I only made it out to Allston twice, and kept finding myself completely spent at the end of the workday before I even worked out. I must add that the two "boxing workouts" were very solid and encouraging, I lifted/ran/cross-trained two additional days, and am about to head out for some sparring as soon as I'm done with this post. Throw in the Celtics game I went to on Wednesday (played knockout on the court at halftime, too) and I guess you could say I did the best that I could with my schedule. But still - while I didn't lose any ground, I definitely didn't make any progress, either.

- Did some light work in the ring with a kid on Monday. I had a big reach advantage and moved well enough that in between rounds he had to ask "just how long you been boxing?" (Sorry, I just love "sneaking up" on people like this until I've gotten enough exposure and established myself at the gym to where everyone knows how comfortable I am inside the squared circle.) I was very (VERY) happy with my jab and stamina. I'm going to move forward with this a bit as I re-adjust my game: lots of lateral movement and angles, keep my jab in their face, use my hooks and straight rights only when I've set them up or see an opportunity to throw them while countering. I used to be a mix of a brawler and a "puncher" but I'm seeing an opportunity to re-define myself as a little more of a boxer.

- I pride myself on the fact that I never leave the gym with anything left in the tank, but I've become aware that during the process of wearing myself out, my intensity fluctuates. I feel like sometimes I'll just be "going through the motions" on a bag, instead of moving in and out with the speed and ferocity of a bout. To rephrase: I need to make sure that I am optimizing my workouts for competitive boxing and not merely getting in boxing shape. I'm by no means loafing, but I think I'm still looking for that happy medium of pacing myself throughout the (brutal) workouts to where I know that I am working the right muscles/skills the right amount for the entire workout. I have faith that over time and a couple of bouts this will work itself out.

- I think my diet is working itself out nicely, too. I have yet to implement a strict regimen, but I've always eaten very healthy, and the past month has been no exception. I've started making huge pots of beans and rice, eating it for a meal, and then storing the leftovers at work for healthy snacks/meals throughout the week. I'm eating lots of whole grain cereals, oatmeal, canned fruits and veggies, fish, sushi, chicken, turkey, hummus, pasta, and yogurt with fresh fruit. One thing I know I'll eventually have to watch: the amount of pasta I'm eating. My favorite lunch spot is an Italian eatery near my office (Viga). It's super cheap and delicious, but, well, it adds up to a lot of carbs at the end of the week that I ordinarily would not be consuming. When I need to start cutting weight in the near future, I know this will be one of the first places that becomes off-limits.

- I remember watching the first Pacquiao/Marquez fight live. It was an incredible fight, and I wish their rematch wasn't on PPV so I could watch it, but such is life. This is a much-anticipated fight, and both of these guys look to be in tremendous shape. I think Freddie Roach has supplemented Pac-Man's style enough that his strength advantage will be too much for Marquez again. For what it's worth, I see Pacquiao winning by a comfortable margin in a 12-round slugfest.

- I can only hope that the legends in this awesome article weren't the last great generation of boxers, and that some of the current superstars are as highly-regarded as these guys still are 25 years later.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Where I Want To Be

I knew Saturday's workout was going to be rough, with part of that pain being self-inflicted (pushing myself extra hard on the weekends, of course) and part of it being a result of the nature of the sport. Saturday, however, was not any old grueling workout - it was my first day sparring since I resumed training actively.

I am more than comfortable boxing (obviously) and Saturday was no exception. The squared circle, after all, is my happy place - it's where I want to be. But after almost a yearlong hiatus (has it really been that long?) since I got some actual work in (picked that kid apart, too) I was feeling some butterflies when my trainer stopped by the heavy bag I was pounding on and told me he was "gonna get (me) a little work in the ring with Tommy today." I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. After all, Tommy is one of the few people at the gym whose reputation precedes him. He is hands down one of the best boxers in all of New England, if not the country, and has the regional and national Ringside and Golden Gloves championships to prove it. And now he'd be able to add "Jonathan's first sparring partner in over a year" to his trophy case. (Ha?)

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

But then again, Tommy is the benchmark of where I want to be: a seasoned, accomplished, highly-regarded amateur who in all likelihood will have a solid professional career. Steel sharpens steel, man sharpens man. The best way to get to where he is is to work with him and go "through" him. Right?

Boy am I far from there...

The 3 rounds weren't one-sided (honestly!) but he was clearly the superior boxer. He started each round with a series of lead left hooks, most of which I was able to catch or duck under and stick a couple of jabs in his face . My jabs stayed crisp throughout our session, but unfortunately this was my only real bright spot. To say I had ring rust would be an understatement: my game was completely corroded, and Tommy's ring savvy definitely didn't help.

I couldn't find any sort of range or comfort zone to let my hands go. I'd fall in with my right hand, was sluggish and standing too tall with my counterpunches (usually one of my strengths,) kept dropping my head, and was prone to just hide behind my guard against the ropes instead of getting my base and giving 'em hell. 2 more rounds with an uppercut-happy combatant named Hector drove home the point that I adopted some REALLY bad habits during my year off, and that I need to work out some of these kinks ASAP if I want to get back to where I was, let alone where I want to be as a boxer.

Afterwards Tommy acknowledged that he didn't hold back on me at all and that I did fine. He gave me some suggestions (namely pointing out my newfound bad habits) and insisting that I could hang with anybody in the gym. I told him about my long layoff, and how not only am I needing to get my comfort level back in the ring, but my conditioning as well. After all, there's a huge difference between plyo's/bag work/mitts and actual sparring. As I was stretching out, Tommy hollered at me from the ring and offered to guide me through an absolutely brutal leg workout.

Workout with the best to be the best, right?

My legs are still sore four days later.

But I guess there's some truth to the old boxing adage that you can't shoot a cannon out of a canoe.

Sparring and training with the best - I can't imagine a better route to take to get where I want to be in the ring. Which, of course, is having a career worthy of a fan making a baller tribute like this one on YouTube 50 years later.

Maybe expecting a career worthy of a two-part highlight is a bit much (w
hat, I can't aspire to be like Sugar Ray Robinson?) but hey, I'm on my way.