“When life gets tough put on your boxing gloves.”
On a recent trip to the library, I checked out a book on the history of boxing. Loaded with pictures and stories about all the champions and top contenders since the sport began, I only found one flaw with it. For some unexplained reason, they left out the highlights of my short and painful career in the ring.
In a program called “Box-O-Rama” kids living in Central Ohio were invited to train several days a week all summer long in preparation for the first Ohio State Fair Boxing Tournament. Hoping to move up a rung on the ladder to manhood, I signed up. In my dreams, I was already hearing serious boxing fans compare me with Ali, Louis, Dempsey, and Marciano.
That summer I learned how to skip rope. Using a jab, right cross, and left hook I beat up a punching bag. When I shadow boxed, the shadow lost every time. I was having fun until the coach decided I should fight a real person. The kid I was supposed to fight must have had a genetic disorder that made him grow faster than usual. He got bigger every time I looked at him. And in case you’re not good with basic math, let me help you. The first time in a boxing ring, three minutes is equal to eternity. He hit me hard. He hit me often. He hit me everywhere but the bottom of my feet. I hit him too. Just not as hard.
Just not as often.
When it was over I was seeing stars. In fact, I was seeing planets, space ships, and a cow jumping over the moon. The only thing keeping my head from crumbling into a million pieces was the headgear I had on. I was afraid to unbuckle it and wondered if anyone would notice it if I wore it home. I’m not sure what my face looked like. I only hoped my mother would recognize me. In addition to my lumps and bumps something else was swelling, my pride.
I stayed with the program the rest of the summer and won my first fight in the tournament. My part in the competition ended when I lost the second fight by split decision.
* * *
Next Stop, Philadelphia.
Like most people I know, play the tune, Gonna Fly Now, from the movie “Rocky” and I’m ready to run a little faster and jump a little higher. People from all over the world make their way up the 72 steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art just like Rocky, the determined boxer, did in the movie.
When they get to the top, they raise their arms in triumph.
“I believe there’s an inner power that makes winners or losers.
And the winners are the ones who really listen to the truth of their hearts.”
Are you listening?
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