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Friday, March 14, 2008

Boxing Fever!

For months, Joey has been bugging me about boxing. I kept trying to get him interested in karate instead, but he wasn't buying. He and his buddy Peter Pan went and checked out boxing at Davis Square Park, but they came back unimpressed.

"It's small, and kinda dirty," Joey told me. "And it was full of gangbangers. Me and [Peter] got scared."

Back in January, we heard the Chicago Youth Boxing Club had opened a gym over in Little Village. He and his dad sort of tried to go check it out, but I don't think they ever got there. Once Joey's class ended at Marwen, I was willing to borrow Medicine Man's car to check it out. (Marwen plus boxing seemed like a lot to ask out of somebody else's car.)

The boxing place is nice. They built a brand-new boxing ring in the middle of a church basement and set up circuit training stations all around it--fast bags, heavy bags, a couple of more bags I don't even know the names for, and a station for situps and so forth. It's spotless. I went Wednesday and tonight--I even worked out a little tonight, from the sidelines. The kids are focused and don't mess with each other. They help each other out with taping their hands, showing each other how to use the bags, stuff like that.

Joey and Peter Pan went with me on Wednesday. It seemed better organized that night. The director was there and he took them around for a tour and spent a lot of time talking to them. They came away really fired up. I went with Joey to his house afterwards and had a plate of enchiladas with green sauce and really good refried beans. We talked to his mom and she was OK with him signing up. He went back the next night with Peter's granddad and had a form and a check to get started.

Then they talked it up to their friends. Tonight I took them, plus two other guys from the block, Jay-Z and one of the Bradys. When Jay-Z said he wanted to do it I was all over it. Jay-Z might even beat Joey in the Marshfield Avenue "needs an outlet and some responsible men in his life now" sweepstakes. When Jay-Z's dad and a buddy came back from the store (I'd lay money it was the liquor store on 51st, with a 12-pack each--I'm only guessing from the direction they were walking and the outline of what was in their black plastic bags) his dad said OK, he could check it out.

At first I couldn't tell if Jay-Z and Brady Boy liked it or not. Like Joey and Peter on their first night, they hung by the doorway when we first got there. Plus, the director wasn't there and at first the manager was busy in the office. Later he did give Brady Boy and Jay-Z a welcome speech and explained the rules.

(I'll fess up and say after the speech, when they started checking things out, I went down to 26th street for a chile relleno. When I came back, the guys wanted to know where their food was. "At home," I said. "If you eat now, you'll get sick.")

It seemed like there was less coaching tonight than the other nights, but hey, it was Friday. I was afraid the guys were bored because it seemed like they stood around just watching a lot, but they said they were fine, and then they started jumping rope and working on the bags.

Later, the coach tonight had all the little guys get in the ring and do exercises together. I'm not sure if they went all around the circle and each kid picked an exercise to do or if just the veteran kids picked, but they did a variety and it was kids leading kids. They did jumping jacks, crunches, situps, pushups and a lot of arm circles.

I followed along from the sidelines. The coach invited me into the ring but I declined, figuring I could bail out more gracefully from the side. I wiped out on the pushups, but I could do a lot more arm circles than some of the guys.

It ended early, too, about 7:30. I made them wait for me while I stretched out afterwards. They all said they liked it and Jay-Z said he was going to ask his dad if he could sign up. When we got back, Joey's mom was in the street with School Lady--they just went grocery shopping. School Lady asked me about it, because one of her daughters wants to box. There's another girl on the block who might want to box, too.

We were all joking about my new career as a bus driver. Although apparently School Lady has a functioning car again, and Joey's dad was there working on their van, I'm still pretty skeptical about how successful the Marshfield Avenue car pool will be. It will be an interesting test of the social capital and social efficacy of this block, not to mention the material capital in terms of cars. However, after all these years, I might have to break down and get a car if these guys get serious about boxing over there. We'll see.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the positive comments on the Chicago Youth Boxing Club (CYBC). We are still in the early stages of our organization and please keep in mind our gym coaching staff are all volunteers. We (the board)are very proud of them and feel they are doing a great job! As always, we like to hear comments whether negative, or positive, because we know there is alway's room for improvement. As the volunteer Executive Director, I would like to get to the gym more often, in order to assist with the daily routine, however, with a full time job and 3 kids, it's hard to find the time to juggle all three.

Yours in boxing,

Robert Ramos
CYBC Executive Director

Maritza said...


I think you and all the volunteers at the Chicago Youth Boxing Club are doing a great job with a new space, new program and new young people. If anything I wrote came off as negative, it was because of things I had already seen or heard about from the boys on other nights. I would expect Friday to be a little slower.

I hear you about juggling many things. I haven't been able to drive our Marshfield Avenue crew over since the week of Chicago Public Schools spring break. My hope is to pick one night a week my housemate and I can reliably take them, and then the boys and their families can work out transportation for the other days.

But somewhere long down the road, when your Little Village gym is well-established and you are ready to expand, I hope you'll think of looking to Back of the Yards as your next site of operations. We've got a lot of potential boxers over here!

Anonymous said...

I think I must have met you then. You brought over to youths one day and I gave them an info tour correct? I was hopingto get a hold of you. Sal Castillo, who is the gym manager at our gym lives by 35th and Parnell, so I was thinking since he leaves around 4:00pm everyday to go to the gym, maybe he could take a few kids with him, only thing is, he has a small vehicle and closes the gym at 9:00pm. I don't want to commit, or agree to this, without asking him first though, but it is a possibility. Let me know your thoughts.

Yours in boxing,

Robert Ramos
CYBC Executive Director

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