Month: July 2016

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.

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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.

#

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.

#


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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.

My 16oz Winning boxing gloves…

I’ve never actually owned a pair of really nice gloves before these and I’ve certainly never written a review on a pair of boxing gloves.  I’m not going to write massive, long prose on subject matter like stitching, don’t worry!  I think there’s someone on another site that’s done that already! 🙂 – just in case that sort of thing floats your boat.

The quality of the leather is really good.  Soft and feels broken in blahdy, blahdy blah [ Sorry! ] but it’s the feel of the glove that’s on another level.  Before this I was boxing in a pair of RDX T9 bag gloves which are about 37 GBP (about 50 USD).  Putting those on and putting these Winning ones on… it’s like night and day.  The first thing you notice when you’re punching is the balance.  The weight distribution on these is amazing.  I can’t really describe it any other way.  They’re so well balanced that despite being 16oz, you can’t actually feel it.

I managed to pick these up on a good deal on ebay from the seller Kozuji for 220 GBP (288 USD) but I know that for some of the fancier colours you can easily add on another 80 USD. You can guess where the money is going.  Materials (without doubt), craftsmanship (absolutely) but for me it’s the balance.  When you lace those suckers up and they’re on your hands – they just feel great.  It’s like you’ve got the boxing equivalent of Excalibur on your hands.

This is my first lace up pair but it’s actually a nice thing walking up to someone and asking them to help you lace up your gloves.  I don’t know what it is but it can help break the ice if you’re in a different gym and you can use it as an excuse to introduce yourself.

They’re a premium price though – there’s no getting around that but if you’re into your training and boxing’s not just a casual fancy then I’d consider these.  I’ve heard about the longevity and the quality of the padding as well.  I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t regret them.

I love mine.

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Weight obsession and 10,000 hours to become great?

I swear I’ve never been so obsessed with my own weight since I started to box.  If I go offshore I’ll probably weigh myself before the trip and then after the trip.  And then when I go home, I’ll probably never even look at the scales but now, I’m weighing myself every day or every other day.  I mean, I don’t even box competitively so there’s absolutely no reason why I need to stay within a certain weight bracket just yet.

…And yet… here I am weighing myself every other day, after I go to the toilet (maybe too much information there!)… it’s ridiculous.  Maybe because I’ve got it into my head that I don’t want to be above middleweight.  I mean can you blame me though?  Some of those guys above that weight are big.  You’re also talking about men that don’t have much body fat either.  It’s almost all muscle.

I’m reading this interesting book just now: Journeymen – The other side of the boxing business.  It’s about the less glamorous side of the UK boxing scene. It’s quite an eye opener.  These journeymen are like the poker grinders of the boxing world.  They fight a few times a month and are often pitted against younger, popular fighters that can sell tickets at venues.  Some of their records are terrible but it’s a mistake to think they can’t box.  They know a lot of tricks and their defence is good. It has to be.  If a journeyman boxer is cut then the officials will forbid that guy from fighting X number of days and therefore, no income to feed your family.  Journeymen boxers can get called up last minute to fill in a spot and they often fight in more than one weight bracket in order to pick up more work.  A guy can fight at one weight, one week and then a few days later he’ll bulk up to make the weight for another fight and then come back down weight again for the next.  It takes a lot of discipline to do that.  It’s a really good book.  I’m about halfway through it.

Talking about weight and eating, I’m trying to use up everything inside my freezer so yesterday was a food scrounge.  Managed to make a vegetarian curry out of the pepper, cauliflower and potato and I also made this lemon loaf cake with some lemons I found because… well… a house is always happier when there’s some kind of cake to eat.  It’s good for the soul.

Went for a run to clear my head.  Poppy’s mending but she can’t walk long distance yet.  I do miss those walks so I ran the route instead.  Nothing crazy.  I don’t time myself – it’s about 5 – 6 songs.  Maybe that’s around 20 minutes – probably equates to around 4 km.

That 10,000 hours thing…

I plan on doing some training later today.  I had some self doubting and self loathing yesterday when I suddenly thought what if I’m no good, what if I’m just looking stupid?  Have you ever seen that statistic that says it takes something like 10,000 hours to become good at something?

I tried to work it out:

If I go offshore, I spend 2.5 hrs a day training for 35 days = 87.5 hrs

I spend half a year offshore so that’s 6 (trips) x 87.5 = 525 hrs

When I’m at home I’ll train maybe a quarter of that 525 / 4 = 131 hrs

So at that rate of training… 10000 / (525+131) = 15 years

15 years to become good.  (Someone should check my math)

I’ve well and truly lost that window.  Ideally I’d want to start at 11 years old and hit my peak at 26 years of age.  That’s if you believe that 10,000-hour statistic.

I can’t just give up though.  I’m not going to be chump change for anyone.  I have to be able to hold my own in a ring.  Maybe that’s all this is. Some kind of pride thing.  I’m not sure anymore.

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Hand wrap review

Okay so it’s not a blog to set your hair alight but I just got back from offshore yesterday and I had a couple of parcels waiting for me like Christmas presents – plus I need a couple of days rest before I carry on with my training so I thought why not write this?

I love the process of wrapping your hands.  Like Johnny says on his ExpertBoxing website – wrapping your hands is the 5-10 minute ritual where any office worker, athlete or school kid transforms into a boxer.

You wrap your hands to protect the small bones in your hands so it’s very important you wrap your hands correctly. This wrapping your hand guide on ExpertBoxing is the only one I use (apparently recommended by Pepper Roach – Freddie Roach’s brother of Wildcard Boxing Gym)

I’ve been mainly using these wraps from Adidas while I was offshore, 4.5m long which is like 15ft.

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Really nice material with a little bit of stretch.  Much nicer material than the ones made by RDX.  I was training everyday with these for the last 5 weeks and they were washed every day too.  The only problem was that after 5 weeks, I found the velcro was wearing and it was losing its stickiness.

I ordered these VL-B wraps by Winning and their knuckle protectors while I was away and tried them on just now:

You just wrap over the knuckle protectors but it feels really good.  The Winning wrapping is much thinner than the Adidas type and it resembles the tape and gauze wrap that you see professionals using.  It’s very fine though and it was a touch more fiddly to keep the wrap straight when I was making my turns.  The Winning wrap is longer than 4.5m but you need that extra length.

My hand felt great though and it felt really good inside my glove.  I’ve never used additional padding on my knuckles before but I was putting a lot of time into the bag work and I may start using this more.

The Winning wrap and the protectors are washable and re-useable unlike the gauze and athletic tape that pros use.  I’ve never used the gel gloves or wrapped over these but Gary, my trainer, doesn’t recommend them.  I don’t know if anyone out there has tried gel gloves and wants to comment.  These knuckle protectors may be a happy medium.

Washing hand wrap is still a nightmare to untangle from the rest of your laundry and NEVER, EVER buy red hand wrap!  The colour will just run and stain your other laundry in your washing machine.  I’d stick to black, white or yellow.

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White collar boxing

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day…

Now whoever said that probably didn’t mean for me to eat double the intake to try and guarantee I had a grandiose style day.

I’m in the Scandic Solsiden in Trondheim Norway after a 5 week trip offshore so if you can’t take a few liberties here and there… well then… I don’t think life’s worth living

There’s a cost-reducing initiative at my company so getting off the boat and checking into the hotel – I had to double up with Bryan just for the night.  There was a moment of panic when we walked into the room and saw this:

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We just laughed at that point but I think we were both glad when we realized the beds could be pulled apart.

I’ve been working nights and the boxing’s taken its toll so as soon as I showered and sat in bed, I pretty much blacked out.

When I woke up I just lay in bed… window wide open, fresh air blowing in – plugged in my headphones and listened to some music… I thought about my wife, my dog, the boxing… just being home again – had a big smile on my face.  I went down for an early breakfast and just left Bryan sleeping with the room to himself.  Gotta give a guy his privacy.

Talk more about the white collar boxing!…

[…sorry yeah I was just getting onto that!…]

I’ve been reading other people’s blogs and I found a few good ones to follow including John Grimshaw, a guy training for an amateur charity boxing bout in 5 weeks.  It’s under the UK company Stealth UK Boxing.  StealthUK do these white collar boxing events where amateurs and beginners train for X-weeks and then they get to fight someone of equal ability.  They get the full arena-style experience and all the tickets that get sold, go to charity.  Sounds pretty awesome I have to say and I’m more than envious.  He’s got 8 weeks to lick himself into shape and he (and his wife) have my heartfelt admiration.  Training that intensely can take you away from the things and people you love and it’s never easy on your ties.  So if you’re reading this John, here’s to you, Mrs Grimshaw and baby Grimshaw.

There’s nothing like a deadline to keep you focussed either.

I’ve been boxing since April which puts me around 8 weeks but one day when my trainer Gary thinks I’m ready, I may look for something like this.  John’s bout is in Middleton, Manchester which is a little out of my way (me living in Scotland) but I’m not ruling out any part of the UK.  That’s the whole Musha shugyō thing again.

It’s not just about boxing or even health and fitness 🙂 … whatever you’re training in or whatever goal you want for yourself keep going for it and when you’re tired and strung out… just try to remember why you began in the first place.

As for me… well right now, I’m just looking forward to returning home.  I’m going to take a couple of days off this week and then I’m going to start training again.  Nothing too strenuous.  4-5 km runs and a bit of bag work.  That will shave my weight back down to 73 to 74 kg and in the second week, I’ll be back inside Lusby’s gym.  Back with Gary, back to my training and back to business.

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There are all kinds of people in the blogosphere and the rest of the world – with their own goals, heartache and personal motivations. I’ll try and say a prayer for all of you.  Love you all. – Southpaw Swan


Musha shugyō (武者修行?) is a samurai warrior’s quest or pilgrimage. The concept is similar to the Chinese Youxia, or Knight Errantry in feudal Europe. A warrior, called a shugyōsha, would wander the land practicing and honing his skills without the protection of his family or school.

I don’t want to hurt anyone…

Sound familiar?

I came across a blog post today where someone was interested in boxing but wasn’t so sure due to the fact that they didn’t like to hurt other people.

Part of the  refusal to “engage” in hurting other people is to do with your own sense of humanity in some ways.  Some people have no problem with clouting other people but if you’re a considerate person who thinks a lot before you act that’s also a good thing.  Maybe it’s the reason why you’re always trying to second-guess yourself before you throw down.

You don’t need to actually hurt anyone if you don’t want to!

Depends how passionately you feel about your boxing and other physical sports?  With boxing are you just learning the techniques for fitness or do you truly wanted to spar – and I did say “spar” and not “fight” – they are two different things.  (maybe not to some but they are different!).  You have to work out what kind of a person you are.  In my mind, sparring still remains that truest test of whether your techniques have borne any fruit.  Whether you can translate that training to your instincts inside of a ring.  You are going to get hit of course and you are going to end up hitting the other person but there’s nothing wrong with two people standing against each other practicing together.  “Today I’m going to learn something about you and in doing that, I’m going to learn something about myself as well.”  You have to take things in the correct spirit and with yourself.

There’s a lot of respect between two people who box and spar and fight.  I think we all have instincts – some are not so easy to see in others – with some people it’s very obvious if they’re leaders or warriors or if they’re more introverted and cerebral in their approach. I don’t think people who practice boxing are are any different.  You just have to work out what kind of person you are and remember – if you decide to box purely to learn the techiques, for fitness without the sparring stuff… well there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that 🙂  But if you’re passionate about something, you may discover things about yourself you didn’t realize were there.  That’s the beauty of falling in love with something.  Be it sport, boxing, people, whatever.

I truly think there is a sport or activity for everyone out there.  Something that becomes instantly identifiable within, when you try it.  You just have to have a bit of luck to discover it and be a little bit outgoing to actually come across it in the first place.

When I look at a piano, I just see a piece of wood and some pedals but for some people, they can just sit at it and they just know they’re supposed to play. That doesn’t mean they’ll instantly be great at it but they know deep down it’s something meant for them. 

We’re all creatures of habit. Some more than others but if you like the look of something then never be afraid to give it a go.  You never know where it may take you and with most cases, the journey is more important than the destination.

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Last of the offshore sessions

The end is definitely within sight now.  I thought I was going home on Sunday but those plans changed so the big vessel exodus is still Monday.

I was going to take my morning off training today  and watch the Wales v Belgium football game but I was so tired I slept in until 23:30.  I think it’s just coming to the end of the trip and my body has completely worn down.  I was happy for Wales though as they won 3-1.  I missed a good game apparently.  Typical!

I’ll probably go for a session after shift and then I’ll go for a final one tomorrow when I wake up and that will be the end of the offshore sessions.

I’m getting some weird pains in my left arm when I try and throw a left hook which is really strange.  I’m not sure where that’s come from in the last few days but it feels like the pain vibrates right up my arm to my bicep.  It’s quite a sharp pain.  Almost makes me freeze.

It’s been good though.  Training-wise it’s been great.  Boxing offshore’s really given me something to look forward to every single day. The boxing gear I ordered for the ship arrived as well.  To be honest I try and stay away from the welfare committee nowadays as I feel it’s becoming more of a thankless task.

The welfare commitee is basically a group of people on the vessel who discuss what to do with the welfare money in order to improve the living of the rest of the crew.  Like getting gym equipment, buying a new TV for the day room, organizing a day trip out to a theme park – that’s all classed as “welfare”.

The aim is to try and do some good but then someone starts to complain yet you find yourself roped into doing it again because (a) You’re one of the few that can be bothered and (b) you’re that guy.

It can get to the stage where your crew have fallen out with the other crew over something and the welfare money gets split into two.  You end up in a situation where “You do what you want with it and we do what we want with it.”  That kind of thing.  That’s a rare case but it’s just an example.

I have to visit Lusby’s boxing gym when I get home and Gary can see if I’ve made any progress.  My arms definitely have better  stamina now and it feels like I can punch a little faster.  Note I said faster not harder.

My Adidas boxing boots are stained with dirt, a few salt water marks and the grip on the sole’s worn down a little as well for good measure.

I went and bought a pair of Winning Pro gloves from ebay which I’m seriously excited about.  They’re almost like the Holy Grail of boxing training gloves and a pair of flourescent yellow Nike Hyper KOs.  The Adidas boots I’ll take offshore with me to train and the Nike ones I’ll keep at home.

Nike Hyper KO16oz Winning Training gloves

 

I’m a bit wary of buying nice gear though.  Let’s face it, you don’t want to buy great gear when you’re absolutely crap at something – you just end up looking stupid.  I just love that colour and design of boot though and as for the boxing gloves, I’ve heard that there’s no fit and protection like Winning.  Let’s face it, out here I was spending between 2 to 3 hours a day training so protecting my hands is really important.

More than anything though I miss Emma and my dog.  I just want to go home and enjoy their company, do a little more writing.  I miss visiting the boxing gyms near my home and I just miss being a civillian I guess.  My wife even told me someone from my local village football team was looking for me to play.  Now there’s something new.  I’ve been talking to them for a few weeks now to see if I can get a game and they finally came calling!  I watched a few games down our local playing fields and it looked a little “blood guts and thunder” which I’m not too sure about. It’s a different vibe to your friendly game of fives.  As a country we talk about wanting to be on a technical par with the rest of the world but you look down at this level and we’re still a nation of warriors when it comes to football and I think to myself – is that something I want to be part of?

[Sigh] I’ll see when I get home.