Spitting up teeth: Survival in the City

Mark Elliott

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Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part series on City Boxing.

All the time I’ve spent watching stories center in a ring, be it cartoons, boxing, MMA or Professional Wrestling, and yet it’s still hard for me to figure out how to get in this white ring.

I try to hop but it’s taller than I thought. Forget running in and sliding under the ropes. This would take an effort. This would take a stumble.

When I get it right, it’s incredible to roll in. I bounce in time to the Daft Punk beats I keep in the head for footwork practice.

When I stand fully formed in it I realize it doesn’t have that much give if you were to fall. It has only enough to wake a falling body. That or keep it down. I hope to draw a contender; I’m fresh enough to spar. We won’t go hog wild, it’s more than two of us in this ring. The thrill is still real though. I get to be up against a rope, play with angles I could only see inside four sides of ropes.

Coach though has me working the pads and chasing him. A teammate never makes me freeze. A coach always does, though. Especially one I haven’t proven anything to — no matter how gentle in spirit they are.

To any fool peering through the window maybe thinking I’m the one walking him down, but in the reality of that ring, I’m trying to keep up with him.

The punches I land he saw coming, and did no damage. More of them in our time were inches off for him to swats. I can’t tell if I’m supposed to press him or mix up my shots. It’s his speech, he’s hard to understand when he gives a command. I got to really make this up as I go.

His character is friendly so I know I’m not being punished or in hazed, still I’m wondering if it’s jab, cross, level change or movement that he instructs. When I do understand him perfectly is when he laughs. I want to laugh to but he isn’t even trying to avoid my punches. All it is for him as a step. A step, a grin and my punches take more out of me then it did for him. All when I thought myself to be conserving energy.

It’s down to every breath in the ring. It keeps from being lost in the posters collection that I spin in front of. It’s easy to get confused and try to shake him off with the “get off of me!”combo. That showed panic though. What he wanted though was control — that’s what his movements said. The humor he oozed confirmed it.

To summon courage in these breaths I must keep it to the simple fact that I was invited and that makes me endure. Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez did this here before they went on to have a fight of the year. They did this all here at City Boxing. In this ring, all of us drop sweat on. If they can form themselves in here, so can all of us here.

I want to learn more from this man I can’t beat. Who decides to laugh instead of clobber if he chooses too. It’s not easy, but that smile I have when chasing it is worth every bit of this time. It’s worth running up steps in marathon wondering if the teacher will strap a shell to your back in round two. It’s worth to laugh at your teammates jokes as we’re switching sufferings. We smile because there is more to learn.

Following him, a master who posed victor in rings like this one and in those photos on the wall. The belts are there, sure, but the smile he had during the times he won or the one has on while he taught this whole morning. That’s what every wrapped hand here chases.

When that loud ping echoes inside and outside to the entire B Street. Everything after rolling out seemed easy, hitting old Windy’s upstairs and downstairs. Running up those steps, taking crunches and speed bags. It’s amazing what a smile can carry you through. In more places than one, we all learned that in this city.

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