I box in a suburban gym. Everything is branded “LA Boxing” in chirpy red and blue. The branding makes me think Hollywood weight loss, and in fact, most people are here to lose weight or get fit. It’s clean, carpeted, and full of sunshine most days. There are no cement floors, wooden pallets, musty lockers. The lockers are tidy cubbyholes like you would see in an elementary school.
None of this fits with my fantasy of being part of a dark, cramped boxing gym with big, quiet Rocky types or ropy bantamweights and their arthritic old-man trainers. But it’s certainly reflective of my life, none of which ever took place in New York or inner-city Chicago. I’ve lived most of my life in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee or North Carolina. Mine is a universe of shopping malls and bedroom communities, two car garages and Saturdays mowing the lawn.
Contrary to my initial experience at LA Boxing, there are actually plenty of women at the gym, I just never see most of them. It seems like most of the women go to kickboxing classes and rarely come to a boxing class. It reminds me of the seventies, when great waves of women suddenly decided to sign up for jazzercise and self-defense classes. I never did that, not because I thought anything was wrong with it, but because I was motivated by different things.
I love having discovered how orderly boxing is. In boxing you have a stance, there are ways you move and duck and punch that remain the same, no matter what. There’s a purity about it that I love.
I also love the sense of heart and tradition. There’s a lot of theater and drama here, but also a lot of incredibly difficult work, endurance, pain, and even legend associated with boxing.
Boxing engages my competitive spirit, my desire to be good at something that not everybody wants to do, and my desire to learn from masters. The sport demands my strength, my intellect, my focus, and my patience.
I train in a suburban gym, but I’m a part of something with history and passion. I don’t box to lose weight. I don’t box in order to be able to defend myself. I box because boxing is beautiful, difficult, and inspiring. There are heroes here, and I want to know and be a part of their greatness.