Archive for January, 2012

31
Jan
12

Miracles happen, Ishika Lay on the road to recovery!

Miracles happen, Ishika Lay on the road to recovery!

Back in October at the 2011 PAL Championships as Ishika Lay lapsed into a coma in critical condition at St. Vincent Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, her family, friends and the boxing world worried that she might not recover.

Ishika Lay in Recovery, Photo: Florida Times Union

Ishika Lay, a consummate athlete who had been well on her way towards a berth in the upcoming Olympic Trials, has turned the proverbial tide, and while she has lost her shot at representing the United States this year, she is well on the way towards recovery nearly four months later.

It is believed that Ishika Lay suffered from Second-Impact Syndrome. While not as well-known as other head injuries, Second-Impact Syndrome occurs when an athlete already reeling from a blow  actually succumbs to a second blow days or even weeks afterwards. As in Ishika Lay’s case, she had taken a shot while sparring ten days before, and had even complained of headaches, but had otherwise not been encouraged to see a doctor or in anyway treat her symptoms.

In her first PAL bout, the likely winner of the contest, she was never hit hard, but athletes suffering from Second-Impact Syndrome can fall horribly ill even from the lightest of impacts due to the fact that their brains haven’t had a chance to recover from the initial impact. This is the likely scenario that felled Ishika Lay.

As noted in Garry Smits article entitled Women’s Boxer Ishika Lay recovers after coma,  the mantra “when in doubt sit it out,” must become the new normal in boxing.  In Ishika Lay’s case, while it would have meant disappointment at being scratched from her PAL match, she wouldn’t have otherwise undergone her life-threatening ordeal.

Thankfully, Ishika Lay is on the road to recovery with thrice weekly rehabilitation on an outpatient basis at a hospital near  her home in Florida, and lots of additional therapy at home with her mother.

Girlboxing sends lots of love Ishika’s way with the sure knowledge that she is being remembered in a lot of prayers.

Links:

Women’s Boxer Ishika Lay recovers after coma (Florida Times Union.com)

Second Impact Syndrome (Good overview from sportsmd.com )

Second Impact Syndrome (National Institute of Health)

30
Jan
12

Women Box!

Women Box!

Bertha Aracil, Photo: Sue Jaye Johnson

The specter of the debut of women’s boxing at the upcoming 2012 Olympics has led to a plethora of interest in the sport!

“Women who box love it for the same reason guys do, boxing requires intense physical and psychological discipline, the ability to overcome fear and anger.” – Morning Edition

Franchon Crews, Photo: Sue Jaye Johnson

This weekend NPR opened a series on women’s boxing which aired on Sunday’s Morning Edition. The piece is wonderfully affirming and I encourage everyone to listen to it and to read the accompanying article.

The first installment, entitled ‘I Am A Boxer’: Fighter In The Ring, Lady Outside It  includes sensitive interviews with boxer Bertha Aracil and other fighters vying for an Olympic berth at the upcoming Olympic Trials in Spokane, Washington next month.  The piece also gets to the heart of gender, an issue that continues to dog the place of women in the sport.  The series is co-produced by Marianne McCune and photographer Sue Jaye Johnson.

Link: ‘I Am A Boxer’: Fighter In The Ring, Lady Outside It (First installment)

Link: Why Would A Woman Box (Article published on WNYC’s website)

Sue Jaye Johnson’s video and photo essay, Bout Time in The New York Times Magazine section was also published yesterday and is another “must read” piece.

Link:  Bout Time

Oh, and in case you need any reminding, women have been boxing for a LONG, LONG time. The following is from Pierce Egan’s book Boxiana: Or Sketches of Ancient & Modern Pugilism, published originally published in 1830!

29
Jan
12

Facing the new.

Facing the new.

Marlen Esparza, Photo: Rose Arce/CNN

I liken a fight to a blank page. Entering the ring, a boxer’s body and mind stand at the ready as so many remembered movements much as a writer sits poised with words and syntax.  It’s what happens next that is remembered. The boxer will engage in an improvised pas-de-deux with her opponent while the writer will engage her thoughts and ideas to fashion words into hoped for coherent and readable prose.

Given that I am wearing my writer’s mantle today, I am trying to work through the momentary panic of that blank space.  As with any creative endeavor — whether the improvisation of a boxer’s dancing feet or a trumpeter’s trill — the way thoughts form on the page seem miraculous.  Yes, they are based on deep knowledge of words and syntax and perhaps even a clear “plan” of attack likened to a boxer’s plan to stick and pull back, or the trumpeter’s competencies with B-flat.  However, the blank page of a writer can also represent the open road without a road map.  It is the moment of facing down newness. Words without a plan. A space that can take a writer anywhere the imagination feels like going.

Such is my day today.  My writing has no agenda.  Like shadow boxing on a Monday night without a trainer, I can take it where ever I want it to go.  I can stick with one thing or write tons of fanciful little ditties.  Such is my luck today — even as I swallow back that momentary taste of bile that anxiety always seems to bring!

 

28
Jan
12

Big days, little days.

Big days, little days.

Some days are filled with big things and others have the “usual suspects.”  The same it seems with working out: peppy for two or three training sessions in a row and then the dogs. We’re talking no energy, no pop and not so much going through the motions as just having no energy to get where you want to go!

I had one of those mornings at Gleason’s Gym today.  Sure, I did my sweet 16 (four rounds each of shadow boxing, pad work, double-ended bag and speed bag), but did I ever have to work for them.  Lennox kept shaking his head saying, “wake up, girl!” And maybe that helped because I did manage to bring it towards the end with two hopped up rounds on the double-ended bag and some serious da-da-da-da / da-da-da-da on the speed bag.

In analyzing it later, I realized that part of the problem is I’m still not doing enough during the week to keep the momentum up for a meaningful Saturday session.  A clue on how to do that in an otherwise busy life came from my old Peace Corps buddy Mark who had a post on Facebook today proclaiming that he’d hit his goal of 1,000 sit-ups in a week.

I thought, “1,000!?!  That is a lot!.”  Breaking it down to daily increments, however, brought it more in line with what actual humans can achieve! Reading further, Mark wrote about his formula for success: starting at just 130 for the first week until he had brought himself along to 1,000.

Given that I struggled through my 100 sit-ups this morning at the gym (having only done 20 all week) — it occurred to me that if I followed Mark’s formula of defining weekly goals, it might get me off my tush and into a regular daily sit-up routine. Not wanting to set the mark too high for myself the first week, I’ve settled on accomplishing 300 between Sunday and Friday.  That means 50 a day — meaning about 10 minutes!  Seen that way, there is no way I shouldn’t be able to achieve it.  The same thing for push-ups — or my version of them which means on my knees or against a bar at this point.  Sure, I did 20 today at the gym (in two sets of 10 each), but it was hard and strained my shoulder.  So there again, I’ve decided on setting a goal between Sunday and Friday.  I’m staring off with 60, that means 10 a day — or another 5 minutes a day at most!

Summed together, if I give myself a mere 15 minutes a days, I can meet my weekly goal and have sacrificed nothing. No excuses here!

Kudos to Mark for a great idea!

27
Jan
12

Itching to fight in the Olympics!

Itching to fight in the Olympics!

Claressa Shields (r) and Andrecia Wasson, Photo: Sue Jaye Johnson

What with the first-ever Women’s Boxing Olympic Trials set to commence February 13, 2012 at the Northern Quest Resort outside of Spokane, Washington, it is wonderful to see the media begin to wake-up to the wonders of these remarkable young athletes.  (BTW, click here for ticket information.)

This seven-day event will feature 24 athletes competing in the three Olympic weight classes:  featherweight, lightweight and middleweight, in a double elimination format.  Winners, one from each weight class, will earn the right to represent the United States in what USA Boxing has called “the lone international Olympic qualifier, the 2012 Women’s World Championships” set to occur in May in China. In order to qualify for the Olympics — they will have to have landed in the top eight!

Recent press articles and pieces have included the following all of which are well worth the read!

The New York Times has a piece by Sue Jaye Johnson entitled, Bout Time.  It features video and slide shows of three Olympic hopefuls: Claressa Shields, 16, Flint, Michigan, Alex Love, 22, Monroe, Washington, and Tiara Brown, 23, Fort Myers, Florida. The images are just great.  The link is here.

Tyrieshia Douglas, WNYC, Sue Jaye Johnson

WNYC-AM radio has put together a series entitled Women Box: Fighting to Make History, that includes two slides show pieces. Boxing Toward the Olympics features a mix of four wonderful photos of Olympic hopefuls.  Tyrieshia Douglas offers a 16-slide photo essay of her efforts. All of the photos are by photographer Sue Jaye Johnson.  WNYC will also host an event at The Greene Space in New York City on February 10 featuring a conversation about women boxers with Rosie Perez, a 16 year old Olympic hopeful and a four-time world champion.

Queen Underwood, The Spokesman Review, Dan Pelle/AP

Seattle’s own Queen Underwood has featured in an article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer entitled Seattle boxer preparing for U.S. Olympic team trials for women’s boxing  by John Blanchette.  The piece gives an overview of what Queen has been up to in her quest for a lightweight berth.

Meanwhile, we all still await the AIBA’s final decision on whether boxing skirts will be a necessary part of their uniforms.  As if!

 

26
Jan
12

Smelling the roses!

Smelling the roses!

“Where has the day gone?” seems to be a popular mantra lately.  Just replace the word “day” with “week” or “month” or “year” and one sees a snapshot of how most of us interact with our daily lives.  We perceive of ourselves as working too hard with too much to do and have a language that reflects our sense of how so much of our days are spent in unwanted toil.

The classic example is the expression “hump day.”  For the nine-to-five office workers that means Wednesday, an otherwise stalwart of elevator conversation as in “well at least it’s hump day.”  This presumes a sort of misery in the world of work that carries over into the too tired, too grumpy, not enough time mindset of after-five, when one’s world seems to revolve around commuting, grocery shopping, making dinner, engaging with children at varying levels — and oh yeah, interacting with one’s significant other who is often in the same place.

I guess I’m on this theme because I find myself fighting the trend. I’m literally trying to smell roses when I find them — and if they’re not there, the memory of when they are in bloom.  My favorite spot is about two blocks from my house.  In the summer and well into the autumn they form a lovely banister of color as I make my way to Gleason’s on Saturday mornings.  I’ll walk along past the Farmer’s Market and there they’ll be, dozens and dozens of pink roses with deep pink tinges in varying states of bloom, some tiny and forming, others full, and still more languidly open drawing in the last drops of sunshine till they fade and fall.

I bring all of this up because I feel that many of us forget that there is beauty in the little things.  Perhaps even in the things one sees everyday:  the way the light hits the array of plants in someone’s office window, a co-worker’s twinkle at regaling a story of her infant son’s smile, the triumph in someone’s eyes after completing 300 sit-ups.

All of these things are reminders that life is made up of moments: some are lovely and some are admittedly hard to grapple with or even sad, but still, they make up the textured interlacing of experiences that form our days.  Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that they are there even when we can’t see them. I for one am trying to live that way again.

25
Jan
12

Wordless Wednesday, 1/25/2012

Wordless Wednesday, 1/25/2012

Fire in the Ring, June 2011

Wordless Wednesday is a group of bloggers who give words a rest once a week.

24
Jan
12

Hey pretty and other stories from the battle of the bulge!

“Hey pretty,” and other stories from the battle of the bulge!

A Girlboxing reader wrote about the problem of looking into the mirror and shaking her head a bit at the body that stared back at her.  That is a hard one to reconcile.  There we all are working our bottoms off, eating one pea at a time and going through all the truly difficult work-out stuff, yet because we don’t look like the women adorning the cover of Self magazine we steel ourselves with a sharp intake of breath every time we look at ourselves in the mirror.

It reminds me of the Mighty Aphrodite speech I used to give my friends back in the day when I was — heck, in my early 40s and really full of things!  (That’s another story for another day.)

I was going through a breast cancer scare at the time (luckily negative) — but went through one of those moments after the first mammo, when air seemed to be sucked out of the room into a kind of hush as the Radiologist and the Technician came back in to take yet another film.  Days later in the waiting room before surgery to remove a bunch of nasty looking calcifications, my two oldest forever friends we’re trying to distract me with tales from their love lives (never a good thing, I can assure you).

Now both were in my estimation beauties.  One had long blonde hair a body honed by a lifetime of tennis, racquetball, running, weight lifting and the most perfect shiksa legs you ever saw.  The other one had more of an “exotic” beauty and happened to be in one of her thinner than thin stages.  To remind you, we were all in your early 40s and yet all these two gorgeous women could talk about was how they hated dating because eventually they’d have to “show” their bodies to a new man.  What?!?

Girl in the Mirror, Picasso

Well, to say that I launched was an understatement, my basic point being you are Mighty Aphrodite, hear you roar!  Truly.  That body staring back at you in the mirror, the one with character and stories and loving feelings. The one that bore children or heartache. The one that fought illness. The one that gained and lost.  The one that worked out at five o’clock in the morning and ran in the rain.  The body with hints of ripples on your arms from slinging dumbbells or the fabulous movements of a Zumba class is, my friends, BEAUTIFUL.

Even when you hate that extra tire around your middle or my personal favorite, the “You’ve become one of those women,” statement from your doctor.  In my case it meant confronting how I’d become my grandmother. However, there is still deep beauty in the saggy skin and cottage cheese that combine to make YOUR fabulous thigh.  And to channel my grandmother even more you can go through the three stages of grief according to Lillian Miller:  first you cry, then you get up and wash your face, and then you do.   None of the seven stages nonsense for her.  Life is too damned short and has a way of making you 57 before you know it.

So Girlboxing friends please give yourselves a round of applause for where you are in life — and the next time you look in the mirror blow yourself a kiss and say, “Hey pretty,” it’ll work wonders for you!  I know that it did me.

 

 

 

23
Jan
12

Getting back in the swing!

Getting back in the swing!

Whether it’s perfecting your left hook or flexing your mind (as in keeping a “daily” blog) – getting back to a regular regimen is tough going when you’ve been away from it for a while!

Having stepped into the gym on Saturday for the first time in three weeks was a case in point.  I’m nursing sore abs, a creaky shoulder and a mindset that is less focused on perfecting the minute shifts of tuned-up training, than just getting to the gym at all.

So my job is to push my momentum, meaning, getting myself back on a weekly gym schedule that *builds* rather than maintains!  I’m also trying to talk myself out of the neat excuses for not going such as, “I’ll be out of town on Saturday” or “I’m tired” or “it’s raining out” … you know the drill!

I can say the same for writing!  When I don’t write every day I get out of the habit — so, starting today, I am bound and determined to get back on the writing stick!  And yes, I’ll even give myself some slack for having finished up my degree, et alia, but a daily blog is just that, a daily blog.  That means putting fingers to the keyboard with a mindset that can get past the range of reasons *not* to do something.

Meanwhile, it’s 2012 and I’m already over three weeks behind in getting my resolutions in order for the year!  So here goes!

1.  Write a daily entry for Girlboxing!

2.  Gain more strength, endurance and flexibility. Being in my late 50s means I need resistance training and a lot of it to keep my bones strong.  I also need to do more aerobic training, and yoga.  That means getting back to a training schedule that has me doing at least one thing a day and on some days all three!

3.  Eating better!  Yikes.  This one is tough.  Having been diagnosed with LPR (Laryngeal Pharyngeal Reflux) and GERD (Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disease) PLUS having Barrett’s Esophagus (the cells in the esophagus near the gastric junction actually CHANGE due to acid erosion), I’ve been living a low-acid/low-fat life!  What I have to get to, however, is better balance in selecting meals and foods and how they are combined.  This one is a tough to sort out – and I’ll actually do a column on it sometime soon, suffice to say that I’m getting there.  I’ve lost nearly 25 pounds since the change in my eating regimen in July 2011, now the trick is to go the rest of the way (another 10 pounds), while continuing to build muscle (which has suffered as late) so that when I eventually meet my goal, I’ll be a healthy and toned – rather than depleted and weak.

4.  The next project:  now this is the tough one!  I’m thinking book and just have to move into the space by DOING rather than angsting about it.  And therein lies the sticky problem: getting to the DOING part.  Again, it’s a matter of starting and once in the habit continuing the process until it is concluded.  Easier said than done?  No, probably not ‘cause we all have goals that we set and follow.  It’s that pesky issue of getting started!

What it all comes down to for the year:  Doing!

So, day one in my reforecast New Year means putting the fingers to the keyboard to say thanks so much to my Girlboxing friends for listening and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

And how nice that it happens to coincide with the Chinese celebration of the Year of the Dragon!

GONG XI FA CAI

16
Jan
12

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The ultimate weakness of violence
is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate….
Returning violence for violence multiples violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

09
Jan
12

Sonya Lamonakis: Working to make it a lucky 7!

Sonya Lamonakis:  Working to make it a lucky 7!

Girlboxing had the chance to interview Sonya Lamonakis (6-0, 1-KO) ahead of her upcoming heavyweight bout on January 21st, 2012 against Carlette Ewell (15-7, 9-KO’s) at the storied Roseland Ballroom in New York City.  The fight is being promoted by DiBella Entertainment as part of the Broadway Boxing series.

1.  Tell us about your upcoming six-round fight against Carlette “The Truth” Ewell on January 21st at the infamous Roseland Ballroom in the heart of New York City.
I’ve been asking her to fight for a year and she finally accepted….this will be our first one and then our next fight will be for a title win or lose. It’s going to be a great fight we both have a lot of experience and have been training hard for this fight. Many of my fights have stolen the show and this might just be another one of the barn yard burners. 
2.  You’ve had six successful outings since your debut as a pro in June 2010 — having most recently defeated Tiffany Woodard in August 2011.  Ewell on the other hand has a 15-7 record with 9-KOs since her pro career started in 2002.  How are you preparing to meet the challenge of such a tough, seasoned opponent.
I had an amateur career and she didn’t so I’m hoping my thirty fights as an amateur and six pro fights will carry me to victory. I’m preparing by training excessively and after studying her video of her last fight I have been working on what needs to be done to get the win. 
3.  Ewell also has an upcoming fight on the books for the UBC Heavyweight Title against Gwendolyn O’Neil.  What sort of message do you want to send to both of them in your January 21st bout against Ewell.
I didn’t even know about that. Gwendolyn I see in Gleason’s and have asked her to fight me many times but she told me she is not fighting heavyweight anymore. Female heavyweights blossom late in life and I feel they are both on their way out and there is going to be a new queen of the heavyweights. 
4.  There’s been a fair amount of trash talk thrown your way in the run up to your battle against Ewell.  What is your reaction to all of that?

Yes, I have read her comments about what she has been saying and I feel fighters that are scared or intimidated talk trash. I have never been a trash talker I’m not that type of athlete. I save it all for the ring. I would rather be a positive example for my students and look like a classy athlete more than one that trash talks. I have been fighting for 9 years and it’s just not me. I have never been a trash talker. For her to say that I lost all my fights and they were just handed me is pretty rude to me. Especially,  being that she has not been at one of my fights and two out of the three were not on tv either. But it’s ok. Some people talk trash to make themselves feel better. It feeds their ego and helps them survive. So carry on Ewell. I’ll see you in the ring. 

5.  What adjustments are you making in the gym as you prepare for this fight and beyond?
I have been working on lowering my height, moving my head, and working angles to improve as a fighter for this fight and the future. 
6.  You recently had a powerful video interview published as part of Yahoo’s online “Power Your Future” series.  What can you tell us about that?

That was a great video. I was proud to show off my school and both of my careers in one. My students were very happy to be a part of my boxing career. I think I’m a special fighter because I have two careers as a fighter and an educator. To be a role model to children is a gift in itself. 

7.  For those who do not know, you teach technology to K-5th graders at a public school in Harlem.  You’ve been quoted as saying, “I’m an educator before I’m a fighter.”  Even given that sentiment, you bring your “all” into the gym and into your “game” on fight night.  What inspires you to bring so much of yourself to what you do?
I’m a passionate person. I play hard, live hard, and love hard. Teaching is not a job but a passion. I hope to inspire children to be life long learners and instill the value of education in them. My inspiration comes from the joy I receive when I’m with my students currently, and past students that come back to let me know the difference I made in their lives. 
8.  Having watched you work out in the gym, I’ve no doubt that you still have a lot more to accomplish in the sport, what are your goals and dreams?
I want to be a World Champion holding many titles. I also enjoy educating people about the sport of boxing. The determination it takes and the will and drive you must have. One part of boxing that’s important for me is that you must have something to fall back on because you can’t rely on boxing forever. You’re an active fighter for a short period but your work time expands beyond that. Only a small percentage of fighters make enough money to live off of. It’s important to have a back up plan, something that you can count on if the fight game doesn’t work out.
>>>

Tickets are available for what will be an EXCITING night of boxing priced at $45 and $65. Ringside tickets are available upon request at $125.

Contact Gleason’s at 718 797 2872 or info@gleasonsgym.net if you want tickets.

07
Jan
12

Your great-grandmother was a boxer too!

Your great-grandmother was a boxer too!

Having spent the better part of four months living and breathing women’s boxing from the perspective of gender (i. e., the only “acceptable” female boxer is a “girly-girl” boxer in pink and other such canards) — I thought it might be fun to remind folks that female boxers have been around for a LONG time.  Here are a few samples from newspaper articles published around the country in the early part of the 20th century (click on the links).

An uppercut from the fair fighter’s fist

This article from The Hartford Herald was published on May 1, 1912 and describes a 7th round knockout by Myrtle Havers, 18 over Mabel Williams, 32  in a 10-round professional fight in Saginaw, Michigan.  In declaring Havers the winner, she was also named the girls champion of Michigan.

“The two fought with eight-ounce gloves and under straight Queensbury rules.  Miss Williams, who has been known as the best woman boxer in Michigan for several years, was knocked into dreamland with a stiff uppercut after she had severely thrashed Miss Havers in the early part of the seventh round.”

This woman boxer weighs 105 and has met two champions

An article advocating women’s physical culture appeared in The Tacoma Times on November 27, 1917.  The article is about boxer Helen Hildreth.  When asked if she had ever been hit hard she replied, “Yes, but that’s part of the game. The excitement and nervous tension you are under when you are boxing makes you forget the pain of a blow almost as soon as you feel it.”

Woman boxer invites bout

Published in The Ogden Standard-Examiner on March 22, 1922, this article chronicles Elkhart, Indiana’s hope for a female boxing champion in the person of Gertrude Allison, 25 who challenged New York’s Laura Bennett to a fight!  Check out the photo in the article.  Allison is quoted as saying, “I know I can lick her!”

06
Jan
12

Birthing the baby, the “MA” that is …

Birthing the baby, the “MA” that is …

First off Happy New Year!

I’ll add that it’s great to be back to Girlboxing!  This last month has been a whirlwind of finishing my master’s thesis and prepping for my oral defense.  With both behind me I am excited to announce that my master’s thesis entitled Boundaries in Motion: Women’s Boxing has been accepted.  Next step???  Who knows, suffice to say I’ll begin blogging in earnest again tomorrow.

One upcoming event to watch for, Girlboxing friend Sonya Lamonakis will be fighting on Saturday, January 21st on the Broadway Boxing Card!  I’ll be posting an interview with her in the coming days!

Thanks for your kind indulgence over the last few weeks.  I’ve missed this tremendously and appreciate that folks have been coming to the site even though I have been on a hiatus.

Again, best wishes for a fabulous 2012!

 




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