Tag Archives: Don Saxby

Last rounds of the year …

I had a good boxing workout this morning at Gleason’s Gym, aided by the fact that I had a decent sleep for a change.  My work out was my favorite, four rounds of shadow boxing, four on the focus pads with my trainer Lennox Blackmoore, four rounds of the double-end bag, and finally four rounds on the speed bag.

There was something comforting about being back to “normal.” Yes, I tried to keep to my “wear a mask at all times” mantra, even in a gym where everyone is vaccinated, but it was still pretty hot and humid, and eventually took it off in the midst of my rounds with Len because it was getting too hard to breathe.

If that is the worst I ever have to deal with — all I can say is wow, what a great life.

And really, as I am at the start of the rounds of examination I will go through over the next ten days starting with tonight’s first night of the Jewish New Year’s process and ending up with breaking the Yom Kippur fast, the workout I had today was just a light flurry of facing up to moments of truth.

Because that’s really what it is all about anyway.

Avoiding the easy path of cheating at solitaire.

You know … pulling from the deck when you’ve already lost … as if no one will notice!  Kind of like that. And it’s the same thing in the ring. You can throw the jab with authority and energy, mindful of your stance, of how you move forward, of how you hold your opposite hand to protect your head. Or not. One gets you to the truth of your capabilities and of what you need to do to improve, and the other cheats it.  Doesn’t get you forward at all. Says, I’m pulling from the deck.

We all do it … all the time, whether knowingly or not. The trick is pushing forward anyway. Owning up. Facing those demons of crap you pull, mostly on yourself, but to others as well, and understanding what the motivations were, how you got there in the first place, and what you can do to make it better. To manage the process of moving forward with your life.

Jewish New Year, Tashlich, or the throwing off of sins symbolically by tossing pieces of bread. Williamsburg Bridge, Brooklyn, 1909, Photo Credit: The Bowery Boys

I do have it in mind that in Jewish tradition, this next ten days is a process of unburdening and in so doing, sealing our collective fates for the next year. Will you live? Will you not? Will it go easy or hard?

I’m not certain that I buy into all of that, but I do believe that our actions foretell our futures. That cheating at solitaire doesn’t mean we have “won” our games, only that in so doing, we have denied ourselves the satisfaction of the real wins when they finally come, whether that is throwing a jab worthy of it’s name or facing up to the myriad of truths that life throws at us and coming through it a more enlivened human being.

I wish everyone sweetness, peace, and an easy passage to the enlightenment that living in truth can offer.

Happy New Year – Shanah Tovah!

And continue to box …

I am in week 19 of my campaign back to physical fitness at Brooklyn’s Gleason’s Gym after a long pandemic induced hiatus — and wow do I need it.

Okay, yes, the COVID-19 pounds.

The stress of the on-going pandemic. 

A plethora of incredible change in my life like retirement and my daughter graduating college and moving into her first apartment.

But it’s also the stress of seeing my husband living with a degenerative brain disease. Called Frontotemporal Degeneration or FTD, it saps the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain in particular, affecting behavior, language, or movement, and as the disease progresses short-term memory. The horror of it is its insidious onset usually starts at an earlier age–and progresses relentlessly with no known treatments that stop or slow the disease.

Far from wanting a pity party, the infusion of whatever self-care I can muster, including the opportunity to get down to the gym to work out is the best present I can ever give myself.  

Beginning with my 15 minute or so walk to the gym, I begin to destress, thinking of all the things I want to work on for that day. From “keeping it neat” to quote trainer, Don Saxby, to working the counter shots to the body that I practice on the focus pads with my trainer Lennox Blackmoore

Lately, it’s been about the telephone–keeping my hands up like earmuffs to not only protect my head, but to better position myself for throwing what ever punches are called or when working the bag to practice neat and tight jabs, rights, hooks and upper cuts.

I’m also working on stamina ’cause at 67 and having not exercised for the better part of a year, whatever fitness I had went out as the calories packed on.  

But mostly, going to Gleason’s Gym connects me to the larger community that is boxing from the camaraderie of what I call the #AMBoxingCrew to knowing that just by being there I am supporting the efforts of others. 

Boxing has been a part of my life for 25 years. It is has given me strength, health, the sense of my own place in the world, and ultimately the courage to move forward no matter what the obstacles are. It’s also uncaged my sense of being and though I may try to give back through my support of women’s boxing, it always seems that I am on the receiving end of the brilliance that is the sport.

And so, I continue to box … for what I can only hope will be the next 25 years.

___

For further information on FTD, I recommend The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration:

http://www.theaftd.org/ 

 

 

 

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro: Q & A ahead of her 7/25/2014 Pro Debut

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro: Q & A ahead of her 7/25/2014 Pro Debut

Elisa "The Bomb" Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro has a dream. She’s determined to make it as a pro-boxer in the United States after having had a successful career as a kickboxer in Italy. At 23, Elisa, originally from Milan, Italy, is on the verge of realizing her goal with her first professional fight in the offing on July 25, 2014 at the Amazura Concert Hall in Jamaica, Queens.

Girlboxing had the chance to catch up with Elisa recently, here’s what she had to say:

Elisa "The Bomb" Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro

1.  You started boxing as a 14-year-old in Italy and haven’t looked back–not only boxing, but competing in kickboxing, K-1, French Savate fighting and Thai Boxing. What drives your passion for martial sports?

I was always a little tomboy when I was young. I always argued with other girls even without a reason … you know, a little bully. So one day one of my friends who was practicing boxing asked me to try a class and from that day I never left the gym. 

2. In 2008, still a teenager, you began competing in kickboxing, Thai Boxing and Savate ending up with a 15-2 record. What do you attribute to your success?

Well, of course I attribute my success to my Italian trainer. He saw potential in me; he thought I had skills to be someone and he always believed in me even at the beginning. I will always be grateful to him because he created the person I am today and I thank him for helping me get to where I am here today.

3. Why did you choose to leave your career as a martial artist in Italy to pursue boxing at Gleason’s Gym in New York City? Have you found there are more opportunities here?  

To be honest, I always hated boxing (that’s why I was a kickboxer). But it happened that I came to New York in January 2012 for a 10-day vacation. I had heard about Gleason’s Gym and felt compelled to train there. As soon as I opened that door my eyes were shining, I smelled the air of champions, I felt in paradise. Then I met Don Saxby and I worked with him a couple of days. With him I began to understand that boxing was something that I always had in my blood; and I changed my mind about boxing! As I left NY I was already planning on coming back. 

Even if you are not American, you know that the United Stated of America is a boxing paradise, and the place where real boxing was born. So when I landed in Italy I was planning to scrape up some money to come back here. Eight months later I left Italy to learn “real” boxing and to be a professional boxer.

photo6

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro training with Don Saxby at Gleason’s Gym

4. In particular, as a female martial artist do you feel there are more options for you here in the United States versus Italy? Given that women’s boxing in Europe enjoys popularity and support in places such as Germany and Norway, why did you chose to come to New York?

Oh yes, definitely. I come from a country where people classify soccer as sport. If you don’t play soccer, they don’t follow you. Soccer and nothing else. That’s why I decided to leave. And thinking about boxing the only place was America; there’s no comparison between the American style and the European one. No way, it is two different worlds. So at the end of the day the choice wasn’t difficult.

America = New York = Gleason’s Gym.

5. You’ve trained with Don Saxby and even trained with Buddy McGirt. What has the training been like for you — and who are you working with now as you prepare for your pro debut?  

Working with Buddy has been awesome. Come on, he was the world’s top-ranked 147-pound boxer, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world; how isn’t that amazing? I felt blessed. He’s also a great person. I love him. He makes me laugh every second =)

Unfortunately he is not around right now so Don and I chose Alicia Ashley as my second trainer. Who else can be better than her? She helps me out with the sparring and i couldn’t have better.

Elisa Collaro training with Buddy McGirt at Gleason's Gym

Elisa Collaro training with Buddy McGirt at Gleason’s Gym

6. You are slated for your first professional fight on July 25, 2014. How excited are you?

How excited I am? I’m ready to explode, lol! I have been waiting for this moment for all my life. I have worked so hard to have one chance and now that is real, I still can’t believe it. I feel like I’m dreaming and I don’t want to wake up. Now is MY time and I can’t make any mistake!! Now or never!

7. What inspires you most as your ready to begin your professional career?

My happiness!! All I want is being happy with success. I want to represent possibility; the possibility that if you work hard for your dream, you can realize it. I believe that I can create whatever I want to create. That’s my motivation. I want to be what I dreamt to be.

8. As you introduce yourself to Girlboxing readers — what would you like them to know about you?  

I want to be known for the tough girl that doesn’t sleep on her dreams. That everything I have is because of my hard work and faith! No one gave me ANYTHING. Be known as ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IF YOU REALLY WANT IT.

9.  What do you wish for the future?

Of course I wish to be World Champion but the most important thing like i said before, I wish to be successful in everything i do. I wish an HAPPY and healthy life for my future.

A hot night at the fights …

A Hot Night at the Fights

Gleason's Gym - Gloving Up, Jul 19, 2013

Okay so it was a truly hot night.

The culmination of the heat wave that has left New York City sweltering and gasping with the kind of air that is so hard to breathe the only way to deal with it is to dodge in and out of air-conditioned stores as so many leapfrogged pit stops for crisp cool breaths.

None of that seemed to matter though to the crowd at Gleason’s Gym who’d come out to support their friends, family and gym pals competing at the second weekend of the New York State Amateur championships.

Heading over there to cheer on my fellow Gleason’s gym rats, I was grateful for the breezes moving bits of that heavy NYC summer air through the streets of Dumbo. I was looking forward to the chaos that is a fight night at the gym with fighters and their trainers, crowds and officials, milling around in the run up to the bouts–all in the pre-air conditioned splendor that is a boxing gym with its windows wide open, while the ceiling fans and industrial sized floor fans moved warm humid air from point to point intermingled with the faint hint of hot dog smell and sweat.

Gleasons Gym.Gloving Up.07192013This to me is boxing at its purest: a club show with none of the attendant hoopla of a pro-fight, and where the motivation comes from a love of the sport and the possibility of a trophy at the end.

Arriving there, snagging seats for my husband and I, waiting out the hour or so before the fights actually started was an opportunity to watch a world in motion. Friends embraced, young junior olympics kids nonchalantly hung near their families before being beckoned by coaches and trainers, and the novice and open fighters circled about. Having already made their weigh-ins, fighters, some nervously, were calculating just how much longer they’d have to wait before they fought.

“I’m not sure where I’m supposed to go now,” one fighter said.

Gleason's Gym, Christina Cruz waiting for her fight, July 19, 2013In this interregnum, I hung for a few minutes with my trainer Lennox Blackmoore who had three young fighters, ran into my fellow Women’s Boxing Symposium pal Sarah Deming who was there with her Cops n’ Kids fighters (one of whom I saw win later) and otherwise sat with a silly smile on my face as I watched the scenes unfold–admittedly in between gulps of water.

At some point, the crowd getting thicker and thicker, and the action at the gloves table heating up, pro-fighter and Gleason’s denizen Sonya Lamonakis took on her duties as ringmaster of the two rings of boxing. Tinkering with the a mic covered in gaffer’s tape, she finally managed to get the equipment working and began making announcements that reverberated with a tinny echo over the heads of the crowd. With two rings going and 15 or so fights in each, the sound, difficult enough to hear, was still something for the fighters and their trainers to key into. They had to wait for their call to the glove table two or three fights before they were due in the ring, and then their second call to get ready for their fight.

Seated right behind Sonya, I had a perfect view of both rings and of the fighters as they had their wrapped hands inspected by the officials before handing over their red USA Boxing Metro books and being gloved-up by their trainer: this done once the proceedings started as the fighting raged in both rings.

Gleasons Gym.Gloving Up.07192013

Sitting there, I was not so much aware of the individual fighters (though I had friends I cheered on), as the ebb and flow of boxers as they readied, plied the canvas with everything they had, and then in turn alighted as winners or losers. The crowd too had an ebb and flow. Each of us covered in sweat, focused on one or both of the rings, with syncopated cheers and whistles, claps and exhortations coming as one or another pas de deux engaged in some new ferocity of purpose won the attention of the spectators.

Gleason's Gym, Female JO Fighters, July 19, 2013

My friend Michal Perlstein was up in the sixth fight. This was to be her third amateur fight. Having made her weigh-in with ounces to spare she was elated at the prospect of getting into the ring. Her ring hopes, however, were somewhat dashed by the prospect of fighting others in her 152-lb weight class. Two were former national champions, and one woman, a Polish fighter, was said to have had over 200 amateur fights in Poland, although she claimed she’d only had 3. We all figured the 3 were “here,” with no mention of “there,” with nary a word on her purported MMA experience.

And that is women’s boxing in a nutshell I thought. Not enough fighters for an open and novice division that allows for the opportunity to gain experience in the ring without getting outclassed at the onset. As Michal put it, “the other two American women were asked how many fights they had and they said, like 26 or 27 and I had 2.”

Still, she was game and had a set purpose in her face as she stood outside ring number 1 near the red corner waiting to be called. Indeed she had drawn the Polish ringer in the blue corner, who stood in a shiny black gladiator skirt with all of the confidence of a seasoned pro, her legs, perfectly formed and massive–the kind that can support an onslaught of body shots a la Mike Tyson. Called into the ring, they fought cleanly and hard, but within thirty seconds it was obvious that Michal was outclassed and by a minute in she was unable to really defend herself.

GleasonsGym.#152Women.07192013

The ref wisely called an eight-count after she sustained a series of head shots and her corner consisting of two great pro-trainers Delon “Blimp” Parsely and Don Saxby had seen enough and called it off.

Gleasons Gym.#152.July 19, 2013Michal having worked for weeks and weeks preparing for the fight with hours in the ring boxing whomever she could was bummed at having been stopped–even though she clearly understood why. As she put it on Facebook later that night “I’m all for a challenge, but it’s a shame that most tournaments don’t separate women’s novice and open divisions to give the newer boxers an opportunity to safely get competition experience. I’m looking forward to better matching at club shows.”

Talking to Blimp a few minutes after the fight he just shook his head and indicating the other corner said, “it wasn’t worth her getting hurt.”

And that is the thing about the amateurs too. It’s not about suffering devastating losses in the ring, but the sport itself and the chance to hone skills and learn the craft and science of the game (although after I left, Sonya told me one of the women fighting in the semifinals for the 141 pound weight class allegedly bit her opponent in the third round and was disqualified, Lennox though was not so certain that it actually happened).

Knowing Michal, she’ll be back at it today or tomorrow. She’s that kind of competitor, one who is truly motivated by her love of boxing.

So many others of the fighters who alighted into the ring last night, including USA National Boxing Champion and Golden Gloves champion Christina Cruz (who won her 125 pound semifinal match) gave everything they had as well, and will no doubt feel the same way whether they won their fights or tasted disappointment.

They’ll be in the gym as soon as they are able to pick up the gloves again with all of the attendant pride, humility and fortitude that it implies.