Spitting up teeth: Born here in the City

Mark Elliott

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

As mentioned in a previous installment of this column, San Diego wasn’t always a place where gyms were around nearly every block. These days, San Diego has a new facet to its identity thanks to fight culture — though that was never the case for our city block.

Around our corner from City College is a blue box that promises “this place builds champs.” We’re aware of that as we pass it on route to class. Outside that box you may have seen the champs wrapping hands, dragging jump rope or practicing slick rope-a-dope.

Some City students among us live that promise firsthand and they’ll tell you-whether you’re a 30 day passerby or a seasoned pugilist, City Boxing’s aim is to leave you better.

When you enter, there is a ring that meets you. It’s not to the side or in the back. It’s front and center. It’s what you can’t avoid by their design. The goal is to see and know this is coming, so be around it and keep it in mind. You’ll learn to endure and be a contender against the conflict you’ll meet in there and outside of it.

The guys at the counter whose homelands both span the globe ask if I’m experienced. To which I say “no,” and it’s not really a lie. I’m a white belt, noob or guy without a team nickname every new gym I wander in. It’s the same for everybody else. It’s honest — I don’t know that gym’s style or proved anything in it. So I just shut up and learn.

I feel like I’m being watched wrapping my hands and I get that feeling when I stretch or shake another wrapped hand, and I’m right, not paranoid. That’s normal in these circumstances; any gym wants to know who they’re creating.

I, as well, study how a guy moves using a hook, how a coach laughs, how teammates explain a technique to each other. It’s something we all do before, during and after the sweat. There are certain things you may need to know about who you may be sparring. This morning little training troupe are all solid, and part of us is eager to study what we can do firsthand to hand.

The worry here isn’t the fighters, though — you’ll get punched and you’ll either go down or won’t — not too hard to over think. The real worry is in their warm-ups. Here, beginners are themselves, potential is seen and champions are born in City. Heart and lungs will get you through the most grueling, but I still stink at jumping rope — and that’s where class starts — on three rounds of rope.

Sloppy, uncoordinated, and downright goofy — I’m all that for three whole rounds. It is what it is. The rest of the warm-up, we belted out punch combinations holding weights. It all went by pretty fast as the wily coach had our troupe timed perfectly from one set to the next, and now we get to what we do with our gloves.

We get separated — three middleweights and coach in the ring, while the rest of us get a crack at the windy uppercut bags. In the punches, each one of them has a more acute snap thanks to those funny colored weights we held for a round.

The buzzer goes off and coach summons us three outside ringside — he’s handing us new combinations. At least that’s what I thought until he said “in the ring.”