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BOB GRAY: Contender

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By Saturday, Jan 27, 2018 Life In the Berkshires

When I was in college, I was a pretty good boxer.

I figured this out when John, an old pug from Holyoke, had come over to help a few of us start  a boxing club.

We met twice twice a week to train and spar.

I had never boxed, so I didn’t have much to say about the whole thing.

However, some guys had a lot to say about their previous boxing lives. One boxer even claiming to be the Gold Gloves champion of New York City. Simply watching him move around the ring showed him up for a phony.

After a few sessions, John brought one of his fighters, Isidro Perez, to fight a shortened round or two with each of us to see who actually had boxing experience or wanted to learn the sweet science. (If you google him, you’ll find Isidro Perez, a world-class contender in the lightweight class. Our Isidro was definitely not that Isidro.)

When I stepped into the ring, I was pretty confident for a couple of reasons. I had busted up (boxing slang) my nose in the intramural boxing tournament. Though we wore protective headgear and used well-padded gloves, John told Isidro not the hit me in the face. Also I figured his one-hundred-and-forty pounds couldn’t hurt my two-hundred-and-forty pounds, reasonable thinking since the lightweight couldn’t hit me in the head.

We touched touched gloves and boxed. Isidro bore in. When he came into range, I did what came naturally: I pounded him on the top of his head. He seemed stunned, backed off, shook his head and, bobbing and weaving, came on again.

After a couple more charges, John called us both off, yelling at me, “You don’t know crap about boxing, but you’re not a chicken.”

Not being a chicken was a good start. So were my hard head and and my strong right cross.

I did well enough that John asked me come to his gym in Holyoke to work out and spar with his other fighters.

After a few weeks, John asked me if I wanted to box three rounds on the undercard for next match he was promoting.

I was getting married soon. I told my fiancé my plans. She gave me an ultimatum: rope ring or gold ring.

Considering the ups and downs, standing up at the altar or being knocked down on my ass in the ring, I chose marriage.

I still wonder, however, if I would have become a “tomato can,” a boxer whom other fighters fought on their way up the rankings, or, like Isidro, I might have been a contender.

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