“Everyone grab a partner!”
I look around. There’s an obvious shuffle away from the sweaty guy with the blood-bespattered feet, the girls relieved at finding they’re present as an even number. The kid on the cement bag teams up straight away with someone who might as well be his great-granddad. That leaves me as the odd man out. Chris rolls his eyes and has no option but to play Robin to my Batman.
“OK, straight punches to the head, 30 seconds on with the partner holding the bag then switch. GO!!!!”
I remember the criticism from 5 minutes ago. Don’t swim. Straight jab with the left, the action coming from the left hip, crushing the bug under the right foot. Left hand back to chin as you launch with the right, pivoting the right hip, raising the right heel…….or something like that. It all gets a bit complicated when the brain is deprived of oxygen. I hit the bag with a big left, reset to chin, and cross with the right, keeping the head steady and the chin tucked. I think I’m doing a great job. But Chris has other ideas:
“Faster; one, two, one, two. Get as many as you can in the 30 seconds. The guy has dropped his gloves. Nail him quick and hard before he can recover. Come on, move it.”
That’s more like it. Less of the technical stuff and down to basic street fighting. Whale away while the going’s good and hope you can finish him off before pay-back time. Thirty seconds through and my arms are just about done. I begin to understand Ali’s strategy during the Rumble in the Jungle. Let George Foreman pound away for eight rounds, soaking it all up on the ropes, then nail him with a combo when he’s punched himself out. Brilliant!………….except for the first bit. Mind you, I begin to appreciate what it takes to keep the punches coming, to keep the hands up for three minutes at a time over 15 rounds. Holy cow, no wonder those guys look like they’re stuffed with ball bearings.
Chris takes his 30 seconds to show that he can punch three times more quickly than me and five times harder. I’m not impressed. Ten years of this and I’ll be way past him. But for now I have to deliver rapid body punches for the next 30 seconds, again all from the hips, elbows in and gloves angled to get in under the ribs where it hurts like Bejaysus.
It only takes one good one and you’re down. I remember Jimmy Green, the runt at school, digging a bony elbow into my solar plexus as I was throttling him from behind. I sniggered manfully as I pushed him away before finding myself a quiet corner to die in. End of my bullying career. How Ali managed to take all that pummelling from Foreman during the rope-a-dope in Zaire I’ll never know, but I can appreciate just how shagged out Foremen must have felt after hundreds of all-out body punches with Ali taunting “Is that all you’ve got George?”
“Is that all you’ve got Steve?” Chris is reading my mind. At half the weight, almost half the height, and pasty white, he’s no Ali. But then again, I’m no George Foreman either.
And yet……………there’s an undeniable “what if?” that has come creeping into my mind since putting on the gloves. Yeah, it’s one thing to beat up on a padded bag and imagine all your enemies, ancient and modern, soaking up the punishment you’re dishing out, but what if you were really in the ring with someone intending on putting you down? It’s OK to knock that tennis ball against the wall, but don’t you really want someone on the other side of a net. Playing patience passes the time, but it’s not high stakes poker. Penthouse was OK for solitaire at 15 but eventually……Anyway, you get my meaning. Is this how it starts? Can the road to UBFit lead to duking it out in the ring?
THWACK!!!! The 30 seconds has passed and Chris hits the bag before I’ve got a hand on it. The padding gets me square in the face, nose first, and I’m blinded for a second by the blow. It’s distinctly unpleasant. I imagine the hit concentrated on the end of a fist belonging to someone who knows what he’s about; not some girly-bag, but a few square inches of concentrated force with 160 pounds of body weight behind it.
No, UBFit does not lead to cage fighting; at least not for this puppy. Rub my belly if you like, but leave my nose alone……………