Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The last round

I suited up in my black Under Armor shirt, my green Marmot rain jacket, a.k.a my makeshift sweat suit, packed my yellow Winning brand sparring gloves and headed out the door. The final day of training. Weigh-ins on Friday, light warm-up on Thursday, which makes today my last day of sparring. The last day they "needed" me. I wanted to make it something important. I wanted to say fue un placer a hacer los guantes contigo, Maicelo. I kept envisioning this grand finale to celebrate all the hard work I put in. But it never came.

After 15mins of warm up, I sheepishly asked Maicelo if he needed sparring. Creo que no. Turns out, Faustino arrived late, and by the time he showed up, Maicelo's workout was already winding down. But we ended up training together anyways, running sprints side by side. He was still beating me relentlessly, only it hurt a whole lot less. By the 4th or 5th sprint, I told him that this was my last week. I was leaving next Wednesday. ¿¡Oye, porque!? ¡No podemos celebrar! I didn't really know how to respond, just touched that maybe he considered me a friend.

I try to think whether or not I'll miss the gym. To be completely honest, much of it reminds me of the self-inflicted mental anguish from my voluntary isolation, but the few social interactions I do have during the day occur while I'm there. I can say that I know most of the fighters, trainers and casual observers at the gym. Some even ask me if I'm fighting on the big Kina Malpartida* card this Saturday. In some ways, I think I will miss that. Being part of something that is.

I winded down my own workout with 5 lackluster rounds on the heavybag, some sit ups and half my stretching routine. I guess I was actually disappointed I didn't get beat up today. Go figure.

Before I left, I went around and shook the hands of my coaches. They asked what time I'd be in to train tomorrow. I explained that from now on it was only photos. I'd just be around to take photos. They hesitated and gave me a bit of an awkward glance, but eventually shrugged it off and went on. To be honest, I'm a bit sad that my last workout went out with more of a whimper rather than a bang, but I think sometimes that's how it's supposed to be. You exit just as you entered. A nobody.

As I stepped through the revolving gates, I heard a familiar voice call my name. I saw Maicelo sitting on the curb, waiting around for yet another reporter. I decided to chat with him for a bit, asked the typical filler questions. How are you feeling, how's your weight, that sort of stuff. But when I asked him of his plans after the Kina fight, he told me he planned on moving to the US for the abundance of pugilistic opportunities. I suggested we keep in contact. He agreed. I told him that if he needed anything, he just needed to..."No. Not for that," he interrupted, "we'll stay in contact just to stay in contact. I don't like asking for things." I respected that. Hell, I admire that.

I want to make it clear that he never asked me to stay and spar. I did that on my own accord because I thought it might help him. I don't know if it actually did or not, but I always received a "Gracias Nick" afterward. I think at least he appreciated my dumbassedness. I tried explaining to him how his words about pity really affected me, how it really made me think about writing and portraying people, but it came out a garbled incomprehensible mess. I hope one day he'll understand what I was trying to say.

As the reporter finally showed up, we said our mutual farewells, but before we parted he wanted to be sure we saw each other before I left. I told him tomorrow I would be at the gym and of course at the fight. No, DESPUES de la pelea. I suggested I could go to Callao again, have some cerviche. Then in almost a break of seriousness, he stopped, slowly stepped aside the reporter and stared me straight in the eyes. La comida. ¿Te gustó?

"I loved it," I replied.

Chevere, he smiled, chevere.

*Kina Malpartida is currently the Women's WBA Super featherweight Champion. She won the title by 10th round TKO over Maureen Shea in Madison Square Garden New York. This Saturday, in her hometown Lima, is her first title defense.

**Chevere is Spanish slang for "cool".

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