Who are we without fights?
We don’t even know.
Good fighters fight their own reflection.
To shadowbox in the ring, you learned space and movement and distance. To spar helped you test your tools on whoever fought in front of you. After hitting the heavy bag and skipping some rope, you always finished your training by fighting yourself.
Back in 87, at Newman’s Gym, in the heart of the down-and-out Tenderloin surrounded by junkies, prostitutes, and ho-bos, You ended each evening’s battles by shadowboxing in front of the giant mirrors they had pasted all around the walls.
15 years old, you fought beside full-grown stinking men—blue collar Joes, Jeromes, and Joses. We all fought the same person—
My guy was a lean lil savage—125 pounds—who kept his fists close to his face, chin tucked into chest, and elbows glued to his guts. His big black eyes hunted you, following you, moving, feinting, bobbing and weaving, flicking out one shoulder, dropping the left to jump in hard with a straight right.
Everything straight and shocking like a train on a track.
From your shaved head, sweat pitter-patters down on the deck.
It is you in front of that mirror, and you are your own enemy and also your own best friend. You look into your own eyes, and you fight without mercy, because life has no mercy.
You stick your soaked shirt, cut-off shorts, and hand-wraps in your lil locker and expect these rags to still be funky but at least a lil drier the next day when you do it all again. You put on your street clothes, a cholo outfit—some Ben Davis trousers and clean crisp white t-shirt.
You step out of the safety and sanctuary of this holy place, and you move forward into the sidewalk of shit.
The grime and graffiti are as beautiful as the sunrise.