Fighter-Writer Diaries (December 19, 2013)

Jesse Hart KOs Marlon Farr - Al Bello

This is the pilot episode of a new, sporadic series that I've contemplated doing for a while now. The title is self explanatory.

If you've read my work over the last year you're probably aware that I also get into the ring when I'm not writing about every other fighter on the planet. However, up until today, I've never bothered to reveal much about that part of my life. It never really occurred to me that this might be interesting to other people, probably because I'm generally never interested in my own life. I see it like this: I'm already living it and once was enough. Writing about it is like living it all over again, and I hate redundancy. And that's why this series will only be sporadic. I'll pick days when other people play significant roles in my life so I don't bore myself.

So let's kick things off with what went down last Thursday, also when this was originally written. Why I didn't publish it last week is another story...

At about 5 PM I entered the Joe Hand gym with my sparring partner for the day, Jesse "Hard Work" Hart. We traveled in different vehicles from separate locations but arrived at the same time. However, it wouldn't be until much later when we actually sparred. The first thing that grabbed my attention when I entered the gym was Bernard Hopkins jumping rope, finishing up his workout. I later learned that he's preparing to fight again in March as he's talking in the dressing room. If you watched Beibut Shumenov's last fight, you'd know that Hopkins-Shumenov is next from the post-fight interview. I was really just trying to put my gear on and go to work but got pulled into the conversation when Jesse asked me about the yesterday's Glen Johnson fight.

As I was at the fight and covered it for BLH, naturally I went ahead and gave all of the pertinent information, including when Johnson called Hopkins out in the post-fight interview. One thing led to another and I was in school all over again. Professor Hopkins even tapped me and asked me questions from time to time to see if I was paying attention. But I really don't have time for the full story and quite frankly I don't even know if it's OK for me to report it. This wasn't an interview or a media event. It was just B-Hop in the dressing room talking to fighters. This kind of thing happens to me often but it wasn't until this day that I became motivated to write about it. Hopefully you like it.

So, without giving too much away, let's just say look out for Hopkins on the cover of TIME magazine in the not-too-distant future. Expect a book on the artist formerly known as "The Executioner" as well. How grand the stories shall be will depend on how B-Hop finishes out the remainder of his hall-of-fame career, which he now seems truly motivated to take to age 50. Unifying the light heavyweight division is in fact a priority. Hopkins (IBF) will first unify with Shumenov (WBA) on Showtime and will then wait on Stevenson (WBC) and Kovalev (WBO) to unify on HBO. B-Hop wants the winner, network difficulties be damned. I got the sense the fight would be easier (and more lucrative) to make if Stevenson came out victorious. Hopkins would gladly go back to Quebec for the fight. If all goes according to plan Hopkins will not only be the only man to unify all 4 major sanctioning body titles, but he'll have done it twice.

Take a moment and try to wrap your brain around that. A fifty year old man is going to attempt to do something that only a ten-year-younger version of himself has ever managed to do. It would arguably be the greatest achievement in sports history.

But I digress. I started writing this piece to highlight my training session for the day. Interesting things actually happened. I just happen to be more interested in Bernard. If you read the introduction this idiosyncrasy of mine has already been explained...

So, moving ahead, once I finally strapped up and was ready to go I had to wait around another 45 minutes or so for a group of lightweight(ish) prospects / contenders to finish sparring. Originally Jesse and I were scheduled to go first, but Jesse spent an extra 20 minutes with Bernard looking at videos on his phone after I had already left the locker room. I attempted to use the extra time to get warmed up but one of my coaches asked me to record the fighters in the ring. Moments later I'm standing still while trying to keep moving targets on a small screen.

Meanwhile Jesse came out of the locker room, jumped rope and hit the mitts. Twenty or so minutes went by and I found myself yawning while holding the video camera. Shortly thereafter my coach took the camera back to record the final 2 rounds while I had my gloves and headgear put on. Then one of Jesse's coaches called me over and told me that he wanted to work my corner so he could have me do specific things in the sparring session. I was told to emulate Derrick Findley, scheduled to fight Jesse on Jan. 25th on the undercard of Mikey Garcia-Juan Carlos Burgos.

But here's the thing: I had no experience emulating other fighters. And Derrick Findley doesn't have the easiest or safest style to imitate. It also didn't help that Jesse was trying to kill me. Apparently one of the few punches that I was able to get off, due to my poor stance and Jesse's incredibly fast feet, actually hurt Jesse. So his response was, well, severe. Mind you the man normally "goes ham" in sparring. Imagine him pissed off? I had no idea that I hit him that hard, but apparently I'm heavy handed, or so I'm told. I'm also a few weight classes above Jesse despite him looking down on me. That reminds me, I really should start cutting weight like most fighters...

Anyways, Jesse and I only went 2 rounds because I injured my right thumb toward the end of round 2. As soon as I got home I popped 4 Ibuprofen. The pain has since greatly dissipated but my thumb is mostly useless as I write this. Fortunately I don't type with my thumbs. Unfortunately someone who otherwise might have been interested in promoting me someday (who also had never seen me in action before) watched my sparring session and was probably unaware of most of the details.

In any event Jesse seemed satisfied with the sparring and embraced me afterward. I've definitely done better work with him in the past but I guess he appreciated what I was trying to do. It makes sense, I did it for free. However, if my thumb turns out to be broken, I'm going to feel a lot less altruistic about the free part. That reminds me, I still haven't visited the Obamacare website...

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Thumb update: Since I waited a week to publish this article my thumb has had time to heal. It did not break. But I've still got a while before I can box again.

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Certain names were omitted from this diary entry because I don't want to give the impression that I'm taking shots at anyone. I'm not here to cause drama. I'm just providing insight into my mind during a given day at the gym. If I've offended you, I apologize. If you want me to retract something, I will. Ultimately this really isn't about you. Hopefully you realize that before confronting me.

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Ryan Bivins is a staff writer for BadLeftHook. You can contact him on twitter (@sweetboxing) or through email (rgbivins@gmail.com).


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