Started my “official” boxing education at what I believe was the original Ray’s Boxing Club in Houston, Texas. Before that I initially learned the basics from my father, who boxed for the Salvation Army Boxing Club, or as he called it, “The Red Shield” Boxing Club in the late 50’s early 60’s. I also had at least 20 “non- sanctioned” bouts before my father died, in what were sort of neighborhood, “street boxing” matches. My father matched me a little too tough for my taste back then and it seemed like I was always boxing a kid older, stronger, or with plenty of organized amateur bouts under their belt already. I distinctly remember boxing a kid once who got the best of me pretty good, but I somehow managed to knock down, that I later found out already had “20 or 30” USA Boxing sanctioned amateur bouts. I was discouraged by that loss but remember my father being proud of me and becoming more excited about my chances in boxing. I know my boxing purist friends may not agree with my early schooling, but I was taught solid boxing fundamentals since my father had once trained and competed in local smokers and Golden Gloves competition. Also, many of the kids I was matched with were already competing in organized amateur competition. I would later learn so much more from several of the best boxing coaches in the Houston area, but for my personal journey I do believe I learned a lot also from those initial “street boxing” matches and the ones I would continue to participate in up until around 1997 or so. I would say a strong emphasis on conditioning for one thing was the biggest thing, especially since those matches were fought at 3 minute rounds and we went anywhere from 3 to 10 rounds. The mental and psychological aspect was much different as well and I feel also gave me an advantage in “organized” competition.
Ray’s Boxing Club at this time, around 1983 or 84, consisted of two heavy bags, one speed bag, a homemade “boxing ring” and some mirrors on the wall of Ray’s garage. Although the “gym” was humble and spartan, I believe the boxing club there was already doing pretty well on the local, state, and national scene. It’s been a long time and I don’t remember everything but the faces and personalities I remember being around were the Alvarado brothers, Steven and John I believe, their father, and Joe “Cool” Garcia who was either about to turn pro or just turned pro. I got wise to some things quicker than most kids I think because I started to help Joe “Cool” glove up and give him water between sparring rounds, so that he would give me some pointers every now and then or answer questions that I had. Questions I still ask people I look up to in boxing such as, “how many miles should a boxer run when amateur and/or pro? “ , “how many push-ups, sit-ups, and squats should we do”? , “ how do you control your breathing”? and things like that.
Speaking of sparring, let me tell you about the “ring” we sparred in. It was a homemade ring set up in the corner of the garage, made of wood, and couldn’t have been more than 8×8 or 10×10, and that may be a generous estimation. It was a phone booth man and you had to catch on quick or you weren’t gonna survive the sparring. As for me I’ve always been a boxer/counter-puncher so that ring did not suit my style or personality, but I did learn to box on the inside or “toe to toe” as I knew it to be back then. I didn’t become a slugger by any stretch, I just learned little tricks where I could be as safe being up close as I was on the outside, where I liked to be. Still it was definitely the hard knocks way of learning and there were many “dogfights” in that ring. I probably took more whuppings than gave for at least 6 months before I got to where I was okay being in there with anyone except for the pros.
I don’t remember much else about those beginning days other than lots of calisthenics, those damn “duck walks”, and being confused when I would get the courage to ask for instruction and being told to “do 3 rounds of left jabs, then 3 of straight rights on the heavy bag, then let me know if you want more”. This of course came after calisthenics in the ring and jump roping and/or sparring. Ever try throwing nothing but left jabs for 3 rounds? It’s tough for sure and the “gym” was so small you couldn’t hide anywhere or piddle around.
What was your start out in boxing like?