Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Remembering D'Aja Robinson

by Sydney O’Donnell, age 13

D’Aja was my best friend, and I trusted her with everything. She was funny and she could sing gorgeous, like an angel. She loved school, and her average was an 87. She had just turned 15.

The saddest thing was that I was on the bus with her when it happened. We were coming back from a sweet sixteen of this boy she knew. We had just stopped in front of Baisley Pond Park and we were getting ready to leave that stop, and the next thing you knew there was gunfire. 

They missed her twice and they kept shooting, trying to get my other friend China. It was gang violence. China’s brother was in the Crips.

They finally got D’Aja instead of China. There were six bullets in her head.

I was just shocked. I couldn’t take it in as fast as the gun shots were coming, but five seconds later when she was bleeding and saying, “I’m leaving. I love you guys,” I wished I could have just hugged her and said I love you.

It’s empty in school now. I feel like a big piece was just taken from me. A big one. 

D’Aja wasn’t a fighter, she was a lover. Her mother knew that China and I would protect her on the streets. If it was a street fight or a knife fight, I would have helped D’Aja, but seeing as it was gun violence, I couldn’t help her. 

On September 18, it was the six-month anniversary of when she passed and I was crying in school the whole day. They had a lighting and I couldn’t even go. But I went to her grave that day and I spent the whole day with her, me and China and these boys, and her brother and her mom. 

We gave her flowers and teddy bears. She loved chocolate so we put that there. That same day, her mother went to get a tattoo. Her whole back is full of D’Aja with the carriage that 50 Cent did, and D’Aja’s pictures from kindergarten and the last picture she had taken.

It kind of made me feel better for a few hours, but honestly it didn’t help as much as I thought it was going to help. She’s gone and she’s not going to come back. 

Sometimes I feel like everybody’s leaving. My friend’s mother is on life support and my uncle just passed. 

What makes me feel better is, I will get up and go to her banner or look at the pictures we had. Sometimes I think of how it would be in heaven with D’Aja. I just hope she’s looking down on us and letting the good spirits and angels help us. 

I got into a fight a month after she died, because this girl said it was karma that made her die. 

I said, "I bet if it was your mother that died, you wouldn’t be saying it was karma." 

I’d fight for D’Aja any day.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Atlas Cops and Kids Takes Best Team Trophy at PALs

On the final night of competition in Oxnard, Christina Cruz outboxed Jamie Mitchell, but the judges didn't see it that way. It was tough luck for Christina, who boxed with exceptional skill and aggression and deserved the win.

Earl "Flash" Newman is the moral center of our team, and he uplifted us all with his skillful win in the heavyweight division.

Big Black ran into a tough, much bigger man in the Army's Stephen Shaw. He and Christina will both get a shot at revenge at the Nationals this January.

And how could I have forgotten Peewee? Jordan Rodriguez pointed out that I neglected to write about his gutsy semifinal showdown with David Carlton of Cincinnati. Peewee had Carlton staggering by the final round, but the judges somehow saw it the other way. Great Atlas Cops and Kids debut for Peewee, who is has a heavyweight heart in a flyweight body.

At the end, no bad decisions could ruin the fact that we were the best team in the country. Maybe it's because we have the best trainers.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Africa and Harley Win Big, Brenda Makes National Debut

Here is Harley Mederos, a friend of Cops and Kids, who brought home the belt last night in the 119lb, 13-14 yr-old division.

"Harley has been winning everything this year," says Big Edgar. "Ringside, Title, now the PALs."

Harley doesn't worry too much about style but just comes to fight; proof that aggressiveness is rewarded in this new pro-style scoring system.

Africa made good on his prediction that he would win the whole tournament. He boxed sharply in a close match with a strong puncher. As always, the jab was key.

"That was war," he said.

Taking home the silver were Shu Shu, Edgar, and Brenda. This was Brenda's first national tournament.

She fought a tough girl named Katrina from the University of San Francisco team. Although Katrina had only been boxing for a year, she was already 5-2.

The University of San Francisco team maintains a team GPA of 3.8! Some day I would like to be able to say that about us.

Here is Brenda in the corner with her father Benny, who was recently promoted to 3-star status, making him eligible to work the corners in international competitions.

Benny attributed Brenda's loss to lack of preparation: "You gotta train to do this s**t. You can't half step."

He also disapproved of her cute blue hair, but it is the professional opinion of this blog that Benny shouldn't go around criticizing other people's hair.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Africa Interview

Last night a few more of our team fell. Julian Sosa lost a great fight against a fast southpaw. Alex faded after a few days of stomach flu. Josue looked sharp, but gave up an 8-count in the third that might have made the difference.

Advancing to the finals were Edgar Berlanga, Shu Shu, and Africa. All three looked in top form and will be hard to beat if they keep boxing that well.

Christina Cruz also outclassed her girl, although she admitted to feeling a bit off. Maybe it's the killer mosquito that has been terrorizing our room. I now have welts all over my hands and arms. If these blog posts stop suddenly, it's safe to assume I have died from West Nile.

I loved my post-fight interview at El Pollo Loco with Africa AKA The Black Mexican AKA The Black Mamba AKA Richardson Hitchins AKA Richardson Jacques. If he didn't already have so many names, I would give him another, The Professor. This kid studies his craft.

This photo is by Iron Boy, who says, "I think Africa has the best jab in the tournament. It's so stiff, like a stick in your face. I haven't seen anybody else jabbing like that."

Q: How did you get started in boxing?

A: I was twelve. I used to see Mayweather on TV, and I wanted to box like that. I went around to some boxing gyms, but they were too expensive. Then I youtubed "boxing program brooklyn" and I saw a video of Julian. He looked so good. Nobody knew where Flatbush Gardens were, because it used to be called the Vandeveers, so I just rode the train by myself, looking for the gym. It was kind of an adventure.

Q: I think you're the most improved fighter in the gym. How did you get so good so fast?

A: I focus on boxing. I watch other people. When I was young, Sosa used to say, "Forget about working out, just sit down and watch the sparring."

Q: Tell me about the jab. Why is it important and how did you develop it?

A: That's the offense and that's the defense right there. Every fight you should use it - against a short fighter, against a brawler. And the judges love to see it. I watched Mayweather and tried to jab like him. I watched Earl on the bag, they way he snapped it.

Q: What other fighters do you admire besides Mayweather?

A: To tell you the truth, I don't admire a lot of pros. I admire amateurs: Edgar, Tremaine Williams, they call him "Midget," Shakur, Josue, Earl, and Erickson Lubin, although he doesn't use his jab enough.

Q: Do you think a boxer has to be mean?

A: I do. But I think boxing is mostly about being smart. A smart fighter knows when to be mean and when not to be mean.

Q: What do you want to improve in your boxing?

A: Keeping my distance. People think it's just the jab that keeps distance, but it's everything. It's your feet, how far you step back, how you throw the right hand, your timing. Those are the two most important things in boxing, timing and distance.

Q: You had a great win tonight against Mykquan Williams, who is ranked second in the nation. The last time you fought him, he won. How did you approach the rematch?

A: I think I got robbed last time, so this time I wanted to make sure it wasn't close. I wanted to box him. The jab was the key. It set up the uppercut and it set up the right hand. I knew that Mykquan was gonna try to flick down my jab with his right hand, so I aimed it at his left eye. I saw that in Mayweather-Canelo. The second time I watched the fight, I saw that Mayweather was aiming the jab at Canelo's left eye every time. That was why Canelo wasn't blocking.

Q: While the fight was going on, did you know you were winning?

A: Yeah, I knew. I'm really confident. I know I'm gonna win this whole tournament.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

PAL Results, Day 2

Do you want the good news first or the bad news?

OK, the bad news. Lots of us got eliminated last night.

Peter Dobson, James Wilkins, and Oba Bakare all lost decisions.

Kike Bermudez was eliminated by Thomas Velasquez in a bout that featured some questionable calls from the officials. After over a minute of waiting in the ring, Kike was announced the winner by walkover, but then the opponent appeared and the bout was allowed to go on. Kike seemed to have cooled down during the wait and got off to a slow start. Just as he was picking things up in round two, an accidental headbutt cut him over the left eyebrow. The doctor stopped the fight, and it was mysteriously ruled a TKO loss. Kike looks like an action hero with his new scar.

We thought Hans Perez might have pulled it out against a strong southpaw, but the judges saw it differently.

Jayquran Hazel looked fatigued in his loss to Ve Shawn Owens. When Jay turns up in condition, very few people can beat him. 

Dago Mederos admitted to feeling a bit of ring rust as he dropped a decision to Alfonso Ponce of Anaheim PAL.

Iron Boy fell to 0-3 against his local rival Michael Stoute, but each loss has been closer than the last, and one of these days he'll get him.

And B-Hopp took a big step up in opposition against top-ranked Antonio Vargas. Here's hoping that he and all our eliminated fighters take their losses as an inspiration to keep going and train harder.

And now for the good news.

Danny Sanchez stopped Daniel De Jesus.

Shu Shu looked slick and powerful winning over Evander Agustin.

We got the answer to that burning question: Who would win if Ali fought Tyson? The winner is: Ali. Ali Salem, that is, our Egyptian-American light heavyweight, who outboxed Tyson Turner.

Dago's brother Harley kept the Mederos family alive with his second win in as many days.

Julian Sosa and Africa both won clear decisions, although both fighters know they can perform better. Both will face strong opposition today.

Big Black looked simply spectacular for the first minute of his win over Jose Medrano, but he spent the rest of the fight hanging on. He revealed later that he had been hit in the throat. Boxing is a tough sport!

And Earl "The Flash" Newman won by walkover when his opponent failed to show up at the weigh-in. 

"That guy never touched you, Earl," everyone joked at the post-fight press conference held at Denny's. 

"You were like a ghost in there."

"Your hands moved so fast we couldn't even see them."

Thirteen of us are still alive in the tournament. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Jayquran and Kike Start Strong

Last night Jayquran Hazel (R) outboxed De La Rosa, and Kike Bermudez (L) beat an awkward foe. Kike liked the above picture so much that he asked me to take another one.

"Wow," he said. "I don't know if I'm really that cute or if it's just your camera."

Honorary Cops-and-Kids fighter Harley Mederos (R) also won big yesterday. Harley's brother Dago is also competing. Today will be a huge day for the team with almost everyone fighting in both morning and afternoon sessions.