Monday, August 10, 2015

Men Don't Cry

Meet Chiquito: puncher, poet, beautiful soul.

Chiquito found Atlas Cops and Kids through Coach Aureliano Sosa, who helped him take his aggressive boxing to the next level. Last year he won the Daily News Golden Gloves in the 132-pound novice class. He makes his professional debut soon in a ring near you.

More importantly, Chiquito won the battle of the books, graduating this year from Applied Communications in Queens. It wasn't easy; Chiquito isn't much of a bookworm, despite his excellence in verse. He got through high school on heart and ambition.

"There are only two things I'm afraid of," says Chiquito. "My mother and failure."

When Chiquito was seven, his mother left Puebla and came to the USA to make a better life for her family. It was five years before she was able to come back for her son. This prose poem recounts their meeting.

      Men Don't Cry 
      I'll never forget that day. The day I saw her again. It was in the airport. Terminal 2, Mexico City. After five years of missing her, she was finally there again. My mom, the woman who gave me life. She had come to America when I was almost seven years old, but she couldn't take me with her, so I had to stay. For five years, my family told me I had the saddest eyes. And now the day was here.
     I saw her from a distance, sitting on a bench waiting for me. There were three suitcases at her feet and she wore jeans and a black shirt. Suddenly she looked up, saw me, and a smile spread across her face. I slowly ran to her and pulled her body into mine. Tears came out of both our eyes, but as she wiped my tears and kissed me, she told me in a soft, loving tone, "No llores! Ya estoy aqui. Ya eres un hombre y los hombres no lloran." We were together again and I was already a man. "You are a man now and men don't cry."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How Boxing Changed My Life

Josh,  age 15

     I was with one of my friends from my old high school Clara Barton. We decided to  get high and then go to this boxing gym that he’d been telling me about because he saw that I had handwraps. So we went by one of my bro’s houses from my old neighborhood to buy some cannabis ( a.k.a “weed”) to smoke and reach a different state of mind. After we were as high as kites, we flew straight to the gym. Inside the gym, the atmosphere just felt so intense, almost to the point where it was overwhelming.

     Now, before this fateful day, everything was terrible. It all started late in my 9th grade year. In the ninth grade I was in the gifted program in Clara Barton, named the “Gateway Program.” Clara Barton High School is already known to have very difficult classes to pass and the gateway classes are twice as intricate. So to get in there and stay in there, you know I had to have been book smart. But that was as far as it went for my smarts, because close to the end of the school year I started to welcome the worse possible company: slackers. 

     The first time I smoked it was with a few of my slacker “friends.” To say the least, it was one of the best experiences I ever had; I just felt a burst of energy. I even thought I was teleporting. I was wondering where this miraculous plant had been my whole life. From the first joint I was hooked; by the last I was addicted. 

     From that day on, I smoked at least three days a week, slowly isolating myself from my gateway peers and quickly rolling over to the “cool side.” Not every experience with cannabis was as good as my first, but I continued to smoke it no matter if I had thrown up the previous time or not. Sometimes I would tell myself, “I'm done smoking, because last time was terrible,” but I just couldn't stop. This is when I realized I was basically addicted to cannabis.

     Sometimes I would tell myself that I smoked because of all the stress my dad put me under –– he always wanted to get in physical altercations with me –– and also to relieve myself from the stress from the tremendous amount of work in the Gateway Program, but that wasn’t really the case. I had just fallen under the influence and was looking for reasons to make me not feel guilty. 

     I started to lose motivation to do work and become a sloth. Never felt like doing anything besides smoking. I would make up any lie to tell my Father or stepmother so I could get a couple bucks, just for it to go up in smoke within a few minutes. I never was able to save for anything I wanted, because as I soon as I got money is as soon as it vanished.

     I would tell myself, “You have to make a change,” but for that whole summer I continued to smoke my brain cells to ashes.

     As 10th grade went on, I only invited more bad company in my life and more cannabis. I started failing two classes at one point, and the rest of the classes that I did pass, I passed with very mediocre grades. I started to skip school sometimes to go smoke with “friends.”  (I have since learned the real definition of friends is people who are going to help you get better, not drag you down.) Sometimes I would go in school super high, smelling like cannabis; as soon as I would enter my classroom, everyone would know I was high. 

     One time I was high in Spanish class when I felt something off about my body. I jumped up and dashed out of the classroom without permission. I tried to reach a bathroom, but as soon as I got in the staircase, I threw up just about everything I had eaten that morning. Continuing to run down the stairs, I threw up what I had eaten the previous day, and then one last time before I could even make it to the bathroom. Even treacherous experiences like this weren't enough to make me stop: I was addicted. 

     When I would go in school sober, most of the time I would have to help my “friends” fight the “opps” (opposition), which earned me suspension after suspension. Missing school due to suspensions was killing my grades, but I couldn't change my lifestyle, due to the weak mind I had. After each suspension, I had to watch my back every trip to class to make sure no one ran up behind me trying to knock me out. There was a brawl in Clara Barton High School not too long ago that led to the stabbing of two students, and I was part of this brawl. Despite knowing that one of my “friends” almost killed a student and blinded another, I still wasn't able to change my life.

     About two months after this tragic occurrence, one of my friends decided to take me to a boxing gym named Atlas Cops & Kids. Ever since the day I entered the gym I was changed. The first day I entered was the last day I smoked. 

     I don't feel as enticed to fight as I used to, because I know the damage that I can do to someone without even getting a scratch on me. I've been focusing on my schoolwork with no distractions besides boxing. Nowadays I don't have time to do anything but box and train my body, so that keeps me away from bad influences. Within four months of being in the gym, I was able to gain a decent physique, so I was no longer disgusted by how skinny I was. I was also finally able to save up money for things I wanted: boxing equipment, of course. 

     Throughout my life, many people would tell me I'm “destined to have a bright future” or “destined for greatness,” but my previous lifestyle was clouding those visions. Now with boxing I can see a silver lining in the darkness. From the first moment I stepped in the ring, nerves skyrocketing, it felt right. I sparred a third year boxer named Eli. He wasn't that dedicated to boxing, but after three years you're going to be a decent fighter. Throughout the first round, I was trying my best to hit him, but his head movement was too good. During the 30-second break, I had some time to catch myself up, so I'd be ready for the next round. In the second round, I probably landed about two or three punches, while he knocked my skull around like a bobble-head toy. That only encouraged me to hit him even more. In the third round I came in gasping for breath as I tried to land a few punches to give him a dose of his own medicine, but it was worse than the second round. Even though I didn't put on a great performance my first time in the ring and got a minor headache, I fell in love with the sport even more. That loss encouraged me to come to the gym even more and train until I could go in the ring and show Eli up.

     Now my motivation to box is past just wanting to beat Eli. I’m doing it because I love it. Doing it because it's what I'm best at, doing it because I want to make my mother proud to call me her son, doing it because I want to be able to take care of my family, doing it because I want to start a family of my own and take care of them. But, most of all, I do it because I know it's my calling. 

     I believe everyone on the planet has something they were born good at, but not everyone is able to discover it in time. I thank God that He introduced me to boxing at the time He did, because this is what I was born to do. I absolutely know it, no doubts in the back of my mind or the bottom of my heart. It saved me from going down the wrong path. My heart is the shape of a boxing glove and my brain is the shape of a fist.

     Although my life isn't optimum yet, it's headed there fast if I stick to what I do best: boxing. This is how boxing changed my life. I didn't speak much on my change, because I want the rest of the story to write itself. Because I am definitely going to be a big part of boxing’s future.

     My first day in the gym I was hooked; by the end of the week, I was addicted.