At The Fight Factory, In Downtown Columbus

IMG_3829The Unkempt Guy, the Bus-Riding Conservative, and I had unquestionably the best HJ lunch ever today.  It was a voyage of discovery, with a new revelation seemingly around every corner, as we walked through downtown Columbus.

For example, who knew that, in a nondescript building on a nondescript street in downtown Columbus, a full-fledged boxing gym has been created?

IMG_3830As we were walking past, the Unkempt Guy — with admirable curiosity — asked some guys hanging around outside what was in the building.  The friendly fellows invited us to take a tour of the gym, where we found a ring, a wall of boxing photos, heavy bags, speed bags, a round bag suitable for work on uppercuts, and just about everything a boxer might need except a tuxedo-clad guy saying “let’s get ready to rummmmmbbbblllllleeee!” into a microphone that falls from the ceiling.

What’s more, the BRC and I got to enjoy the unforgettable image of the Unkempt Guy trading a few shadowboxing jabs with a clean-cut young man who aspires to be a champion some day.  I’m guessing the Unkempt One may have had some Rocky-like experience in his youth.

Seriously . . . who knew there was a boxing gym downtown?  It’s called Fight Factory, and it’s located at 15 West Cherry Street in the heart of downtown Columbus.  Very cool!

Downtown Columbus keeps getting more and more interesting.

An Odd Airport Ad

Normally I pay little attention to the ads on the walls of airport terminals.  On Tuesday, however, an ad in the Philadelphia airport stopped me in my tracks.

It was for LA Boxing Gym, and it featured a guy readying the hands of a trim blonde woman for some boxing.  She’s giving him a curious look.  The text says:  “Do your customers look this good?  They would if you owned an LA Boxing Gym.”

Needless to say, this ad raised some questions.

Is it supposed to appeal to men who want to meet attractive women, don’t know how to do so, and have enough money to invest in starting up a franchise boxing operation to do so?  If so, that seems like a pretty small target population to me.  And are there really legions of attractive female boxers out there, looking for a gym?  Most male boxers aren’t exactly paragons of classical Greek beauty — getting punched repeatedly in the face will do that for you — so how many gorgeous female boxers can there be?  If you were a wealthy but lonely guy who wanted to start a business that would help you meet fit young women, wouldn’t you open a yoga clinic or pilates studio?

And if you were a female boxer looking for a gym, would this ad make you want to go to an LA Boxing Gym?  Do female boxers want a real trainer at a real gym, or some desperate guy who started a business just so he could try to hang out with attractive women customers?  Or, do most women boxers secretly hope to attract the romantic attention of their trainers?

And finally, why the Philadelphia airport?  I’ve never seen this ad anywhere else.  Is it some kind of special mecca for potential boxing gym owners?  I guess Rocky Balboa would be proud.

Float Like A Butterfly, Age Like A Bee

Today is Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday.  The recent years have not been kind to the former Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Of The World, who once was the most famous man in the world, known on every continent and in every nation.

During Ali’s prime in the ’60s, he became the greatest celebrity athlete of the television age.  Tall, handsome, and sculpted, Ali was glib, funny, and immensely quotable, whether he was verbally sparring with Howard Cosell or taunting Joe Frazier or explaining why he would not go to fight in Vietnam.  The camera absolutely loved him.  And his performance backed up his talk.  Anyone who recalls Ali wheeling around the ring, lurking and looking for an opening, and then springing forward and launching lightning-quick combinations at his opponent’s head will never forget the sight.  How could you not admire the guy?  He was — and I don’t use this word lightly — awesome.

Now Ali is suffering the ravages of age, Parkinson’s Disease, and a few too many punches in a ring career that lasted a few bouts too long.  It is difficult to see this frail older gentleman when the mental images of his youth remain so very sharp.

For those of us who revered him in our youth, however, there is a deeper aspect to Ali’s current condition.  If age can do this to a man like Muhammad Ali, we think, what chance do we mere mortals have?

Joe Frazier, R.I.P.

I was saddened to read of the death of Smokin’ Joe Frazier, one of the great fighters during last years of the golden age of boxing.

Frazier won a gold medal at the 1964 Olympics and held the world heavyweight title for three years, from 1970 to 1973.  He was best known, however, for his three titanic bouts with his nemesis, Muhammad Ali.  Frazier won the first, and lost the last two, but all of the fights were legendary clashes.  It is almost impossible to overstate the excitement and anticipation for each of those fights — especially now, when boxing has retreated far into the back pages of the sports sections of daily newspapers — but the entire sports world focused on Frazier and Ali as they trained, traded verbal jabs, and then stepped into the ring to fight for real.  I always rooted for Ali, but I respected Frazier because you knew that Smokin’ Joe was going to give every fight his very best.

For those of us of a certain age, Frazier also is remembered for his performance in an early version of a reality show called Superstars and carried on ABC.  The show pitted athletes from different sports against each other in a series of events, like the 100-yard dash or bowling.  Frazier is vividly recalled for his classic floundering, near-fatal efforts in the unfamiliar environs of swimming pool.

Frazier, who died of liver cancer, was only 67.  He will be missed.  With Smokin’ Joe dead, Muhammad Ali shaky and hobbled by Parkinson’s syndrome, and George Foreman selling cooking equipment, the golden age of boxing seems very far away.

The Steady Retreat From Fandom

The other day I realized, with a start, that baseball season is underway.  I haven’t been paying attention, candidly.  The fact that the Tribe is expected to be lousy again this year is probably part of the reason; the fact that the Indians’ roster is largely peopled by players I’ve never heard of also is a contributing factor.  (Seriously, who are these guys?  The Tribe has players named Lou Marson, Vinnie Pestano, and Jack Hannahan, among others.)

The reality, however, is that I’ve been steadily losing interest in sports for a few decades now.  I haven’t watched a boxing match since the 1970s and the heyday of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.  I don’t follow the Summer or Winter Olympics and don’t really care if the U.S. wins the most medals.  I stopped paying attention to the NBA in the early 1990s, and you really couldn’t pay me to watch an NBA game these days.  In golf, I’m down to maybe checking out parts of the four major tournaments.  I also feel my interest in the NFL and major league baseball ebbing away, to the point where I have only a vague understanding of which teams are doing well and which aren’t.  I still care passionately about college football and college basketball, but that’s about it.

Why is this so?  Part of it has to do with the fact that the Cleveland baseball and football teams that I follow have been putrid lately.  It’s hard to maintain interest when your team is out of the running before the season is even half over.  But the broader issue is that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that being a sports fan — other than with respect to OSU football and basketball, of course — is kind of a waste of time and energy.  I’d rather play golf than watch it.  Taking a walk or reading a book or catching up on the news is preferable to spending hours in front of a TV watching a game.  And sports talk radio is too insipid for my tastes.

For some reason, this trend bothers me.  I actually feel kind of guilty about it.