Life in the Gym: My Story, Coach Tim Walker

boxingBy Coach Tim Walker – Before you read further please understand that this is my personal boxing story. I have gotten a few emails from people wanting to know a little about me so I figured I’d let everyone know. As always feel at ease to voice your opinions whether affirmative or sundry points of view.

I started boxing when I was eight or nine years old in a small town called Belle Glade located in Florida. Our boxing gym was more a shed than a building. It was so rickety that we frequently trained outdoors. We had no heat or air conditioning so the temperature in the gym was in harmony with the elements outside. We had a floor ring, a few heavy bags, a couple of speed bags, weighted balls and jump ropes. My trainer was a former boxer and was as old-school as they come..

My start in the gym consisted of running, jumping rope, pushups and sit-ups. Not how I thought I would begin boxing. I was ready to hit the bags and get in the ring because I knew I was one bad dude. I did that for a solid month. At the beginning of my second month I knew he was going to put me in the ring but all that was added to my workout was boxing stance, line-work and footwork. I went up and down that taped line on the floor a million times. The tape would wear out and we just put down another strip. I was so ready to get in the ring but trainer Craig told me I was not allowed to punch. What? No punching in a boxing gym! I didn’t realize how serious he was until he started giving me extra pushups for making gestures that resembled punches.

After doing this for a week or two I was seriously considering quitting. After all I didn’t sign up to just work out, did I? I was quickly reminded that I didn’t sign myself up at all, my mother did. My mom’s word was law and she didn’t play! She was an adamant boxing fan and wanted me and my older brother to be able to defend ourselves if we needed to and boxing was her defense method of choice. Still, I was frustrated with just working out. Trainer Craig told me to change my outlook and reminded me that there were no punishments in the gym. Pushups for making mistakes only drove the points of the correct way to do something deeper into my mind and ultimately benefit me physically. Two months into boxing I hadn’t learned to throw a single punch.

Even at the age of nine I was a thinker. I wanted to know why I was being asked to do everything. For those two months trainer Craig’s typical response to me was don’t question it, accept it and do it. Towards the end of those two months, don’t know exactly when though, I had begun doing just that. I stopped wondering why I was being asked to do something and just simply started doing it. The extra pushups became sort of a badge of honor. It meant that I had accepted my faults and mistakes and was committed to working through them. The pushups were my acknowledgement and apology all wrapped up in one. I didn’t know it then but it was when trainer Craig saw the difference in me that he felt I was ready to punch. As I look back, I don’t recall him bringing any other fighter in the way that he brought me into boxing and that is one of the testaments of boxing: each fighter is different and must be dealt with according his individual needs.

In my third month I earned something valuable, the opportunity to step into the boxing ring. There are millions of bankers, doctors and lawyers in the world but not a bunch of people who can say that they are boxers. You will seldom see what happened to me happen today but I was matched in sparring with the most experienced fighter in the gym and he was told not to hold back. Wow! The only stipulation was that he couldn’t hit me in the head. I on the other hand could do anything I wanted. Trainer Craig told Chris, my opponent, that if he hit me in the head or threw an ugly body shot he would be doing so many pushups that it would feel like he was trying to push the earth. He wasn’t trying to get me hurt he was trying to teach me my next lesson. For three rounds, remember I hadn’t learned to punch yet, I flailed my arms around trying to land a punch as my opponent pummeled my stomach and anything else he could hit. My arms were on fire and stopping crossed my mind but I kept going and finished. Trainer Craig asked “What did you learn?” My response was honest, “I learned that he can really hit.” He turned to me and said, “No. Boxing wise you learned how a real hit feels and how to prepare yourself for it. Life-wise you learned not to give up even when the circumstances are greater than you. When the whole world is against you, you must find a way to finish.” I didn’t fully get it at the time but later on it became one of the driving principles of my life. I never forgot that lesson.

The next four months were spent learning punches. I learned the proper way to turn a jab, the reason to turn it and when to turn it if it needed to be turned at all. I learned how to hook in close quarters as well as from the outside. I learned how to use punches and position to setup other punches and position. I learned when to use speed and how to generate power. I learned that there is no such thing as a right hook for a conventional fighter (that should stir the pot a little) and only an idiot would leave himself that open, off balance and vulnerable. I learned how close is too close and how to create punching space. I learned the value of half steps and fainting. I learned the nuance of dipping my knee on hooks to generate a little more power. I learned how to cover my chin with my shoulders. I learned how to clear my opponent’s hands and role my shoulders. I learned how to punch (stuff) my opponents punch. These and more were my lessons.

My first actual bout was against Alphorns McKenzie. He was little bigger, had four bouts and was a southpaw. He stepped on my lead foot for two rounds and in my mind it was intentional. Whether intentional or not my emotions got the better of me and I ultimately earned myself a disqualification. Trainer Craig turned to me with a disappointed face and asked, “You blew it. Are you ready to quit now?” At that moment I fully understood the lesson of that first sparring. In my actual match I chose to focus on what was unfair. I couldn’t control what he was doing but I could control how I responded. Trainer Craig had given me what I needed to be successful but I ignored it. It was the last time I would ignore it.

I went on to win my next 12 fights before suffering another loss and had a pretty decent amateur career. I never participated in tournaments because the gym just didn’t have the money. Boxing for me in the ring ended in 1984. My mom figured we had gotten what she desired for us out of the gym and it was time to move on and prepare for college. Those gym lessons came hard but they stuck. In life there is what we will do and what we should do. The two are not necessarily separate or the same. When life mounts up against us all we can control is how we respond to it. I never forgot trainer Craig or the many lessons he taught me.

I encourage you seasoned boxers/trainers to stay involved in boxing. The light may not glow nearly as brightly on the sport as it once did but the young men need you just the same. They need your knowledge, your passion and your spirit. The need to be accurately taught the how’s and when’s of boxing, and life. I encourage you boxing enthusiast to volunteer at good gyms, educate yourself and allow yourself to be educated on the nuances of the sport before you lay your hand of influence on a young fighter's mind. Understand that a skill learned wrong is nearly impossible to correct. I encourage us all to learn the craft well and dispense knowledge freely. Lastly, know that every fighter in your gym won’t be a world champion, but every champion in your gym can be a fighter in life.

God bless and thanks for reading my story – Coach Tim Walker

Article posted on 02.03.2009

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