The Boxing Day
Through a pane-less red framed window Craig watched the fighters; some warming up, a few in the ring. All of them ready for the fight. Craig sat, his tall form too long for the small wooden chair. But thinking wasn't about comfort to the man with all the right words, he wanted to know, now that he'd been sent out west for this story, what boxing really was, maybe an anticipation of the effort to fight. Craig walked onto the floor, his blue lined shows quiet on the paneled floor, he was ready to watch and listen. The tart, sweet smell of sweat filled his nostrils, filling Craig with the feeing of a lone boxer standing in the ring, his strength glistening on his forehead, about to get pounded away by the other gloved fighter in the red ring. The buzzer goes off. The fighters have two and a half minutes to prove-in-pummel whose training for the last month has been better spent.
The corporate boxing games at Syl’s Gym in that overly grown beach town of Ventura were a mixture of sweat, blood and exhausting exercise. Though maybe the men came here most of all for the kind of fun a man only gets from his hand meeting the skin of another person's face. The drenched men walking into the ring wanted to be there, craig could see it in their eyes. They enjoyed the exercise, that sweet mix of a hard edged life for fun. A blood spotted Mitchell told Craig he was competing for the Community Memorial Hospital up the road and 'three lefts at the green'.
“This is the first day we did this fight in the ring, it’s a really good workout,” Mitchell told the ever distracted journalist.
He had been preparing for the fight, like every other corporate would-be raider, for the last month. Coming from work, telling the wife and kids lord knew what, to come out and play with the boys. Craig wondered why women put up with his sex at all, Craig himself had done more speedy conversations on the dumb-phone to ask forgiveness he didn't really need. How he had always gotten it was a mystery that perhaps one day he would write a great American novel about and win a prize with his name on it and a smiling photo in the papers, or the blogs.
He couldn't help but look up from Mitchell's slightly rounded formation of meat to a coach talking with two, more serious fighters. The closeness of those boxers hit Craig suddenly, these men had an intimacy which only fighting someone in a closed room can give you. Something Craig doubted his type of man could understand. As the buzzer screamed in his right ear and the punches began to fly Craig looked out toward the gym’s ceiling. The honey-gold beams glistened like the droplets of saltwater from the boxers’ foreheads.
“They’re still at it! That’s like longer than five minutes!” One young female boxer, wearing a black mouth guard, shouted to her fellow fighter. Craig found it suddenly funny that the very few women fighters would wear makeup, just a hint of eye shadow.
Craig maneuvered to a trainer somebody called SC. He wanted to know, or at least the magazine wanted to know the most important thing about boxing. SC happily obliged the man, watching his fingers run over the thin pad of a computer.
“I think the main thing is just respect. Yeah, I used to street fight a lot and I never lost," SC looked right into Craig's brown eyes with an uncomfortable familiarity, "I was always really good. I started practicing more, more competition and stuff like that and then I got in the ring with boxers that were really good and they’d just beat the shit out of me. It brings you back to earth,” SC said with a smile.
The gym’s ceiling fans buzzed faster as the fighters threw their last punches. The fan's noise was hypnotizing to Craig but somehow he couldn't understand why. The air was getting increasingly hot and thickly humid as he walked around Syl’s. His grey, all cotton of course, shirt was starting to cling to Craig's back as he walked to the seating area, under a less than sturdy fan to cool down. While listening to those buzzing blades Craig noticed the flags lying across the bright red wall. United States Navy, Army, Air Force and Marine Corps all lined the wall facing into the gym, facing the fighters as they battled for the favor of pilled muscelles and broken lips. There was no great title to be won, no great victory over the other person. The corporate game fighters were in those little squares to see what they could do with themselves.
As the fights progressed the noise became fuller, a rich texture added to the hypnotizing sound of fan blades and traffic. All the sounds merging together leaving only the clingy, sultry smell of sticky men and the reverberation of fighters waiting for their turn in the ring.