Category Archives: Blogging

Little Juan Ocampo

I said I’d write about my last fight, but something else happened about a month before that I want to address first. Not only is it more important, but it feeds into my last fight and will make more sense. So that story will be told in the next installment—as a continuation of this one. I do my best not to mention names of people who may or may not want to have their business out in public, but I have to talk about Little Juan. (Well, talk some—but mostly show pictures.)

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Little Juan Ocampo died in a car accident close to home on September 29th, 2014, at the age of 19. He was the passenger in an SUV driving too fast in rain on the interstate very close to both the gym and his home. He was the only one who died; another passenger was taken to the hospital. He went through the windshield and shattered the heart of the gym.

Juan & Terri

I found out about our loss when Terri (our trainer) texted a group of us a link to a news article (here, and later here) along with a picture of her with him. The picture was taken at the weigh-in for his first boxing match, which was on Atlanta Corporate Fight Night 7, our first boxing promotion since opening Buckhead Fight Club.

Before the gym had even been open for one week, “Little” Juan Ocampo joined and took up residence with us. He would come train in the morning, hang out and talk for half the day, run off, and then return to train again in the evening. He kept this up all summer. He lied a couple of times about his age, but it turns out he was 18 at the time. He was great company, and a real talker—he knew everybody and everybody knew him. He wouldn’t leave the gym until he’d said bye to every person there. Sometimes his friends from outside the gym would come looking for him at the gym, because that’s where they knew to find him.

Every Juan in the gym has a nickname so that we can tell which Juan we’re talking about, and “Little” Juan came right after “First” Juan (who joined a day or two earlier). It was a bit of a joke because he was actually relatively tall, but he was young and that made him little. :) It was also definitely a term of affection because he was our Little Juan and we loved him no matter how big he kept growing.

After that summer of hanging out with us, he came and went—sometimes for months at a time. He always came back, though. Sometimes just for a couple of days; sometimes for a steady few months. That’s part of why it was so hard to believe he was dead after we learned about the crash, because it was normal for him to be gone for a while. We still expected him to come back any day, running down the stairs.

Retired LockerNot long before he died, Terri told him to claim a locker at the gym so that he could stop leaving his things in the open. I happened to have a lock that I wasn’t using, so I gave it to him. I didn’t trust him to remember his lock combination, so I wrote it down to keep it in case he forgot. To his credit, he never forgot his combination—but the fact that I kept the numbers means we were able to open it and return his belongings to his family. The locker is empty now, but we locked it back up and put his name and picture on it.

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Little Juan’s boxing shoes, gloves, and jump rope.

Remember how I said that his friends and sometimes family would come by the gym to find him? This continued after he died (overwhelmingly so). Family dropped in as if they wanted to connect with the place he loved. It was hard to see them come in crying, wanting to hear stories about him. I’d end up crying, too. His friends would come by, as well. One guy called the gym for information about the funeral, because he wasn’t able to get in touch with his family any other way. He hugged me at the funeral and thanked me for making sure he didn’t miss it.

Even months later, every now and then, someone comes in and sees his picture and tells me that they knew him. (He knew everybody, because there isn’t a person in the world that he’d turn his back on.) People who don’t know about him ask questions, too, because his picture is all over the gym.

That week, his family asked if they could hold a vigil in the gym, and we did. The car accident was on Monday; the vigil was on Thursday evening. We didn’t know what to expect, but I was overwhelmed by the number of people and their singing and grieving. We had his picture set up in the ring with some of his belongings (his backpack!), flower arrangements, candles…

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That was rough. I stayed on the outskirts because I couldn’t handle being close.

His funeral was held Friday, October 3rd, at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. Between there and the burial at Gwinnett Memorial Park, I was amazed to see how many people attended, and especially people that I recognized from the gym—some of whom hadn’t been around in a really long time.

He’s still our boy, with a prominent place in the gym. Little Juan was anything but little. His big heart changed my life.

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Picture posted at the front desk.

Left: portrait for ACFN 7. Right: behind the scenes before ACFN 7.

Left: portrait for ACFN 7. Right: behind the scenes before ACFN 7.

One of the posters around the gym.

One of the posters around the gym. (Juan is in the blue trunks.)

The picture people notice and ask about the most.

The picture people notice and ask about the most, right above the speedbag.

It took me a while before I could drive on the interstate without feeling sad, but I still keep this in my car.

It took me a while before I could drive on the interstate without feeling sad, but I still keep this in my car.

Every time I see this building, I smile and think of Juan. One time he told me that the top can close (someone had told him that). I still wonder if it's true!

Every time I see this building, I smile and think of Juan. One time he told me that the top can close (someone had told him that). I still wonder if it’s true!

Juan was proud when he drew first blood at Buckhead Fight Club by breaking a nose. He was thrilled to sign the ring mat. (That ain't his blood!)

Juan was proud when he drew first blood at Buckhead Fight Club by breaking a nose. He was thrilled to sign the ring mat. (That ain’t his blood! He had the BEST defense.)

One day—after he died but before his funeral—I was babysitting and the toddler and I were out on a walk on a sunny morning. When we walked past this rose bush, I thought the dewy petals were so beautiful (like life, somehow, I don’t know). I had to take a picture and stop to admire them… trying to get the 1.5 year-old to do the same. I posted the rose as my profile picture on Facebook and someone (who didn’t know anything about what was going on) commented that it was a “knockout” rose.

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Grave

On November 1st, 2014, we held Latin Fight Night: “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) at Buckhead Fight Club. You see, months earlier, we had already sanctioned this promotion to feature local Latin amateur boxers. Once Juan died, suddenly the show felt very heavy: while it might’ve looked like any boxing show in the entertainment business capitalizing on a traditional holiday, for us it was solely dedicated to Little Juan.

More about that next.

The Body Says: “Thou Shalt Sleep”

After fighting on September 1st, I took a six-day break from boxing that felt long. I enjoyed a short work week due to Labor Day, and I had the luxury of getting a full week off for Fall break right after that. This was my ideal picture of how I wanted to spend my break: 1) boxing every day, 2) catching up on paperwork a little at a time, 3) laying around the apartment reading and 4) sleeping.

On the first day of my much-anticipated break, exactly a week after my fight, I woke up with a sore throat. My policy for any sign of illness is to ignore it, so I went to the gym just as I’d planned to do. It was good to be back at boxing, though I felt uncoordinated and unfocused when it came time to work pads. I headed home feeling completely out of it and much more spent than usual.

I started aching all over after I got home. I was expecting to be sore, since I hadn’t trained for almost a week. This, however, was not a normal “I worked out” feeling. I didn’t know it then, but this was a “you’re in for it” feeling. After a few hours, I ached even more: my skin started hurting and my throat was worse. I got hot, so my roommate took my temperature. (I don’t do things like go to doctors, take medicine, etc. I suffer through like cavemen used to do.) I had a fever of about 100.6 degrees. My bed called me, so I collapsed and slept for over thirteen hours. I was four pounds lighter when I woke up, which I figure is due to all the sweat that was dripping off of me all night.

And so I realized that I was sick.

Which made me mad. During the whole week of my Fall break, I literally spent more time asleep than awake, because I slept for 12-16 hours every single night. I spent most of my waking hours half-asleep in front of a laptop screen. I re-watched boxing matches from the Olympics. I watched random fights on YouTube. I discovered allthebestfights.com. I scoured the blogosphere for posts about boxing and read all of them. (Well, almost.)

MinesweeperI also played many, many games of Minesweeper and even won the expert level once. (Regarding the 798 seconds it took me—I read blog posts every time I got stuck and then returned to the game for a fresh look.)

Most of all, I was frustrated that I couldn’t go to the gym. I was mad that I felt so miserable on my Fall break. I wished that I had the strength to at least get some paperwork done, but everything productive seemed beyond me. In short, I felt robbed.

When I was finally able to go back to boxing (and work), I was still snotty and had a sore throat, but all the other problems were gone: no fever, ears didn’t hurt, no aching joints, no sensitive skin… I was good to go. I actually felt pretty darn rested, too. I was faster on the pads and more focused. I happily resumed my regular routine of boxing five days/week.

Until I got sick again. This past Thursday, I came home from work and couldn’t stay awake. Skipped boxing; went to bed. I woke up with a pretty bad head cold on Friday, so I stumbled through the work day and then went to the store to buy medicine. (Yes, I’ve gone over to the Dark Side. For now.) The head cold was preferable to the full-body aching during my break, but it still made me mad by stealing my weekend. I was supposed to go to a college football game with friends on Saturday, but I ended up sleeping on the couch all day. I felt somewhat better on Sunday—perhaps due to the medicine—but I still felt like the world had conspired against me.

Of course, there’s no use in complaining. I’m sure a number of factors happened to come together at this time to make me sick:

  • I just had a fight.
  • At least half the girls at the gym were sick during this period, too.
  • I teach Pre-K, where I am regularly sneezed and coughed on.
  • Other teachers were getting sick.
  • It’d been a while since the last time I was sick.

The biggest problem is that I’ve been trying to burn the candle at both ends for a while now. Staying up late and waking up early to fit in all the things I want to do. It’s easy to think that staying awake another half-hour won’t make a difference. Then that half-hour turns into an hour, which turns into two hours…

If I’m going to bike to school, teach 22 four year-olds all day, bike home, box for a couple of hours and then work on lesson plans in the evening, then I need all the rest I can get. Yes, need. This is a basic physical requirement, doofus.

You know what’s ironic? It’s 2 am right now and I’ll be waking up for work too soon. It’s October 1st, and September seems to have disappeared—just like the last few hours. If the last month taught me anything, it’s that I need to get more sleep. The question is, did I learn the lesson? When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I’m hungry, I eat. It only makes sense to sleep when I’m tired.

That’ll be my October resolution: to sleep when I’m tired. Instead of looking at sleep as empty time, I need to think of it as time that allows me to do all the things I want to when I’m awake.

I’m not off to a good start for October, but I’m going to do better. And, by Jove, if I get sick one more time in the near future… I’ll sleep more. (And complain.)

Pills photo credit, cat photo credit

Stepping on the Road to Fight Night

Today, April 2nd, is the first official day of training for boxers in the Atlanta Corporate Fight Night 5 show. Training will last for ten weeks, during which time my goal is to raise $5,000 for the Atlanta Children’s Shelter. Ten weeks from now, I’ll step into the ring for the first time and fight to win more money for my chosen charity.

I’m excited. I’m looking forward to the challenges of the next ten weeks and my first amateur bout, though there is a small part of me that’s wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m a 23 year-old Pre-K teacher with a new-found love for boxing. I’ve only been boxing for three months, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and I always want more.

This blogroads is where I’ll tell my story about the next ten weeks. I want to save and remember these experiences, and I want to share them with others who are interested in boxing. I want to keep a training journal here, but I don’t want to bore anyone with play-by-play accounts of sparring rounds or descriptions of a fitness class. Rather, I want to focus on my growth as a beginning boxer and how the sport affects my life.

Honestly, I don’t know what to expect. I’ve been taking advanced training classes for a couple of months now and I’ve been working alongside some of the ACFN 4 boxers, so I feel like I know what kind of training I’ll get. But I don’t know anything about the pressure of the show, or raising what seems to be a huge amount of money for charity. I don’t know what to expect from blogging, either. I already know that I love writing, so I’m eager to to combine that with boxing. But will I be able to keep posts interesting to people other than myself? We’ll see. You’re invited to join me as I find out what the next ten weeks hold.

photo credit