El Humo translates to smoke. It was what my trainer had suggested as my nickname should I choose to get serious with the sport. I had decided to box just to get in shape, and because I was a huge fan. However, my trainer would frequently suggest sparring and more. He had said I had heavy hands, and I would be deceptive. He had even mentioned traveling around the country and taking undercard fights, but I think he was joking. However, The New York Gold Gloves were not out of the realm of possibilities. He wasn’t saying I could win; he just meant I could compete. The reality of the situation is that while I had been a solid high school wrestler, I was way out of my depth as a boxer. I was older and slower than the majority of the other people at the gym. The idea of me doing more than getting in shape was killed for certain when I executed drills with a Polish American heavyweight who was sixteen at the time and didn’t understand exactly how strong he was. It’s sort of like when a large dog plays with a smaller dog and is subsequently banned from the dog park. He was at least six inches taller than me and weighed seventy-five pounds more than I did. The kid had a baby-face, a thick accent, and a peach-fuzz mustache. We were to drill for one round just executing the motions at half-speed. I wore a headgear anyway; one that had a bar running across the bridge of the nose. I’d broken mine when I was in the seventh grade, and my mother had instilled the fear in me to protect my face at all costs. The bell rang to signal the round. We circled each other, and the kid threw a stiff jab. I didn’t see it coming, and therefore didn’t block it;. The punch connected with the bar on the headgear. I can only imagine it looked similar to the slow-motion videos of car crash tests, in which the shock waves reverberate and ripple through solid objects, and the dummy, whose not wearing a seatbelt, launches through the windshield. My senses were scrambled, and I walked forward like a child who has sampled some of the drinks from the “adult” table during a celebration. After taking a knee to regain equilibrium and my faculties, I came around to a string of profanities. The kid had been berating me for making him feel like he’d done something wrong.
“Why’d you make me hurt you?” he said.
The look on his face continued to be one of genuine concern, but the tone of his voice suggested he was angry at me for putting him in this position. Eventually, I stood up. I don’t remember if we continued to drill or not. I wish I could tell you it all ended with me entering the Gold Gloves tournament and becoming champion to the strains of “Win in the End” by Mark Safan. Those of you in the know probably thought I would have selected a song from the Rocky, Bloodsport, or Karate Kid franchises, but that would have been played out; I’m going Teen Wolf all the way.
Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His other work can be found in links on his website: asdavie.wordpress.com