by Bobby Mac
I was walking my dog Dingo Red the other evening. Normally we do our thing in the cooler morning hours, but I was in desperate need of a shower, so I cobbled together a quick workout regimen to get good and lathered up before my shower, ie, a brisk walk of Red around the park followed by some spirited bag work.
So we made our rounds in the park which includes a walk around the small parking lot at the Salvation Army Church which has organic vegetable gardens growing in the back lot.
Weeks previous, I had noticed a small sign on one of the side doors to one of the wings of the church, Agape Boxing.
“Hmmm,” I thought, “What’s this? My side of town doesn’t have any boxing gyms.”
I peered in, and couldn’t see anything because of darkness, so I made a mental note to keep checking to find out if anyone ever showed up to train. No such luck, the door remained locked and the lights remained dark.
Finally, this evening, I hit the jackpot. The door was thrown open and stopped in place, so I peaked inside and saw a well equipped little facility that looked to be buzzing along. Since I had Red with me and smelled like a bum sleeping in a sewer, I wasn’t yet in fit circumstance to enter for inquiries.
I went ahead and finished Red’s workout and launched into my bag session, and then hopped into a blessed hot shower. I emerged starving, but I didn’t know how long the Agape Boxing Club would remain open, so I skipped dinner and hightailed it over there still dripping in hopes someone was still there, and, sure enough, it was still humming along. Big fellow there resembling Ken Norton was working the heavy bag at the door nodded at me, with maybe 8-9 guys total in various stages of work outs centered around the one sparring ring.
Fellow by the name of Mike Lopez called me out, so I went over for introductions, and what a friendly gentleman he was for a young whippersnapper. Well spoken and informative also. He was the assistant trainer of this boxing club with his father being the head honcho, but away at the moment.
Mr. Ken Norton’s twin turned out to be the Texas superheavyweight amateur champion, and the Texas lightheavy champ was busy doing laps in my park that I do my laps in, so, wow, what a revelation to find out some top boxers had invaded the neighborhood.
Now, lemme tell you, the odds of running into a box gym in Austin are slim and none, and on my side of town, I’d given better odds of finding a $1000 bill in the park than finding a boxing gym, so I felt a divine obligation to go in and probe the background story.
Mike says they have 15-16 kids from 8 yrs of age to early 20s that they train, and that 7 are in the amateur USAB program, and these boys have some credentials as you can see. The trainers are LCB 1 certified and the club is a Christian organization sponsored by the Salvation Army.
There was one heavily tattooed artist whirling up miniature twisters next to him as he breezed through the skiprope routine for the entire 10 minute duration of my conversation with Mike, including before my arrival and after my departure.
Mike says the facility is open to the public, but it looked to me like he was running a tight ship, so I asked if I could come and do some sparring. He was very cool with his funny look that he gave me, but he said, sure, but I have to come in and work out, ie convince him I could get out the way of my shadow before he would deign to sic one of his boys on me. Fair enough.
I’ve been recently reading up on Jem Mace who was reknown for his fitness and health into his 70s. He fought a prime HOFer Charley Mitchell in Scotland for the English title at age 59, drew with Mike Donovan at age 65, and was still giving exhibitions well into his 70s. I could never surpass ye olde Gypsy on that front, but stranger things have happened in boxing. Just think of the miracle of St. Leon.
However, the thought of me having to lose my two front teeth makes me cringe though, so perhaps I’ll leave the miracles of St. Leon in my pipe of dreams where they are better savored.
So, those are my thoughts on Agape Boxing and Jem Mace in a nutshell. Neither knows or knew the first thing about the other, but for some strange reason known only to my Creator, I do.