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Boxing With Paul Bingham
Man Weekend 2022: 6/11/2022
© 2022 James LaFond
NOV/10/22
Written from memory 6/18/2022
Video coverage is patchy when it is left to men to arrange between their own fights. I invited Leanna, Paul’s woman, to accompany him in order to video the boxing and also, in case Paul got hurt, as he was scheduled to do bare knuckle with Yeti Waters and would otherwise be driving alone. [1] The drive from Southwestern Missouri to Eastern Tennessee took 15 hours, I think.
The couple stayed in a hotel nights and Leanna filmed the boxing at ringside on Saturday morning and wall-flowered in the evening. She is a fight fan, so knew when to sit and stand as the fighters moved about the ring. I’m interested in the footage angle, as we gave her the angle that still photographers, commentators and judges are given in boxing events, not the high angles used for TV broadcasts.
Paul has spent his life since childhood, seeking out older experienced men as mentors. His friends range from 1 to 3 generations beyond his own tail-end Gen-X age, 34 I think. The man who taught him horse shoeing was thrice his age. As a home school teenager he gathered folk tales of the Ozarks, including an old timer telling him about being attacked by a panther that dropped down upon his horse’s neck from an oak limb above on a wooded road and then watched the animal eat his horse, as he “had no weapon.” Paul used to hunt armadillos with a knife, killing some fifty in the last decade when it was still warm enough for them to be pests. Now, with long winter coming, he sees no more of these critters.
Like raising livestock, farming, farrier work and folklore, Paul wants to learn boxing from old hands before he is too old to execute this sort of young men. Still in his mid thirties and having spent a couple years sparring at a karate-based MMA club, he has a plodding gait under a tentative guard. With only one training session with me in Missouri the day they drove me to Saint Louis two months back, Paul needed work and knew it. A knucklehead in the rough.
Intelligent fighters like Paul, no matter their build, tend to be too tentative with their jab, to prob with it in a reaching way rather than stabbing with it. As Paul sparred with Sean, we noted this and Sean took him aside for some words afterwards. Paul is very attentive to instruction and advice and, with keen wide eyes, said, “Yes sir, understood” [2] and patiently waited to be gloved for his next round.
He has a well designed skull for impact, and Injun-thick skin that doesn’t look like it cuts too easily. I was mainly worried that he’d get the right experience and was so busy gloving and ungloving the others for the one minute rounds that I saw little of his work. I did note that when getting hit hard Paul dropped one knee slightly, a good braking tactic that can also be combined with counter punching by sinking the knee and hence some of his weight into the target.
The men were getting tired and Sean and Mick were giving tips for men fresh out of the ring, so, standing there with a pair of gloves, feeling like a wimp, I decided to put on a pair and get into it. I recall sparring with Backfist Mick, Paul, Sean and Paul and doing a clinch-vs-boxing round with Andrew. Being manhandled by Sean and Backfist did not leave a lot of information imprinted in my sloshing brain.
I recall more the rounds with Paul because he is slower [and hence needs to be a counter puncher and invite that first shot] and newer to the game. I really like Sean couching my man at ringside while I box him so that I can feed into the advice being spent. If the coach says, “Don’t let him do that,” after I score something, I will feed it again, so he can work on that.
I remember Paul’s face being easier to reach visually than physically as his hands are strong and he seems to keep them open in his gloves, developing a lot of drag on punches going narrowly through and over his guard.
His jab was pestering and made me move more and afforded me to work my own. In the future Paul, with that first jab, step in and aim for my eyes or forehead to blind me, bring your fist only halfway back, step again and jab for my nose or chin or chest.
Once we were in punching range it did not go good for this old silverback hoodrat. It took no coaching for Paul to sink a rear right lead counter under my jab whenever I boxed from a left lead. I think I ate three in the two rounds we did and the left ribs above the spleen and below the heart still ache a week later. I quickly switched back to a southpaw against Paul.
We had minimal time to discuss the ring work and did mix it up with knives later on. In knife work Paul has an offbeat sense for getting his opponent to contract when he should be adjusting forward or to the side and drawing you to lunge a bit too far. I actually sprained my left ankle trying to get to him at one point. A lot of knife sparring will help your boxing.
When we were done he noted that the small toe on my left foot had been utterly ruined at some point in the past in some combat [thinking, I suppose, of The Brick Mouse smashing my big toe in the stick round] but I had to admit that this toe has often run afoul of coffee table legs and been snapped in that fashion, while getting a slice of pizza during a History Channel commercial after work in one case…
Sean was stepping up yet again with another fighter and Paul looked at me and said, “Sean is impressive, everything you’ve written and more. I’ve got a lot to learn here. I’m already looking forward to next year. Also, though I would have done it, I had no desire to go bare knuckle with Sean. I wanted to challenge Yeti Waters to a bare knuckle bout, the winner of which gets to have you live with him longer.”
“Like two Romans fighting over a Greek slave poet,” I mused.
“Yes, Sir, exactly,” said he and we laughed.
Next year I suspect that Paul will not be the only man coming east in American retrograde from the Transmississippi to contend at Man Weekend 2023.
Paul, when I am in Missouri next we should spar every day, weapons one day, boxing the next, for 20 minutes to an hour.
Notes
-1. I discourage serious fighters who plan on really going at it, to travel alone to Man Weekend or any other such event.
-2. If I had met Paul 20 years ago and trained him then, he’d be a monster in the ring now, as his kind of stoic patience and high pain tolerance is rare among prospective boxers, with the lack of patience a key obstacle to coaching many otherwise promising boxers.
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