Last week, I learned an uppercut, the right way, from Pops. Mandingo tried to teach me once, but it took me a while to get the hang of the punch, putting my whole body into it like he does. He taught me after I asked him what punch Pops was talking about where you could break someone's nose. Pops tried to teach me that punch before my final fight with Tiffany, my last fight until I aged out of amateur competition when I turned 35 this past May. Tiffany was my nemesis, a beautiful, Hispanic 19 year old whose uncle was a professional boxer, whose aunt was a judge at our fights. I was just a skinny white girl who had found an incredible gym, led by a world champion female trainer, and I had recently found my soul and my sport in boxing. My first two fights with Tiffany were competitive, as she had had trouble finding fights and suffered along with me the intensity of being in a ring at a smoker for the first time, though she won both fights. By our third fight, Tiffany had settled into herself as a boxer, and she kicked my butt, out-boxing me and firing endless machine-gun punches, leading to a stoppage in the 2nd round. Pops was out of commission at the time, having recently gone through surgery, and he said if he had been at the fight in my corner like usual I would never been stopped. But I was stopped, and when I met Tiffany again at the 2008 Regional Golden Gloves, especially after she cheated on her weight at the weigh-in (said Aunt was also the official in charge of female weigh-ins) while I had sweated to make our light bantamweight limit of 114, I really wanted to beat her up, and I did hope to break her nose if possible. I know, not very ladylike, but that's part of the joy of being a boxer. I did manage to beat her up, though I couldn't figure out to break her nose. I lost a political decision even though I caught Tiffany leaking tears after the bout while my hands were raised in the thrill of the moment. My coach noted proudly after the fight that while as a trainer she was like a zookeeper and the male knockout artists on our team were like gorillas in their fights, I was like a mongoose. I looked that animal up later and saw how a mongoose defeats a cobra by attacking viciously, like my coach taught me to do. The first time I went to the Golden Gloves my trainer said as I was stepping into the ring, with a look of calming seriousness, "You've got to kill her. She's about to try to kill you," and that's how I got my mongoose advantage, in the end. And then I retired.
So back to the uppercut. I still like to spar, and I'm at the gym every day, mainly because it's my second home. Pops likes to work with me on the mitts, thinks I could be a knockout artist like Mandingo if I stick with it long enough. When I did the uppercut right that day, I could feel a new ache the next day in the muscles in my right side and in my right wrist. Pops told me that was because for the first time I figured out how to give 100% in that punch. He's always told me to 'break it down' to the side 'like a boy' to really dig my knuckles into my target, but I never realized how to bring my entire legs into the punch, to whip my fist upward with power from the ground up. I have never heard that truly satisfying smack when I hit his mitts with my punches from both the right and the left before. There's so much to learn in this sweet science, and I feel honored to be let into its secrets.