Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Remembering The Wiz

The late Robert Hill, "The Wiz", was a boxing trainer of mine. He was a Marine,  pro boxer, garbage man, collector, pimp and an all around nice guy. I guess that he was around six foot one and two hundred and fifteen pounds.  When I first began training with him, I figure that he was in his mid fifties. I trained with him on and off for six or seven years give or take.

I began training with him years ago at Daddis MMA in Philly. We would meet early in the morning, 5:30 am or 6am . I'd walk in and his greeting was always, "JIM! How you feel?", and then he'd say, "Okay, Jim, tell me when you are ready."  "Ready" meant get ready to hit the mitts. He didn't care if I jumped rope or did a bunch of other stuff first. To the Wiz, doing mitt work was when the work really began. He did a 25 punch " Wiz Special" that you needed to perfect . It consisted of a  25 punch combination sequence  that you had to get in correct order and execution to get certified in the "Wiz Special". He excelled in holding the mitts. He would work the living tar out of me.  We would always do a minimum of 5, 3 minute rounds. I'd be dry heaving like I was gonna puke and he'd say,"Come on, Jim! Let's get your son over here, he can do better than that!" and it would incense me and I'd punch the wrong mitt in my fury and he'd hit me in the face which would infuriate me even more.

And we would keep going, and invariably I would drop my right hand when I would throw a left hook and he'd smack me in the head over and over. But I learned eventually. If I didn't want to get hit, keep my hands up. Then we'd do a drill called "10's" on the heavy bag. It consisted of a series of 10 digs on the bag and then 10 straight punches high on the bag and the drill was a good one, tons of punches in short amount of time. Here is the 10's drill in detail.

 We would alternate, Wiz and I. It was a brutal drill and Wiz would go through it with no issues. And the we would get done and he'd say, "We gotta do some Romans, Jim."  He meant roman chair sit ups which crushed the discs in my back but I did them anyway because I didn't want to disappoint the Wiz.  Then he'd grab a med ball and we would throw it at each other's stomachs to toughen up the midsection, get it prepared to take punches. If there was a woman training with him and it was her first lesson, he would always ask her, "Is you pregnant?" before he threw the ball at her belly. He'd also let new clients punch him in the belly when they first walked in to be trained by him. After the person would punch Wiz in the belly, he'd always ask, "Is that all you got?"

Once in a while, we would spar. He would see everything that I was gonna throw before I threw it. I would try real hard and he would counter my punches right away.

One time, when I was between marriages, I was closing up bars every night of the week and raising all kinds of hell, trying to find out what life was really all about in the beer soaked neon signs nights. I'd be ready to leave the bar at midnight. After all, I had  a lesson with the Wiz at 5:30 the next morning. But then the owner of the bar would come sit next to me and he'd ask me where I thought that I was going so early in the night, and I'd say, I gotta go, but I didn't really want to go home to my apartment, all alone. The owner would begin buying me shots and pretty soon it was 2 in the morning and I had to get home, get my ass to bed and get ready to throw up the next day. I showed up one morning, clearly hung over and I walked in and Wiz was already sparring. "You are next, Jim," he said, matter of factly. I jumped in the ring and Wiz commenced to beat the hell out of me and I got so frustrated and ended up throwing my headgear across the gym because I was so pissed off at myself for staying out all night and not being ready.

And we would train together months at a time and then I'd get into Muay Thai or bodybuilding and lose touch with Wiz for awhile. Time would go by and I'd want to see Wiz and I started bringing him to where I worked to train me and some staff members. He lived in a rough area in South Philly on Oregon Avenue. I'd pick him up on the corner of Passyunk and Oregon Avenue. He'd be buying lottery tickets as I pulled up. At the workout, he would hold the mitts for everyone, and he'd be drenched in sweat, working hard.  After,  he'd go to the Veterans Hospital so that they could look at his bum knee and whatever else was ailing him.

Wiz also was my corner man at a tough man contest I fought in years ago. He showed up with a spoon in an ice bucket. I was like, what the hell is that? Wiz told me that the frozen spoon was old school and meant to reduce swelling on my face.

 Halfway through the fight, my nose was broken and blood was everywhere. I walked over  the corner and Wiz asked, "How you feel, Jim?" I said, "Like shit! Tell me what to do!" And Wiz said, I swear that he sad this-  "You need to Duck!" I looked at him, waiting for more advice. Nothing more came, so I ventured back into the ring.

A few years ago, Wiz passed away. I don't think that he had much when he went. But he did leave an impression on those that he trained. I think, technically, there were better boxing coaches out there. But Wiz was one of a kind, a good man who took great pride in the folks that he trained and he did it with all of his heart. I can still hear him now, "C'mon, Jim!"

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.