Cojones

There’s a moment before the walk to the ring, there’s a moment when a boxer pauses. He stands in a dark passageway and waits to hear those first few notes of of his ring music. Ahead lays the ring and thousands of spectators eager to see him in action. Behind is the dressing room and thousands of hours of preparation that have brought him to this moment. The mood is different with every boxer. Some of stare straight ahead at some invisible spot; their glazed over with what Mike Tyson called “bad intensions.” Some have rituals, whether they include prayers, breaking down the glove leather or chanting the same motivational phrase over and over.

My favorite ritual is the one between one of my boxers and his trainer, who’s been with him for 20 years. The boxer always sways back and forth, rolling his shoulders and trying to stay loose.

“Hey Pancho,” the trainer says in his Puerto Rican accent. He calls the boxer this always and only on fight day.

“Si,” the boxer always answers in Spanish.

“You got your mouth piece?”

“Si.”

“You got your cup?”

“Si.”

Then the boxers is still for a second. He looks at the trainer and starts to smile.

The trainer’s eyes light up as he asks, “You got your cojones.”

Somehow, there’s nothing vulgar about the way the boxer grabs himself with his gloved hand and answers, “Si.”

I’m reminded of this because boxing lost a legend today when Hector Camacho was removed from life support. Many boxers pad their record with such inferior opponents that it’s not uncommon for a contender to be 15-0 before they face someone with a winning record. “Macho” Camacho was not that kind of man. He started his career with opponents who records of 16-1, 19-10, 15-0, 18-7, 16-0 and 32-0. Whether he entered the ring dressed as a a gladiator, an Indian chief or wearing a skirt, he always had his cojones.

Rest in peace, Hector Camacho. We’re going to miss your Macho Time.

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