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West Side boxing career gets off to thumping start

My boxing career’s auspicious beginning takes us back to 1969 — West Side Junior High. Seventh grade. The reason we have to go back and dig up these bad memories is because of my big brother, Wayne. He ran across a book of LDN columns I had put together and bound from 2001. When he ran across the book, he read the entire thing, then called and told me about it. I had forgotten about it, so I had to ask what some of the columns were about.

“Oh, there’s some good ones, but my favorite was the one about you getting beat up in junior high.”

I know there are 51 more columns he could have remembered, but the one where my boxing career got off to a thumping start caught his attention best of all. So, I decided I might as well go back and tell you all this story.  At least this way I can tell it the way my shaky memory wants to. But more importantly, I want to tell it for the sake of another young man whose name I would like to keep alive. That will make it worth it.

When I look back at the seventh grade, I remember several distinguishing characteristics that I possessed — or, more accurately, didn’t possess. I wasn’t big. I wasn’t mean. I wasn’t tough.

And, obviously, I wasn’t a fighter because a fighter generally possesses one or two of the previous traits.

The only thing I think I was back then was, maybe, a survivor. My objective every day when I crawled out of bed in the morning and headed to school was not to get beat up that day. That was it. A day without getting beat up was a productive one.

Coach Sanders woke up the same way I did that fateful morning, got dressed and drove to work. But somewhere between the time he woke up and the time I walked into his gym class later that morning, he devised a plan. I don’t know where it came from, nor why. But he decided that this day would be a fine time for him to ruin my life. To do so, he would have me strap on the boxing gloves and fight one of my peers. The first problem with that was that there weren’t any of my peers that I could beat up.

If coach had wanted to punish me, he had many other ways he could have chosen. But, instead, he did something I never remember him doing before or after.

He said,“Bowen, come over here,” as he sat on the stage that stood at the far end of the gym. As I got close, he held out a pair of boxing gloves and said, “Here, strap these on.”

My lip trembled, took the gloves and started lacing them up. Then he called my opponent over, who, naturally, was the worst person he could have chosen.

“Cosper, get over here, too!” My teeth almost fell out, and the fight hadn’t even started.

Next week, you’ll want to meet the young man over in the other corner, even though you never would have wanted to box him. It can’t end well when you fight Mike Cosper.