Going Forward and Pressure by Grim Chip

On Saturday the 27th September 1986, my friends stayed up all night, holed up in the front room of one of their parents’ houses. Everyone had avoided the news. ITV were to show the highlights at 9am that Sunday morning. The front room was full of expectation and empty cans. Near anticipated time, one friend was about to turn on the telly, when his Dad, dressed sharp for Church, popped his head round the door and said, “What about HoneyghanHoneyghan then? What a win!” Lloyd Honeyghan, a rank outsider had gone to America and beat Don Curry who was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter at that time, winning the WBA belt (credit to Honeyghan thereafter as he refused to fight the mandated challenger Volbrecht from South Africa, because of apartheid; dubbed ‘Moneyghan’ at the time because he had put $5,000 on himself to beat Curry, he said, “I would not fight Volbrecht for a million pounds – either here or in South Africa. How could I look at myself in the mirror each morning or face my own people on the streets if I agreed?” Top man).

It was a time when you couldn’t watch fights in the US live on TV. You either waited for the highlights, hoping an over eager Dad doesn’t spoil the occasion, or you stayed up and listened to it on the radio. I remember listening to the Hagler/Hearns fight, where Hagler with a deep cut comes out in the third to knock out Hearns; one of the most exciting fights I didn’t see. You listened to the radio by watching it, as though it helped concentration, but these commentators were genius, conjuring out of the dark, such excitement.

Me and AshYou get a real sense of this commentary in Chip Hamer’s two poems, Going Forward and Pressure. Chip takes us right into the ring, putting us on our back foot straight away: “There’s a fine art/To boxing on the retreat,/Not everyone can throw punches/Going backwards.//There’s a real skill, you see, /In getting any power /Into the jab, /When you’re in reverse gear.” This is where one of the crafts of boxing lies, in ‘going forward’ when moving back, “Defensive smarts,/Evasive quality,/Are underappreciated arts,/These days.” And there is little time, if any, to think about anything else but that person in front of you, as Pressure shows, “They put you under pressure,/They put you under pure, mad pressure,/So you step in, double the jab,/Throw a combination and short, fast, cross/And they keep coming,/They keep coming.” These poems left me breathless, stirring the imagination, and really conveying the unrelenting art form appreciated either in sound or vision; and definitely in my case, outside the ring.

Grim Chip is a poet and trade union activist, a founder member of Poetry on the Picket line. He trains and coaches in west London at the All Stars Boxing Gym , whose Ashley Theophane (pictured with Chip above) challenges for the WBA super-lightweight title in April 2016.

 

Going Forward

There’s a fine art
To boxing on the retreat,
Not everyone can throw punches
Going backwards.

There’s a real skill, you see,
In getting any power
Into the jab,
When you’re in reverse gear.

Or into the long,
Straight right,
With the weight
On the back foot.

Defensive smarts,
Evasive quality,
Are underappreciated arts,
These days.

The close calls go
To those who show
They want it more,
To the judges.

You can wind up
On the wrong end
Of a bad decision,
Very easily.

No reason, though,
To lower your standards,
Or, heaven forbid,
Your guard.

Though lower expectations
And a realistic approach,
Come with the territory,
Over time.

Just make sure
They have to take
One or two coming in,
Going forward.

Pressure

They put you under pressure,
They put you under pure, mad pressure,
So you step in, double the jab,
Throw a combination and short, fast, cross
And they keep coming,
They keep coming.

They put you under pressure,
They put you under pure, mad pressure,
So you stick to the plan,
Step in, double the jab,
Throw a combination and short, fast, cross
And they keep coming,
They keep coming.

They put you under pressure,
They put you under pure, mad pressure,
So you stay with the pace
Stick to the plan,
Step in, double the jab,
Throw a combination and short, fast, cross
And they keep coming,
They keep coming.

They put you under pressure,
They put you under pure, mad pressure,
So you keep calm,
Stay with the pace
Stick to the plan,
Step in, double the jab,
Throw a combination and short, fast, cross
And they keep coming,
They keep coming.

They put you under pressure,
They put you under pure, mad pressure,
So you dig deep,
Keep calm,
Stay with the pace
Stick to the plan,
Step in, double the jab,
Throw a combination and short, fast, cross
And they keep coming,
They keep coming.

They put you under pressure,
They put you under pure, mad pressure,
But you’ve got nothing left,
So you dig deep
Keep calm,
Stay with the pace
Stick to the plan,
Step in, double the jab,
Throw a combination and short, fast, cross
Throw a combination and short, fast, cross
Throw a combination and a slow, wide, hook.

And they keep coming,
They keep coming,
They keep coming,
They keep right on coming.

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