BERRY: Why it's best to keep boxing title a secret

My wife, Amy, and I dropped the kids off at our neighbor's house one evening for about an hour so we could run an errand. When we picked our girls up, a party had broken out at her house with a small gathering of her friends and her parents.
May 2, 2013


Amy and I were offered beverages in brown bottles, pizza and some other foods that we didn't recognize, but they looked tasty. Amy and I quickly took off our coats, told the kids to go play downstairs, and settled comfortably into a couch.

We soon discovered that these were no ordinary partiers. They were deep intellectual thinkers who wanted to know the answers to some of life's more difficult questions, like: If a tree falls in the forest and spills a half-empty glass of milk, and nobody's around to cry over it, are you still a pessimist? Or something like that.  

As the conversation got deeper and deeper, and the brown bottles got emptier and emptier, I knew I had to know more about this group. I excused myself, dashed home and grabbed my copy of "The Book of Questions" by Gregory Stock, Ph.D. 

The book is full of interesting questions that can be tossed out in a roomful of people to be pondered and discussed. Deep philosophical questions like No. 61: Are you able to urinate in front of other people? And No. 206: Would you be willing to eat a bowl of live crickets for $40,000?

Eventually, question No. 8 surfaced: Would you rather be a member of a world championship sports team or be the champion of an individual sport? Which sport would you choose? 

Instantaneously, I said I'd like to be a boxing champion. And before I could shoosh her, Amy announced, "Grant was a Golden Gloves boxing champion when he was in high school."

The room actually erupted in spontaneous applause for my 30-year-old flyweight achievement.

I held my breath and cringed. I surveyed the room with my eyes darting back and forth. Sure enough, there was a guy there, looking at me with a furrowed brow and a hand on his chin, as if he were looking at Venus De Milo and deeply wondering why she doesn't have arms. Finally, he pointed at me and said, "I'll bet I could take you."

I slapped my forehead and slumped deeper into the couch. "See, Aim," I said to my wife. "That's why I never tell anyone I was a boxer. Because someone always wants to fight me." 

Jokingly, the gentleman hopped from his seat and shouted, "C'mon Boxer Boy, let's fight!"

I know it was mostly the brown bottles that were talking, but I'm sure that down deep, he wanted to push all the furniture against the walls, inflate a couple of pairs of Socker Boppers and start bopping each other in my neighbor's makeshift boxing ring.

I began speculating about my opponent. He was a little younger than me, but we were still in the same age class. When you're over 40, you no longer spar in weight classes, you fight in age classes because everyone is a heavyweight. 

I knew he was an accountant, so I knew he didn't get much physical activity on his job. I, on the other hand, unload heavy boxes of meat off pallets every day, so I considered that an advantage. I was certain that if it came down to it, I could give him a hearty uppercut to the solar plexus and he'd drop to his knees, sucking wind like a broken accordion.

The evening never came to blows, but that guy turned out to be a real hugger, so we spent a lot of time in clinches. At times, I wished we had a referee to separate us. 

I saw that guy about a week later at the Spring Lake Shindig, and I was glad that he never once demanded a rematch.

Now that I'm almost 50 and my boxing days are far behind me, I wonder why pummeling another human being into submission is gratifying to men. I guess my testosterone level has dropped so far down that I no longer remember why I liked hurting other people.

Now I find it gratifying when the supper dishes are washed and the laundry is done. I felt like a champion when I fixed the garbage disposal and unclogged the bathtub drain.

If I want to feel like a macho man, I'll just watch an episode of "The Big Bang Theory." I'm pretty sure I could Socker Bop all those guys at once.

The only problem with "The Big Bang Theory" is they always show those Cialis commercials with the middle-age tough guys driving muscle cars or hooking up a team of horses to pull a truck from a mud hole.

Hmmm. Maybe there's a connection between the need to prove your toughness and the need for Cialis? Nah! Couldn't be. 

I now know that this boxing thing is going to follow me for the rest of my life. Someday, I'll be sitting in a nursing home and I'll casually mention to another resident that I used to box. He'll check me over quizzically, rise from his wheelchair and say, "I'll fight ya'!"

And now that my secret is out there for all of Grand Haven to know, next time you see me, please don't approach me with your dukes up, bobbing and weaving. I'm retired from amateur boxing. 

Nowadays, you can approach me by pretending to crank a wrench or by folding an imaginary load of clean towels.  

— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist


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