Boxing at CMR…The Way It Was in ’58-59…Anecdote…

Seasons in the Sun

By: 5716 Glen Peever

I was in the stairway when the announcement was made, and the echo from an empty space is not conducive to my full understanding of announcements on a French language day.

“Keith,Claude, excuse me, but did I hear that announcement correctly? We are to report to the Drill Hall to do what? Something about boxes?”

“Not boxes, Peev. Boxing. They are talking about boxing. We all have to report to the drill hall at 1530 to start our training for boxing.”

“Boxing. You mean in a ring, with gloves, punching? That sort of thing?”

“Yep. Tak was just here, and he filled us in. We get to learn how to box, and then we all get to box at least one fight. Every Recruit gets to fight one fight. If you win you get to fight again.”

“I’m not sure that’s winning. I don’t really want to fight the first one. Fighting a second one would not be winning much. 1530,eh? Well, okay. I don’t know much about boxing. I hope they have some really great teachers. Boxing. I never thought I would actually be boxing.”

Takahashi was a Repeater. He had failed one academic course, but he was a good Cadet, and a credit to the College, so he was allowed to repeat his whole Recruit year. Every class should have a Repeater in it. He had lived through all of these events before, and could now look back on them, and not have to actually participate in them. But he was also a well of very useful information that we pumped without mercy.

And so we ran over to the drill hall where Noble and a few other very keen boxers were to teach us the rudiments of the “manly art of self- defence”. They put us through our routines of stance, defence, jabs, punches, how to present the smallest target and let us shadow box while they came around to give pointers and correct errors. It would take years and years of training to produce a boxer, and an intense dedication and drive to produce a good one. It is not surprising that we did not produce many; but it is still surprising that we produced as many as we did.

They were not exactly impressed when they saw my stance, and my jabs.

“Mr. Peever, you right handed aren’t you?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You should be leading and jabbing with your left hand, and readying your right hand for your power punches.”

I had a problem here. I am right handed, but I pay golf and baseball left handed. I play hockey left handed, and I kick a soccer ball with my left foot if I actually want it to remain in the field of play. For all other purposes my lefty hand is virtually useless.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but this feels like the most comfortable way to do it.”

“But you will have less power in your left hand if you do get to use it. And, if you actually try to jab with your right, AND power punch with your right you will leave yourself wide open and defenceless. You will be in big trouble. Try to jab with your left. Keep practising it and you will be better off, believe me.”

I believed him, and I also believed that I was not cut out to be a boxer. I understood what they were trying to teach me, but every move seemed to be contrary to what I felt comfortable with. It just didn’t seem to be happening for me. It certainly was unlikely that I had enough years to practice sufficiently before my fight was actually scheduled.

We were all weighed, sized, categorized, and assigned an opponent, and a date. The fights were scheduled for three rounds, none lasted more, but some lasted much less. If I could last three rounds I felt I would have indeed achieved something. Showing up should be cause for reward in my opinion. But, valour is not the absence of fear, it is facing the fear and doing it anyways. Maybe I should have practiced more, much more. I just know I am going to get in there, lead with my right, leave myself wide open, and I am going to get killed. I just know it. I really should have practiced more. Maybe 10 more years or so.

Jean was not that much bigger than me. We were the same weight, or close enough, I guess, but he was taller, slimmer, and had a much longer reach. I liked him, although we were in different Squadrons so we only met each other occasionally.

It was not what one would consider a classic bout for the ages. For the first round I almost held my own. I was leading and jabbing with my left, and only once in a while switching to my right to do so. Fortunately that move seemed to confuse him and catch him off guard. But, he did catch on quickly enough. In the second round I was losing my concentration, switching leading hands, trying to do it all with my right, and I was indeed wide open. At that point his longer reach became a real advantage. I would swing, the lights went out, and I was for some very strange reason facing the floor. Only momentarily though. I sprang to my feet, at least I wanted to spring although much of my spring had indeed been sprung right out of me. But I did it again, and again. And again I was facing the floor. End of round two.

“Okay Peever. You’re doing fine. You’re hanging in there. But he’s probably ahead on points. Try for the knockout. Lead with your left. Remember to lead with your left, and really power with your right.” Noble’s advice was probably very sound, and I probably nodded my head that I would do just as he asked. I was still nodding my head as I approached Jean and I did hit him. I think I hit him several times. But, I was wide open when I did so. I saw it coming, but…..

That damned floor was there again. But this time they were actually helping me to get up. Jean won by TKO. It was a REAL knockout as far as I was concerned; there was nothing technical about it. I shook his hand in earnest. He did a good job. I may have made it easier for him than I should have by being so mixed up, but he beat me fair and square. He accepted my confused boxing style, learned to master it, and beat me. Boy, did he beat me. I was proud of him.

I was proud of me too. I was tired; I was sore; I hurt, but I was proud too. I fought my one fight. And almost three full rounds. I’m going to bed. I need rest. Maybe I can recover, maybe not. Right now I need bed. Fortunately everyone in my world knew exactly how I felt, so they all left me alone to recover.

The fights went on through all of the elimination bouts without any more participation from me. If that was a disappointment, it was one I recovered from very quickly. Eventually we had weeded out all of the non-winners and were down to the championship rounds in each weight class. This was to be a gala evening held in the gym with the whole Cadet Wing, senior staff, Profs, wives, girlfriends, and anyone else that could be squeezed in to watch. Everyone was dressed for the occasion, and everyone was expecting a very entertaining evening. We probably got more than we bargained for. At least I got to just watch, but I swear that each blow that landed recalled one that had landed on me, and brought back very recent and palpable memories.

Looking backwards in time I cannot recollect any particulars of the other fights, or any of the other participants. My whole mind, my whole memory of the evening centres on the Sole-Astroff fight. And it was a fight. Boxing may be a science, it may be an art. But when two equally matched opponents stand toe to toe for three rounds and pound on each other, neither giving an inch, neither even seeming to notice the punches given or received, then the match becomes a breath-catching, heart in the mouth event for the spectators, and so it was for us. There were moments when we were speechless with awe, and times when we roared with approval and delight, but we were all as carried away as the contestants themselves, and as lost in the struggle before us.

We were witnessing two gladiators, both in their primes, both equal to the task, both determined to give their very best, and each wanted to be a champion. And they were. It mattered not who won. No one could be a loser in this bout. Two young men were champions. They showed us what courage and determination are, and they demonstrated how one can indeed approach even a new and untried opportunity with excellence. It was a night for the ages.

That night they earned a degree of acclaim and notoriety that was well deserved. These two impressed me; and not just because they fought toe to toe. I saw a situation in which two young men, kids no longer, seized upon something new in our world, learned about it, practiced it, and achieved a degree of success and glory through their actions. And I saw two young men who had grown to young manhood from the kids we all were but such a short time ago. We were growing up.

When I was trying to decipher the announcement made in French that we were to assemble to learn something about boxing I was not entirely thrilled with the idea; when I had lived through my bout, and the fight put up by Astroff and Sole, I knew we had all done something significant, and that we had all taken just one little step into the future.

Ed: 5716 Glen Peever has been actively involved for months,  in writing what he has tentatively titled Seasons in the Sun, which is a book on his recollections of CMR-RMC from 1958 to 1963. It is his hope to finish this book by their 50th graduation anniversary.

This is the first anecdote on his boxing experience in 58/59 when he was a recruit.

One Comment

  • 5717 Doug Sinclair

    January 7, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Well said Glen. Your description takes me right back to that awesome night in the drill hall where Ken and Wayne showed us all what it was all about!
    Thanks for the memory.

    Doug