The idea that one man beating the crap out of another man is an apt metaphor for the aging process may not fly for everyone - my wife, for sure, who rolls her eyes and leaves the room every time I tune in to Showbox and forgo bedtime for viewing the boxing matches on late night television.
But it makes sense to me. I used to box a bit when I was in college and I know what it takes to keep your heart from leaping out of your chest when you put on the gloves and answer the bell. I know the rush of elation when declared the winner and the floodtide of humiliation when your face is hamburger and you’re a loser sitting dejectedly in a corner that offers no place to hide.
So I’m feeling it for Chocolatito, up to six months ago recognized by many as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world thanks to a non –stop, no mercy, whirlwind style that rang up 44 wins without a loss. But suddenly, without warning, he turned 30, and it was clear the relentless, bell-to-bell aggression had taken its toll on his body. The fighter that showed up in the ring last Saturday was unrecognizable. It took four ugly rounds of being pummeled and the thump of his head against the canvas to reveal the shot fighter the champion had now become; a shell of his former self.
What struck me was the picture of the dejected, former champion being escorted back to his dressing room, the entourage dispersed, only his sobbing girlfriend at his side. Clearly the future for Chocolatito, no longer the idol of Nicaragua, would be very much different.
That’s the picture in my mind, the aging process witnessed in microcosm as a fourth round knockout; the kayo symbolizing what’s next for all the one-time VIPs who find themselves outside the algorithm that left their outmoded skill set obsolete. With your title on someone else’s head, what do you do next? It’s a different world when “former” is the adjective before champion; less populated for certain.
I’m guessing there are millions of retirees asking themselves the “what’s next?” question. The phrase I use to describe the uncertainty… what do you do when you leave the corner office and find yourself behind a one drawer desk in the corner of the den?
My own answer took several years to evolve. It was a process that began with the struggle to accept the new role I would be playing. It wasn’t easy; periods of change are intense and I found out how difficult it is to re-program ourselves. I was in limbo for quite a while, lacking a roadmap to an unknown destination.
Gradually, as I moved farther away from the heyday, I accepted my altered status rather than denying it. I realized that my motor still purrs albeit at a lower rpm. Today I’m pleased to say that my years as an elder are absent artifice; the face I present to the world is more wrinkled but it is authentic. Life is not a fight any more; I don’t keep records of wins and losses when relating to people.
Román “Chocolatito” González has a choice. He can conclude that the best part of his life has come to an end, or he can leave the ring behind proud of his accomplishments but not dwelling on them or the loss that signaled the end of his career. I’ll guess he’ll be relieved at not having to be constantly focused on the next fight. There is a the bigger picture to be seen when peripheral vision widens the screen. Besides, there’s a plus to being ex-champ; you’re not going to get hit by a haymaker right hand.
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