Many of you who have read my columns the last few years have gotten to know the many sides of Chris Bieri.
Chris Bieri, the serial overexaggerator and self-proclaimed expert on all things sports.
Chris Bieri, the bad speller.
Chris Bieri, the ice cream addict (although I am currently seeking counseling).
For the next two months, I am taking on a new persona.
Chris Bieri, the boxer in training.
Not the Rocky chopping wood and running through three feet of snow in Siberia to defeat Ivan Drago training, but the slightly over-the-hill sportswriter version.
I have always been a big fan of boxing, but from a spectator or a writer's point of view. The sport has a very romantic history in the United States. For the better part of the last century, the heavyweight champion of the world rivaled any other sporting figure in both popularity and prestige.
And while I have no championship aspirations, I wanted to get an inside look at what boxers do. Boxing is a mysterious sport. A lot of people who have competed in sports know what it's like to be on a basketball or football team or to run track, but few know what it's like to train for a fight.
So last week I headed down to Calavera's gym, Minot's boxing headquarters. Richard Calavera, who operates the community gym, has been around the boxing game for years. He's trained a number of successful professional fighters including Minot's Dennis Allen and Virgil Hill.
Initially, I had planned on just training for the month of December, and writing about the experience once a week or so, then retiring into obscurity.
But after meeting with Calavera, he said that I should commit to train for two months, since the Christmas holiday would probably make for a short month anyway.
Erik Kendrick, who has done some amatuer boxing and trains fighters at Calavera's, said I should complete the training with an amateur fight. Sounded reasonable enough, so until I start getting my brains scrambled in sparring sessions, I'm in.
I learned plenty of lessons in my first session. The first was that jumping rope is a lot tougher than I remember it being in fifth grade.
But it is a necessary training tool, giving a fighter rhythm to his footwork.
Not surprisingly, technique is everything in boxing - and from what I've learned, it's mostly in the hands and feet. You could be the strongest, toughest fighter in the world, but with bad feet and lazy hands, you'd get nowhere.
After jumping rope and working on footwork (and mine was pretty pathetic initially), I got to strap on the gloves. My next big lesson came in wrapping my hands. Wrapping provides support for the wrists and all the little bones in the hands, but after two attempts, the method to wrapping still confounds me. There's more ins, outs, arounds and throughs than a spider web. I felt like a kid learning how to tie his shoes for the first time.
My first embarrasing moment came when I was doing some punching drills with Erik. The trainer calls out what punches and combinations the boxer is supposed to throw.
I was doing all right until he said something like "four in a row."
I thought he said "throw them both" so I meekly tossed out both hands at the same time like I was trying to give him a pair of high 5s. Let's just say I've already been the butt of a few jokes over that one.
The last drill of the day was called the "Burn Out," where you basically punch for three straight minutes as fast as you can.
It burned me out, but not for good. I'll be back in the gym throwing my two handed punches this week.
(Chris Bieri is a sportswriter for the Minot Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org)