Boxing is in my Veins
by Oliver Carlos
I just found out recently that my paternal grandfather Tomas Castillo, Sr. (1915–1998) was into boxing. He’s not exactly a pro boxer, but he was somebody who loved and played the sport. He was an active boxer in his teens, sparring with friends in a real boxing ring.
Tomas grew up in Manila where his family owned the one-and-only store selling tobacco leaves in the Sampaloc market. He knew all the gyms in the area and frequented them, training there as often as he can. That sport was his greatest passion, he ate and breathed boxing. This was in the late 1920s and early 1930s when basketball was not yet as popular as today. Boxing must have been the favorite sport of boys and men.
According to my Uncle Tommy, his father Tomas never fought professionally, but he knew the sport so well. He was a diligent student of the sport. He knew all the rules and techniques, and he actually practiced them in his sparring sessions. He took care of his body like a serious athlete by shunning alcohol, as he was never a drinker.
Tomas stood around 5’6” with a lean frame, but must have had solid muscles, quick hands, and agile feet during his prime. He could have been great at the flyweight division or near that vicinity.
But in the 1930s, Tomas married early, and boxing took a back seat in his priorities. He stopped working out in the gyms. But nonetheless, he remained an avid fan of the sport. He watched professional fights live at the venues whenever he can. My Dad told me that his father Tomas was there at the Thrilla in Manila. He was seated at the General Admission section of the Araneta Coliseum as tickets were quickly sold out. Tomas used a pair of binoculars to watch the fight. That’s one of the happiest moments of his life, to see Muhammad Ali in person.
Interestingly, sports were already existent during Jesus’ time. Boxing was even mentioned in the Bible by the apostle Paul. It’s one of the oldest sports in history. We read in 1 Corinthians 9:25–26 (ICB):
“All those who compete in the games use strict training. They do this so that they can win a crown. That crown is an earthly thing that lasts only a short time. But our crown will continue forever. So I do not run without a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something — not just the air.”
The ancient Greeks were an avid sporting people. They started the Olympics centuries before Jesus’ time. The old Olympics had a few sports only, mostly track and field events, and combat sports like wrestling and boxing. When the Greeks built a large empire that included Israel, their language and culture spread likewise to their territories. That’s why Paul, the writer of the books of Corinthians, knew what boxing was all about.
Paul compared his life to a boxer training for a fight. In the passage, we can pick up a handful of truths. First, we should have vision. An athlete sees the finish line, the prize. A boxer sees the belt or the medal up for grabs. Even before he starts the actual fight, his eyes are on the prize.
Second, we must have the right motives or intention. Paul says he fights to win. He doesn’t play the sport just to horse around. He is serious.
Third, the athlete must not confine himself to shadowboxing only. Part of his training is to hit a punching bag, and later on, a sparring mate. Imagine his competitive level if he did shadowboxing as his sole training regimen before the fight? He wouldn’t develop solid punches that way.
Paul is saying that his calling and duty as a preacher is tough, thus he trains his whole being for it. He makes sure his heart and his mind are in tip-top condition to withstand rejection, criticism, and all the other troubles that go along with his kind of job.
How about you? What’s your job or calling? What are the inherent woes of your profession? What do you do to prepare for those? Make God your trainer and coach so you can perform well in the boxing ring of life.