This weekend, I decided to support our own homegrown Jose "Chon" Zepeda from our boxing gym. Jose, now 24, has been boxing for 12 years now and started at our own boxing club. He's a professional boxer. I'm a lawyer. He trained me at times. How else would two people from such different backgrounds meet? In fact, I guess I became his lawyer in dealing with his contracts. I do it though because the profession is dirty, and Jose needs protection.
When Jose invited me to see him fight in Tijuana, I knew I had to go. I never drove across the border before. So, it was a new experience. I never actually ever drove longer than two hours before, and I find that hard for myself to believe when I've been all over the world.
On my car ride from Los Angeles to Tijuana, I passed through Orange County and then drove through the seaside coast through San Diego. I was thinking. I was thinking about how proud I was of Luis and Julian, the two boxing coaches, for sending that letter to the director. I mean, can you imagine how hard it was for them? They're the lowest level staff, and they were making a complaint letter, one that touched on public concerns, open to the public. You can read it here Open Letter to the Director.
When the director received the letter, he met with the two boxing coaches. I won't divulge much from what I heard happen in the meeting because that would be unprofessional on my part. But I will touch on two points: the Administration's ignorance regarding First Amendment Rights and the courage my coaches displayed.
When I heard their stories, it was obvious to me that the director was getting advice from someone else. I've dealt with him before, and I know his types of responses. The statements and questions he asked showed me he was consulting someone. The irony of the matter was that although those two were my boxing coaches, I coached them on how to deal with their battle to come. So, as they told me their report, I watched the living chess pieces combat each other. Which chessmaster would come out victorious? The city or me?
The director insinuated that sending letters was not in their best professional interests. He forgot there's something called the First Amendment, even for employees. And he works for the government. So, given the circumstances and public matter, the Constitution protects my coaches. So you could imagine the smile that lit up my face when he asked them not to send anymore letters. And my junior coach responded. "I'll send another one soon then." He was certainly knocked back by their boldness. And to me - it was the signature theme that ran through the club and ran through us: courage.
While thinking everything through, I found it difficult to drive in Mexico. The driving rules were different. I had just made it in time to see the fights.
The Zepeda family went into the Marquee. Inside, I had a few beers. The fights started off somewhat boring. The place was only about half full. The first fights that started with were women and teenagers. Seeing women fight to me, as unfeminist as it sounds, wasn't fitting. I didn't like seeing the anger flash in their face. It was ugly to see a pretty face get bloodied. It's not that women couldn't fight. It's just that it didn't look right to see a face of beauty splattered with blood. Blood in their teeth. Blood in their hair. Blood on the floor.
The teenagers fought but that too had a missing element. They didn't know the game as well as more well trained fighters.
Yet, when the more professional fighters fought, it was all the more exciting. The people were rolling in. The marquee was getting louder. More people were eating nachos, elotes (corn with butter in a cup), and drinking beer and tomato juice. The men were screaming the names of each fighter.
Most fights all began the same. It looked like two cobras testing each other out. And as the fight progressed, one opponent would make a mistake. The boxer would find that mistake and punch the guy's head. It would knock back. A crown of sweat would spray off of him. And if he couldn't defend himself quickly enough, he'd be faced with a flurry of punches. Blood would dribble from his forehead down like a cascade waterfall. A eye would swell. And he'd be knocked out soon enough.
When Jose came, the whole family stood up to support him. I did too. His competitor looked less fit than him, but he was more experienced. When the bell rang, the two had it out with each other. They tested each other out, cautiously looking for each others' weakness, like a mongoose against a cobra. Jose's eyes narrowed into that of devil. And suddenly, in a flash, the guy stepped too forward, and Jose punched him with the back right hand. He went down. We all stood up. The crowd cheered. I stood up too, saying "Yay!"
We sat back down. And in round three, Jose, changed his stance from orthodox to South paw. The switch disoriented the opponent. And bam, wam. That flurry of punches came, and you could hear fist smash into skull. Crack. Crack. It went. The referee stopped the match. The doctor examined the opponent and threw in the towel for him. Zepeda won.
At the hotel, I ordered him a champagne. We celebrated. Everyone was happy.
The next day I drove back. I had to wait three hours at the border to get out of Tijuana. I told myself, I'm never driving into Mexico again.
On my way up, little did I know that the world, from New Zealand to Russia, was emailing the city's management team and politicians about their little First Amendment retaliation stunt against me. You can read about that here. The City Attacked Me!
Driving up, I was tired. Waiting for so long really wore me out for some reason. But I was still happy to go. It was for the love of the sport. It was for the love of my boxers.
When the director met with my boxing coaches, it was a real nice meeting. He agreed everyone should just forget the past and move on with the future. Apparently, he was getting a better understanding of the Free Exercise of Speech.