Tom Sorensen

The answer for your questions about boxing just might be found at a local gym

Boxing matches, like the one above, are intriguing in their own right, but watching the fighters practice offers unique awareness about the sport.
Boxing matches, like the one above, are intriguing in their own right, but watching the fighters practice offers unique awareness about the sport. File photo

If you want to understand a sport, watch practice. Stevie Massey, The Answer, practiced last week at the Ultimate Gym.

The gym specializes in boxing and martial arts, and also hosts LadySafe self-defense classes for women. On the walls are posters of Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano, and sayings such as “The Older I Get, the Faster I Was,” and “If You Learn it Fast, You Can Learn it Twice as Fast Slow.”

Massey is a super featherweight, which means he can weigh as much as 130 pounds.

He’ll headline a boxing card Friday at CenterStage Charlotte in NODA. Massey, who grew up in Charlotte, is 6-1. He’ll fight Jeiro Vargas, 6-3.

That’s Massey, 24, in the white T-shirt, green shorts and red shoes. He works the mitts that promoter of the Friday night card, and former women’s champion, Christy Salters Martin, holds in the ring.

The timer is relentless. Fight 2½ minutes, and then the buzzer sounds, the indication that you have 30 seconds to go. Massey is throwing combinations, trying to fake a jab, working to sell it, sweat flying off him.

Later, he works the heavy bag and the up-and-down bag, hands fast and the, the final 30 seconds of each round, faster. The sound his hands make when they work the heavy bag, that solid thud, entices spectators in the gym to look his way.

Massey is good, and because he doesn’t have an extensive amateur record, has time to improve. He has speed, and he has power and, like all good boxers, he knows how to end a round, including the final round of his workout.

Massey tags the heavy bag with a series of big combinations and, when the buzzer sounds and he walks away, the bag still swings.

Tickets range from $35 to $100. The card will feature several local boxers, including talented Michael Williams Jr., who will make his professional debut. For more information, call 704-309-1777.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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