“Come on! Get down on that right hand. Go through with it!”
Tony Suggs knows his son is a better boxer than he ever was. Little Anthony is quick, with “wicked” fast hands. He’s controlled where he, Suggs, was so out of control. Little Anthony Suggs could have it all, Suggs thinks: the Olympics, a pro boxing career, money, fame. All the things Suggs himself wanted so badly and came so close to getting.
That’s why Suggs, who for 15 years has worked detailing rich people’s luxury cars instead of driving one of his own, is pushing his son so hard tonight at Henderson Hall on the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, the one boxing gym in the area where Suggs is still welcome. If he can secure Little Anthony’s future, he thinks, perhaps that will lift the ache of his own past. “I burned so many bridges, I let so many people down, I feel indebted,” Suggs later explains. “So now I feel that is my job and my mission, to help someone else make it to the Olympics.”
It has been eight months since Suggs beat the bushes raising money for the plane tickets, hotel and entry fees to take Little Anthony to one of the big Olympic qualifying tournaments in Texas, only to have Little Anthony back out at the last minute. Little Anthony quit, as he has time and again since Suggs began to train him as a boy. Eight months since Suggs swore he’d never be here again at Henderson Hall, rearranging his schedule to accommodate his son’s, diving into training and getting his hopes up for a taste of the gold medal that eluded him. Yet here he is.
Still solid and muscled at 44, Suggs tells his son to use his full body weight when he throws his punches. “Get that shoulder back.” He thumps his son hard with his padded hand and nearly knocks him off his feet.
“Hook. One-two. One-two. Step, twist.” Suggs stops, disgusted. “You playing.” Henderson Hall’s 2010 July Justice tournament, which will reintroduce Little Anthony to the amateur boxing world, is just weeks away, and after so many months off, he is clearly out of shape. Suggs had even taken Little Anthony’s boxing gloves away and given them to Suggs’s younger son, who left them gathering dust on a shelf.
“You gotta be ready,” Suggs tells Little Anthony. “Suck it up. Suck it up. Suck it up.”
If Suggs were still welcome at the Alexandria Boxing Club, the place that was a second home to him and where he rose to a certain fame as a young man, he’d have Little Anthony sparring with someone his own size now. But because of strained relations, Suggs is not allowed to cross the threshold into the boxing gym, even though he’s in the same building every night working at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. Suggs teaches boxercise classes to mostly weight-conscious middle-aged women just down the hall.