Doctor stays in fighting shape at 89
Even though Delray Beach Boxing won’t officially open to the public till later this year, co-owner and long-time British boxing trainer Michael Hockton already has a favourite “fighter”: 89-year-old Dr. Alan Freemond.
“Doc is amazing,” Hockton says of the retired ophthalmic surgeon, who also owns a 1,000-acre family farm in his native Indiana. “He comes in here and takes his training seriously.”
Yes, thrice-weekly for the past year, Freemond’s hands – the ones that spent decades performing delicate microsurgery – are tightly wrapped and laced into regulation 16-ounce boxing gloves.
Then this married Delray Beach, Florida, grandfather starts “throwing leather” – first on the heavy bag, next on Hockton’s mitt-covered hands.
Uppercuts and combinations.
“He’s got the full arsenal,” Hockton says.
But, as Freemond says he has learned under Hockton’s tutelage, “There’s so much more to a boxing workout than just throwing punches. You have to concentrate on so many details with your technique, positioning and footwork. I’m out here thinking – really hard – the entire time.”
Freemond isn’t alone in finding that boxing sharpens the mind as well as the body.
While promoting the just-released film Hands of Stone – a biopic about legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, a former world champion in four weight classes – actor Edgar Ramirez, who played Duran, said that his boxing training “has helped me think more clearly too.”
Freemond relishes the challenges that boxing poses and, says Hockton, “does every workout with a big smile on his face.”
Freemond’s affinity for the sport traces back to childhood. Just as so many Great Depression era youngsters did, Freemond would listen to radio broadcasts of heavyweight champion Joe Louis’ fights — even when they aired past his bedtime.
“I’d try to hide it from my mom, but she’d feel the bottom of the radio to see if it was warm.”
Freemond graduated high school in 1945 and joined the U.S. Navy just after Germany surrendered in World War II. With Japan surrendering a few months later, Freemond was spared serving in either theaters of the war.
Early in his military service, Freemond’s hand-to-hand combat training included some boxing.
Despite making a less-than-auspicious ring debut — “I got paired to spar with my bunkmate. One of his punches dislocated my jaw,” he recalls with a laugh — Freemond never soured on the sweet science.
Or his bunkmate.
“He’s still alive and we keep in touch.”
(“Doc’s ready for a rematch anytime!” pipes in Hockton.)
Discharged from the Navy just months before the start of the Korean War – “I guess I had good timing” – Freemond set about becoming an eye surgeon. His specialty: repair of detached retinas, which are among the most prevalent optical injuries suffered by prizefighters.
(Boxing aficionados will recall that a detached retina led to Sugar Ray Leonard’s initial retirement in 1982.)
In addition to building his highly regarded medical practice, Freemond oversaw his family’s massive farm, which featured a wide array of animals.
“When I wasn’t in the operating room, I was on the back of a horse,” he says of those years.
Horseback riding was Freemond’s primary source of exercise for most of his adult life – and with it came the requisite unavoidable injuries.
“Mostly to my back and knees.”
More concerned with his patients’ health than his own, Freemond’s diet “was basically meat and potatoes” and he smoked regularly until quitting in the 1970s.
Married for 42 years to Clarajohn – who’s a serious fitness enthusiast – Freemond credits his own longevity to good genes: “My mum lived until she was 92.”
The Freemonds retired permanently to Palm Beach County around a decade ago and settled in Delray Beach in 2013.
So, how did Freemond come to re-lace up his boxing gloves at the tender age of 89? Hockton’s partner in Delray Beach Boxing is Freemond’s son-in-law.
They became fast friends, and Hockton knew that Freemond would benefit from training with him while the gym was still under construction.
“Doc’s a natural athlete and takes instruction really well.”
Freemond has found that the regular workouts have done “wonders for my knees and upper body strength.”
And with each passing week, Freemond’s punching power improves.
“When Doc first started hitting the heavy bag, it didn’t move; now, it sways, so he has to use his footwork to get in position to hit it again – just like a real boxer.”
Hockton would know. His family ran an East London boxing gym that catered to all ages and ability levels — from the recreational like Freemond to some of Europe’s top professional contenders. He plans to do likewise with his new venture — albeit with a twist.
Hockton says boxing gyms with glass-front facades tend to attract passersby who press up their faces to get a better view. When it opens in October or November, the 6,000-square-foot Delray Beach Boxing will be divided by a double-pane glass wall.
On one side will be the boxing/workout area (including a sparring ring); on the other, an old-fashioned English sports pub, where patrons can raise a pint while watching the goings-on.
“It’s going to be like a ‘boxing aquarium,'” Hockton promises.
But what Hockton sounds most excited about is what he has decided to name the pub: “Doc’s Corner Bar.”
New York Times
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