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Fight Mean

By Daniel Kravetz


When Hank Lundy talks about the moment that led to his transformation from a kid who liked getting in fights into a world-class boxer, he becomes animated, relishing every detail. As Lundy tells it, it all started when he was leaving his high school building to go to football practice.
 
A man, age 26, entered the building, bumping Lundy as he walked past and they confronted each other. The principal came out of his office and said, “Little Tyson, go home,” referring to Lundy by a nickname he presumably earned from a tendency to find his way into scuffles. If Lundy had listened, he may never have laced up a pair of gloves. Instead, he waited outside for the man.
 
“It was after school; [the principal] couldn’t do nothing to me,” Lundy told Maxboxing, still carrying defiance in his voice 10 years later. When the man emerged, they began fighting. “It was funny,” Lundy said. “Every time he went to go throw a punch, he would feint and then kick my leg. So every time he did that, I balled my fist up.”

Lundy continued, “If you remember Roy Jones in the Olympics, he threw an uppercut; the guy looked up and he punched the guy dead on the chin. So I threw a punch out to the side”- he extended his right arm sideways in demonstration- “The guy looked”- he clapped his left fist to his right palm and it echoed across the empty gym—“Clean on the chin! Knocked him out cold! I ran to the football field and as I’m practicing, a little boy came and said, ‘That guy is still out there knocked out.’
 
“I called my uncle; he came and got me and took me to the gym…My uncle said, ‘Man, you’re doing all that fighting; you might get some money for it.’” Lundy trailed off into laughter. Two years and 65 amateur fights later, he turned professional and has never looked back.
 
Now Lundy was sitting against the ring in the Upper Darby Boxing Club just outside of West Philadelphia after a Sunday workout with trainer Sloan Harrison. He was preparing for his next fight, a 10-rounder against Raymundo Beltran- this Friday night on ESPN2. It may be the last step toward his first opportunity to challenge for a world title- a long way from Lundy’s high school steps.
 
Listening to Lundy become so excited about that fateful fistfight, this writer could not help but wonder if he might have a trace of sociopathy. Almost nothing in Lundy’s regular mannerisms suggested malice; that much was certain. Lundy has the solid build and the sharp jaw line of a fighter but his demeanor is generally jovial and unassuming. He wore an authentic smile throughout our interview. He talked lovingly about his fiancée and his children and his trainer and discussed his life after boxing with cheer.
 
It was only when the conversation turned to fighting, whether sanctioned or unsanctioned, it became clear that at some juncture between sitting across from an interviewer and entering combat, Lundy changes radically. He explained this transformation: as each fight approaches, “You have to put yourself in the mind frame of hurting another man,” and whenever he talked about events that occurred while he was in that mind frame, it would seep into his demeanor.
 
Harrison, who sat adjacent to Lundy in a folding chair, described what I was sensing in simple terms. “He’s a mean guy,” said Harrison. When Lundy heard this, he lowered his eyes and smiled sheepishly- not the look of a mean guy. He agreed though, “If you’ve been around me, you know,” he coyly conceded, “I’m sort of a mean guy.”
 
Harrison, though, was quick to amend their statement. “The meanness we’re talking about is a ‘fight’ mean,” he said. This point of clarification was important even if it was self-evident in Lundy’s fluctuating deportment. Where exactly the line is drawn between “nice” Hank and “mean” Hank and to what extent the two personas bleed into one another was not so clear.
 
Whatever the case, the attitude Lundy has carried into the ring has served him well. Lundy never betrays any doubt that he is the tougher of the two men in a fight, the one more capable of walking through fire and hurting his foe- the meaner fighter. “In a couple of fights, I went down but the guys weren’t able to finish me and that’s what I feed off…Dannie Williams was the last guy. Big puncher, he put me down and what’s gonna happen after that? He’s gonna walk through hell and that’s exactly what he walked through.”
 
The glaring exception to Lundy’s string of impudent triumphs is John Molina. Anyone who watched their dramatic bout on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” two years ago should easily recall the sequence of events: Lundy boxed circles around Molina for seven-plus rounds, even showboating on occasion, until Molina suddenly flattened him with a right cross in the eighth. Lundy made it to the 11th but as Molina pounded him against the ropes in that round, referee Ricky Gonzalez felt compelled to stop the fight.
 
“I would have respected the ref more if he had stopped that fight after I got hit by that devastating punch,” Lundy rued, “but he took the fight from me with me on the ropes with my hands up.” Lundy also made a point of his health going into the fight, claiming he was dealing with a violent stomach ailment 15 minutes before the contest began.
 
“Whatever it was, it was coming through my pores real bad,” he said. “After the second round, I came back to my trainer- and I don’t quit no fight. I’ve fought with a broken jaw; I’ve been through hell in that ring but I don’t quit- but I told him I don’t have nothing left…[Harrison] got me through 11 rounds.” In the end, Lundy has tried to make the best of the setback and in doing so, his mean streak emerged once again. “I can’t wait to get Molina back…I wish he’d win this fight with [WBC titlist Antonio] DeMarco, so I could take the belt. It would be killing two birds with one stone.”
 
Lundy did not stop at Molina. “You got loudmouth Adrien Broner talking about moving up to 135. Come test the big boy out…If he’s man enough and wants to step up, give me Adrien Broner; I’ll shut his mouth!” One way or another, Lundy figures to be in play for a significant fight at lightweight in the next year. He has won four consecutive fights since his loss to Molina including a tremendous knockout of former titlist David Diaz and he is ranked as the number one challenger to DeMarco by the WBC.
 
As things progress for Lundy in between the ropes, they are also moving forward elsewhere in his life. Lundy and Harrison, whom he considers a father figure, are in business together as contractors and are looking into opening gyms. Lundy makes business sound as easy as he makes it sound to fight for a living. “Think about it,” he said. “Real estate, okay, everybody needs some place to live. The gym, I got a big name: ‘Hammerin’ Hank.’ Who’s not going to come to my gym and train?”
 
But as someone who is quite innately a fighter, Lundy has difficulty avoiding that uncomfortable space between his confidence before he can move on to other things whenever he wants, so he’ll still be able to fight when his hair is graying. “There’s no wear and tear on me,” he said, “so I may be able to pull a Bernard Hopkins and keep on going until I’m like 48 or 50.” Lundy never takes days off- “Sitting in the house, I don’t know what to do”- and when asked about vacations, Harrison half-jokingly interjected, “Atlantic City,” alluding to where Lundy is traveling for his fight with Beltran. For all of his excitement about the business ventures, Lundy is still drawn foremost to “mean” Hank.
 
Then there is the question of his personal life. In hearing Lundy talk so lovingly about the women in his life- his fiancée and his four daughters (from a previous relationship)- one must wonder if the meanness Lundy develops inside the ring might conflict with the relationships he is nurturing outside of it. The last thing he exclaimed as he walked down the stairs and out of the gym was, “Boxing is my life!” If the two are so intertwined, how could the “fight” meanness that Lundy develops at the cusp of each of his matches not affect those closest to him?
 
According to Lundy, there is no issue. His fiancée not only experiences his mean side- she embraces it. “She loves it,” said Lundy. “She’s mean herself. She’ll be in this gym with me; as hot and muggy as it be in here, she’ll be in here.” As for his kids, “I’m their favorite fighter,” Lundy beams. “Every time I fight, they DVR record my fight. At fight time, they don’t call me ‘Daddy.’ They call me ‘Hammerin’ Hank!’”
 
Questions? Comments? Email Daniel at dkravetz@gmail.com. You can also follow Daniel at www.twitter.com/DanielKravetz.


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