October 09, 2013

On boxing and stereotypes: "Many years ago, more indeed than I care to number, I had a discussion with my fellow-students that had a permanent influence upon my views and attitude to life. It concerned, of all things, the ethics of professional boxing, a subject to which until that moment I had not given a momentís thought. But youth is an age at which it is felt necessary to have a strong opinion about everything, and mere ignorance is no bar to passionate advocacy. The same is true, of course, of journalists. There is nothing like passionate ignorance to keep one young at heart." ~Theodore Dalrymple

posted by Uncle Toby to boxing at 12:04 PM - 3 comments

This is a very thought-provoking essay, Uncle Toby. Thank you for sharing it. When I was in my pre-teen years, the town in which I lived started a youth boxing program one summer. I suppose it was an inexpensive way for them to keep the kids off the streets, since the instructor was an amateur boxer who volunteered his time, and very little in the way of equipment was needed. None the less, I participated, got hit a lot, hit some back, and learned much about boxing.

At the same time, I was a boxing fan as well as a would-be fighter. In the years before we had a TV, I would faithfully tune my radio on Friday nights to the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, for the Friday night boxing matches from Madison Square Garden. Then, lying in my darkened bedroom, I would listen to Bill Corum and Don Dunphy describe the action. It was a ritual for me, and obviously left a lasting impression, even though I can't clearly remember a single one of the fights or even the boxers involved.

My point is that boxing has changed somewhat. The "gentleman athlete" is no longer a boxer, nor is he a martial artist, nor a participant in any one of the individual combat sports -- with the notable exception of collegiate wrestling. Those who are left in boxing are those who are perhaps the least equipped to cope with any success they might have, the most likely to be exploited by corrupt management, and most probably to be taken advantage of by friends and family. They see boxing as a means to escape their situation, but find, once the escape has been made, that they are not able to find a new path.

A boxer enters the sport willingly, with the hope of eventual reward, but without a real understanding of its dangers and costs. The pity is that the reward is very similar to the grapes that were unreachable for Aesop's fox -- a very sour payoff indeed. Ban boxing or martial arts? Right now there seems to be a strong case for doing so, but I really wish there could be a better way found to clean up the sort and make it safer.

posted by Howard_T at 03:18 PM on October 09, 2013

Good stuff Howard; you had me at "Gillette Cavalcade of Sports" which just sounds wonderfully retro.

The "gentleman athlete" is no longer a boxer, nor is he a martial artist, nor a participant in any one of the individual combat sports

I dunno, I think that may be a generational thing. I can't watch UFC, but I do watch Dan LeBatard's ESPN show and he interviews a lot of those fighters and for the most part they seem to be class acts (or maybe he picks the good ones).

posted by yerfatma at 06:16 PM on October 09, 2013

"I used to box for Cambridge."

"I used to kill for the CIA."

posted by owlhouse at 03:37 AM on October 10, 2013

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