Boxing


Boxing Fans - Is There Something Wrong With Us?

(In photo, IBF super lightweight champion Paulie Malignaggi) By Paul Strauss: Boxing fans are often criticized for being rabid followers of a violent sport, a sport like no other. Boxing critics would begrudgingly agree there are true blue fans in other sports too, the fanatics, the stalkers, the groupies, whacko teenagers, etc., and I'll throw in this one.... the blue bloods and snoots of the arts. However, they mistakenly describe boxing fans as strange (barbaric), odd (violent) and even eccentric (stupid). What about the "Cheese Heads"?

paulie malignaggi In fact, no other sport or activity has been criticized more than boxing. There have been numerous attempts over the years to have it outlawed or abolished. It's often depicted as brutal, cruel, crooked and corrupt (those are the nice insults). Unfortunately, all of those criticisms have at times been justified to a degree. But, those black marks haven't placed any real distress on we fans. Why? Are we really crazy, as they charge? Are we lacking some important ingredient in our psyche, or too much of one? Some say yes and want to end the discussion right there. But, like most things, it's not that simple.

To delve a little deeper, let's first take a look at how long boxing, or some semblance of it, has been around. As near as I can tell, some form of boxing probably pre-dates the Sumerians and Greeks. It was a part of early Olympics, and the Romans practiced some version as well. All through recorded history hand to hand combat has been around, evolving from the more barbaric to the bare-knuckle era, and on to our present day contests with boxing gloves.

Other modern sports have much shorter existences. Baseball goes back to Abner Doubleday and Elihu Phinney's cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York in 1899. Some historians claim football (or some form of it-soccer?) was played by the Chinese military in the era of about 476 B.C-221 B. C. However, most in the United States feel our modern version probably evolved from soccer and rugby and started in this country in the 20th Century. It's interesting to note there were efforts to ban football as too violent (probably soccer hooligans). President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a "fancier" of the game, reportedly was instrumental in having meetings held to devise a way to make it less dangerous. Apparently, there were a number of deaths in the earlier versions. Those meetings were the forerunner to the NCAA, according to Wikipedia's article on football.

It is common knowledge Dr. James Naismith came up with the basic rules for the game of basketball.........everyone's heard about the peach baskets nailed to a ten foot pole. I don't believe the earlier version involved dribbling (some would argue the modern version doesn't either!), just passing the ball.

I don't want to try and make this a history lesson, so let's not go on with hockey, the entertainment world, and arts, etc. Rather, let's get to the point. How can a violent sport such as boxing, with it's tainted history survive and flourish? Is it because boxing fans' bubbles are off center? Is there truly something strange, odd or eccentric about us? Boxing fans typically bellow hell no, and argue that all sports and activities have had some tough periods, .i.e. Black Sox scandal, gambling, shaving points, strikes, steroids, (dog fights?) and more deaths than boxing. But, critics would point out boxing is still unique, because it has had all of those, plus a few more. So, why do we remain fans?

Critics also charge the main goal in boxing is a simple one..........KO your opponent. Knock him (or her) senseless. Put his/her lights out. Kill the bum (or bum'ette?). No other sport has that objective, i.e. knocking your opponent unconscious. We fans have to admit that's really what every fighter would like to do, and what every fan would like to see.........a dramatic and exciting KO.

Oh sure, violence is a part of other sports too, such as the increasingly popular MMA stuff, but it involves more grappling, and is more content with submission. Football involves the crunching collisions involved with tackling and blocking. Hockey has those body checks, and frequent trips to the dentist. Baseball is the killing of the umpire (just kidding). Everyone loves the "slam dunk" in basketball (that's violent), and contract negotiations. But, there's nothing quite like the often described as perverted enjoyment of seeing some one's brainwaves be interrupted by a precisely placed punch.

Here's another thing, boxers (especially punchers), like no other athlete, can be less than athletic In fact, they don't even need to be athletes! How can we be fans of a sport that includes participants who are less than athletic? I mean you can get a guy who has been sent home as "uncoordinated" by coaches of other sports, and then see him/her rise to the top in boxing. You've seen the string beans and the squat roly-poly types, who have the gift.........like a slender Bob Foster, or a short armed Rocky Marciano, both of whom could disconnect someone from their faculties with one punch. Then there's Two Ton Tony Galento, who trained on beer and hotdogs, but still was able to knock down the great Joe Louis!

The surprises continue today with a fighter like Juan Diaz, who appears to still have his baby fat, but never stops punching. He doesn't throw two, three or even four punch combinations They're seven or eight, or endless! Or, like me, you might listen to the ringside announcer give an account of the combatants' records, the tale of the tape, and a description of the fighting styles for the upcoming fight. He tells us one fighter will be sacrificing height and reach, and he throws looping punches. His opponent is described as tall, long armed, skilled boxer and straight puncher. You can't help but say to anyone who will listen, "This is a mismatch! This is going to be a slaughter"! Then you're electrified by the outcome, as I was, when watching Adrian Diaconu take apart Rico Hoye. It was "SWEET". This IS boxing.

Even the critics have to admit boxing has beauty too. However, Muhammad Ali versus The Greatest would probably be pretty boring. Ali needed his Joe Frazier, and even his Oscar Bonavena or Chuck Wepner, Gene Tunney versus The Fighting Marine would have been boring too. He needed Harry Greb or Jack Dempsey. Paulie Malignaggi needs a Miguel Angel Cotto, or Ricky Hatton. Those match-ups and the violence they bring make boxing what it is today, and what it has always been. Sure fans also enjoy a masterful boxer, a truly gifted athlete, and a real strategist. But, the highlight reels most often watched are the thrilling knockouts. Next would be those battles where two fighters beat the crap out of each other, but still go the distance (you can fill in umpteen examples). Admit it there aren't too many calls for highlight reels of those non-violent fights that don't even raise a welt on either fighter. You know those guys who try their hardest to lose. Or, how about the ones who enter the ring looking for a place to fall (See Fainting Phil Scott or the Horizontal Heavyweight)

Does this mean there's something wrong with boxing fans? Do we have a perverted human nature, because we enjoy witnessing a human being getting his/her brains beat in, knocked senseless? Does this mean we are somehow flawed? Are we violent? Do we generally go around fighting all the time? Maybe you do, but not me. Aren't some of our leaders/politicians fans? (I think Hilary is!) Aren't some priests (nuns?), ministers, and your rabbi fans? If so, does that mean they're violating their duties and belief systems by not adhering to "turn the other cheek" or promoting peace in the world? What about Father O'Malley and Sister Mary Benedict (The Bells of St. Mary's) using Gene Tunney's book on the manly art of self defense to teach little Eddie how to stand up to a bully?

Well, here's Dr. Pug's., P.H.D (piling it higher and deeper) response to the critics. No, there's nothing wrong with us. Our fascination with boxing is a natural one. (Happy now, knowing you're not a pervert) Why? What's natural about one person trying to inflict damage on another person? The so called non-violent critics say we are falling prey to our base instincts, the animal in us. They would agree to the obvious answer of the following rhetorical question...."Doesn't nature itself involve violence?" The answer of course is yes. It's also yes to, “Aren't storms violent? Aren't we fascinated by the power exhibited and the resulting destruction caused by tornados and hurricanes? What about the eruption of Mt. St. Helens? Aren't we all mesmerized by photos/films showing the top of the mountain blowing off? Or, with the lava flow leveling a forest, making downed trees look like so many spilled toothpicks? Isn't that why people (no not lawyers) follow fire trucks to the scene of the “four alarm fire”? Sure we're fascinated, and understandably so. So, the answer is yes, yes, and yes. Violence is inherent in humans. Thankfully we also have things built into our psyche that keep violence and aggression in check. (So, Tyson is an exception). Boxing remains so popular, because it is a way we can channel our aggressive nature, and experience violence vicariously.

At the same time, society as a whole, can outlaw such things as abuse, assault, murder, etc. . We can watch and be entertained by the fight, but we don't have to satisfy our urge for violence by placing ourselves at risk. After all, we're not crazy. We're not storm chasers! So, be proud of the fact that you're a boxing aficionado. Just don't become obsessive, extreme or abnormal "fanzines" (someone who will write a whole bunch of comments to this article). Sit back and enjoy the next knockout, and in a non-violent way tell the critics where to go. Touch gloves and come out defending yourself!

Article posted on 08.02.2008



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