Boxing


Boxing Commentary: From The Armchair To Ringside

By Mel Dixonian: I'm like many people. I'm a boxing fan of many years who has spent most of those years watching it on a rectangular screen from the comfort of an armchair - you could say I'm your archetypal armchair fan. Last year I made the long-awaited journey to a live 'in-the flesh' boxing event in England. Now I've been to see many different sports, ranging from football to snooker (and yes, I did fall asleep in the latter), but I've never felt such a huge difference between the televisual experience and the three-dimensional reality, of watching a sport, as I found with boxing.

When watching boxing on television, I rarely feel the brutality of the sport. I become engaged in the fight through admiring the skill and expertise, as well as the courage and determination, of the combatants. The story behind the fight and the personalities involved are also a key area of interest. And of course the big question: Who's going to win?

So I take my first step into the venue. Dinner tables, wine, ring girls, men-in-suits, children, Joe Bloggs, and in the middle - the ring. My first impression? Superficiality. Most of these people don't have any real knowledge or passion for the sport - they're just there to socialize and satisfy a bit of bloodlust. Anyhow, I grab myself a pint and take my seat atop the balcony, and admire the view. The boxing begins…

The gathered 'fight fans' are initially excited at the prospect of an action-packed bout, but that quickly fades as the two boxers feel each other out behind educated jabs. The crowd murmur. They want to see blood and guts, even if it ends up in their three-course meal. They want to see action - action that leaves someone hurt. Forget about tactics. Forget 'hit, don't get hit'. We want to see you slug it out. We want to see your senses scrambled. THIS is what WE paid for!

A later fight on the card sees two youngsters making their debut. It's a four round slugfest and both fighters take excessive punishment. I've seen world title fights stopped for less. They receive a well earned standing ovation and everyone's buzzing from the brutality they've just witnessed. They've got what they wanted. And the fighters? Well, at this rate they'll have short careers, but who cares?

At ringside there's an added, almost overriding, personal dimension. The atmosphere becomes a bloodthirsty cauldron - complete with bulbous eyes bubbling to the surface of bloodshot faces. Now, of course all boxing fans like to see knockouts, and I'm no different. But when I'm there and I experience the bloodlust and see the desire of men, women, and children to witness the suffering of a man who is plying their trade just a few feet away - well it leaves me uneasy. Perhaps because this is ultimately what I want. The difference is that I have an intrinsic respect for the guys who step between the ropes. The man in the dinner jacket who groans at the fighters between sips of wine clearly doesn't. For some it seems that the boxers are there just to provide a form of background music to their social evening.

To all this, some might say: "You obviously don't like boxing. You're too soft and too squeamish - so why bother us? Leave us to enjoy boxing and you can go back to sleeping through the billiards." To which my answer would be: "Well, I can't. I'm drawn to the sport. It fascinates me. It entertains me. I just don't like sitting with you ignorant bloodthirsty's whilst I watch. You make me uneasy."

Oh well, I've got a comfortable armchair…

An added footnote: A few years ago I went to see an evening with Joe Frazier. I was so excited to see one of my boxing idols, and couldn't wait to hear him talk about his career and his views on boxing today. However, a good number of people didn't feel the same way. They chatted and laughed amongst themselves whilst the great man spoke, and the company for the evening had to regularly ask for quiet. All boxers deserve a great deal of respect, but it seems for some people that even a living legend doesn't warrant it.

Article posted on 14.02.2008



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