Only In Boxing!
12.05.05 - By Matthew Hurley: It happened all of a sudden, without warning. My father and I were sitting ringside at a small club outside of Boston watching some talented young amateurs compete in a tournament that could eventually lead some of these young prospects to an Olympic trial. The two of us were there in support of a recent revival in amateur boxing on the outskirts of the New England area and with fist pumping enthusiasm for the newly formed South Boston Boxing Club (which had several participants competing).. Irish blood runs thick through boxing and local fighters from Tony Demarco to Mikey Ward are revered in Massachusetts. Guys like myself and my Dorchester bred father take particular pride in the careers of these tough pugilists.
Article posted on 12.05.2005
So there we sat, eating hot dogs and drinking flat beer when it happened. At first we thought someone had set off a firecracker in the auditorium and then we jumped up as the two young fighters pitched forward and the ring collapsed. A much publicized local tournament went unfulfilled because the cross beams holding the ring in place buckled under the weight of two lightweights and then broke beneath them. Only in boxing!
You couldn't help but feel bad for the two kids who had only boxed a little over a round and were giving it everything they had. The bout was declared a no contest and all the other fighters to follow, kids who had been warming up in the back of the crowd and champing at the bit for their chance, all had to go home. Many of them wouldn't make the rescheduling because of school or because of location; they are just kids after all. It was a shame, but it struck me that even on this rather miniscule level boxing is boxing and boxing can be a strange world indeed. Perhaps a collapsing ring in an important amateur tournament will properly prepare these kids for a possible "fan man" incident, or a bite on the ear, or an enraged mother garnishing a shoe as a weapon in the event her son is being defeated - or even a somewhat incoherent Larry Merchant mixing metaphors after a bout on live television. If they're going to turn professional incidents like these can be the norm rather than the unexpected. It is boxing after all.
Maybe the absurdity of it all will harden them and get them ready for seasoned pros like Diego Corrales who are wizened enough to spit out their mouth piece in order to buy time when they're hurt. Or for a Felix Trinidad who may club them low, or even an opposing trainer like Angelo Dundee who has the wherewithal to rip a glove to garner some precious seconds for his wounded fighter. And maybe they'll just accept it all and realize that the sport of boxing is so wonderful because of these very human, primal moments.
Hell, in what other sport will you see a respected hall of fame fighter like Pernell Whitaker pull the trunks down of another respected fighter like Roger Mayweather during a bout just because he felt like it? This sport of ours is so basically human it sometimes defies logic. At its best, as in the recent lightweight battle between Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales, it is so overwhelmingly brilliant and passionate as to leave other athletes like pampered, whiny basketball or baseball players looking like the jerks they are.
At its worst, with fighters like Butterbean or other misshapen embarrassments, it deadens the senses of national sportswriters. And at its most tragic, its most humanly resonant form, as articulated in the stories of bouts between Emile Griffith and the doomed Benny "Kid" Paret or Ray Mancini and Doo Koo Kim, it becomes a lightening rod, a political and sociological topic. What other sport can command so far reaching a grasp on the public consciousness? Boxing remains so compelling because it encompasses so much. It is the most human, the most honest of athletic endeavors and its participants are a wounded lot. They live to fight. They scream at the fates and the furies and very often fail and then limp off, broken but unbowed - determined to fight again.
But sometimes it can be so f*cking ridiculous that you can't help but laugh. Such as when a ring collapses and two kids who were beating the hell out of each other only seconds before fall into one another in a protective embrace to keep themselves from being sucked down into the center of a canvas pit.
"Only in boxing," I said to my dad, shaking my head as those two fighters were helped from the remnants of the ring. "Only in boxing."
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