The Sweet Science
February 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
Boxing. The word conjures up an image of two Goliath-like figures lunging at each other, their bodies glistening with sweat under the spotlights, of blood trickling down the face, of chiseled, muscular arms dealing savage blows until one man is victorious. Boxing is all these things, but to fighters and admirers alike it is so much more. The ‘sweet science’ as it’s affectionately named is far more nuanced than the casual observer thinks. It is as much a battle of wits as it is of brawn; of will and determination as it is of brute strength. There is no other sport that epitomizes life the way boxing does. There is no other sport that means as much to me as boxing does, and no other sport that I have loved as much.
XX and XY
A brief glance at the world of combat sports today would prove that it is by no means exclusive to men: female fighters have carved illustrious careers for themselves. What is an undeniable fact though is that combat sports have always had greater appeal amongst men. To be able to use one’s fists is a skill greatly prized amongst the XY-chromosome lot. The grueling hours of training; the laser like focus; the unflinching determination; the valiant countenance in the face of pain, are values and traits we admire and aspire to. (As are the celibacy and abstinence that is required of fighters. There is no greater show of strength and virility than by being able to control one’s desires and impulses.) For centuries these values have been ingrained on the male psyche and represent the core of masculinity. When two men enter the squared circle every fiber of their being is chaneled towards one purpose: to emerge victorious. Here is the bedrock of appeal to men.
Make him miss, make him pay
Victory in boxing belongs to the man capable of using the organ between his ears. Speed, reflexes, timing, and accuracy matter just as much as power. To be able to last every second of the three minute rounds, you can’t just rely on strength alone but a combination of the above. Getting under your opponents skin via intimidation, roughhousing, and disrupting his rhythm are as crucial as any physical quality. Using footwork and head movement to neutralize an opponent’s attack are demoralizing, especially when combined with counter-punching. Standing in front of one’s opponent and trading shots may look impressive, but a truly skilled boxer is able to predict his opponent’s move, negate the attack, and launch his own. Boxing is chess with a generous serving of testosterone.
Pain is temporary, glory is forever
Life is a wager. You make your choices, enjoy the fruits of your labour and bear the consequences. Boxing is a combat sport and there are risks. But accepting the risks that come with one’s decision is what separates the boys from the men. However, I agree with Floyd Sr.: “The sport is boxing not slugging.” Absorbing onslaught after onslaught is not bravery, but foolishness. A robust defense, in the form of footwork or head movement, is what made Ali, Tyson, and Floyd Jr. such brilliant pugilists. Minimize the punishment you take and prolong your career, and life.
Eye of the tiger
Boxing epitomizes life like no other sport because it signifies the struggle we all face. We’re born alone and we die alone, and the in between is marred by hardship. But amidst the austerity and grimness there is joy and hope. We endeavour safe in the knowledge that the outcome can only be victory and glory. Like pugilists we tuck in our chins, gaze through our brows, and enter the fray.
Image #1: “Dempsey and Firpo” by George Bellows [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Image #2: “Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez” by ian mcwilliams [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.