Monday, January 22, 2007

In Praise of a Violent Sport

I watched the movie Cinderella Man this weekend.

I was able to do this because my wife was ill and asleep and that gave me control of the TV. I don't think I could be considered a fan of boxing. I don't like what it has become and a large part of that is, I think a result of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. Don't get me wrong, both were great boxers. But, both were greater showmen. Ali took what was a primitive and decidedly brutal sport and turned into prime time, suitable for children entertainment with his cheesy limericks and talk of "scientific boxing." Tyson, by conforming to the worst stereotypes of what a boxer is did incredible damage to the sport.

Boxing is a primitive, brutal and violent sport. It is supposed to be. It is also, or at least used to be, the purest of all sports. I don't mean that the referees were more honest or the boxers all paragons who would never cheat. I mean that it was a sport that relied upon the skill, determination and training of the participants. The equipment was simple. The object was obvious. The danger was plain; as was the chance of debilitating injury. Boxing is two men in a confined space trying to beat each other senseless while spectators cheer

All of that means that Boxers are possessed of a type of courage that is markedly different and superior to the type of dedication needed by almost any other sport. Boxers require a type of courage more like that possessed of a soldier than a footballer.

Boxers are a breed apart.

I've met several boxers and far from being goons they were all gentlemen. (Though admittedly, I've never met Mike Tyson and he might prove the last statement false) They understood the problem of using violence as a tool of personal advancement. They understood the value of a civil society. They knew why it is against the rules to strike a "low blow" or to throw "sucker punch" even metaphorically in business. They understood that it is sometimes necessary to be able to take a punch. It is football coaches who preach "Murder the other team" not boxers.

Men may admire a Renaldo, Lance Armstrong or Nolan Ryan. They may wish that they had the money of David Beckham. But, they stand in awe of Lennox Lewis, Larry Holmes, Joe Lewis and any of the myriad of other Boxing legends. They may want Alex Rodriguez's money but they want to live next door to George Foreman! If Horse Racing is the "Sport of Kings" then boxing is the "Sport of the Common Men."

Boxing is, or at least ought to be violent and brutal with a minimal set of rules that prevents one man from killing the other faster than the match can be called. In a strange way, that is part of what it makes it a civilized sport. Boxing harnesses our violent nature and controls it by putting limits upon what acceptable, even in sport. Boxing raises our baser instincts to the level of sport and thereby brings them under control. It reminds us of our frailty and shows us the devastation our warlike nature can cause. In doing so it changes what would otherwise be a simple brawl into something higher; something noble and good.

We often see how that which is good has been twisted into something evil. Boxing is, or ought to be a sport which takes something evil and makes it a virtue. When you see a boxing match you shouldn't see a fight you should see courage, dedication and valor.

Boxing is an allegory of sorts. It is an allegory of a single man overcoming adversity and pain. Of facing down your worst fear (If don't you don't think your worst fear is not being beaten senseless you haven't thought about your worst fear) and if not succeeding then at least surviving. Boxing dignifies our struggle to succeed in the face of fear.

Attempts to sanitize boxing turn it into the wrestling. Such attempts are evil.

I think that the political process in Hong Kong would be benefited if Donald Tsang was a boxing fan or better yet had boxed in high school or college. Boxers know that the worst thing you can do is not face your fears. A boxer would be able to see how inflating floor space in flats is dishonest. A boxer would know why the labor laws here are the moral equivalent of a kidney punch. A Boxer would know lots of things that the Hong Kong professional paper pushers seemed to have never learned

A boxer must face the possibility that he will lose in order to win. Indeed, even in winning a boxer gets hurt. Donald Tsang is, or so it appears to me, afraid to face the possibility of losing. He'd rather straddle the ropes on the ring or better yet be outside the ring than fight either the central government or the opposition in Hong Kong. He thinks by being non-aggressive he can schmooze his agenda through. He is wrong. He needs to fight or he is going to be knocked out in the first round.

I may not agree with anything Sir Bow Tie wants for Hong Kong. But, if he'd actually fight for his beliefs I'd at least respect him. It is time for him to not "Take the gloves off" but to put the gloves on.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who may actually be a Boxing fan after all

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