Of circles and squares
At the end of Frederico Fellini’s seminal film, 8 1/2 , all the varying characters and important figures in Guido’s life (the protagonist played by Marcello Mastroianni) gather on the preposterous set of his latest film project. In the finale of the scene, everyone walks along a concrete rise as Guido urges them on in the guise of a Master of Ceremonies at a Circus. The shape of the rise, which is circular, provides the context for the resolution of Guido’s many demons: his questions about himself as an artist, his mistresses and wife, his early sexual escapades, the death of his parents and finally the meaning of life.
The resolution which is joyous and raucous with all past sins forgiven puts me in mind of how much “stuff” we all carry around inside our heads. Those of us who bring ourselves inside the boxing ring often are accompanied by our own load of “demons.” The tease of the ring and the discipline of the training are a boxer’s way of reconciling those disparate elements to find the clarity necessary to fight.
To my mind, the boxing ring is a space set a part from everything else. During a fight, even sparring at the gym, the rules of the space engender a respect for what happens there. For the participants, the space is defined by the “combat” set to three-minute intervals and it is only in the one minute “interregnum” between rounds that the fighter interacts with the folks in his or her corner. As every boxer will tell you, however, boxing is really about one’s ability to keep the demons at bay long enough to truly be “present” in the fight. If not, it’s like boxing with only one hand. All that junk gets inside to cloud the mental picture of clear thinking necessary to truly box.
A boxing event will have all the elements of a circus. Crazed hawkers, a boisterous and celebratory crowd addicted to the potential for danger, and “acts” themselves: the boxers who are one part entertainers, one part artists and one part gladiators. Each has a meaning to the crowd, but more importantly, each has meaning to the boxer plying his or her craft. The boxing event is a fighter’s way of orchestrating the fight so that the job is done and done well, with all senses in tact, and as with Guido, the chance for a resolution with all demons aligned and playing nicely together. Would that it were that easy.