In celebration of the art of boxing.
My schedule has been hectic and fraught with the conflicting needs of family, job and thesis writing, so getting to the gym yesterday felt triumphant.
Lennox Blackmore and I had miscued on our time which meant I did most of my work out on my own starting off with my usual four round sets: shadow boxing, heavy bag, double-ended bag and speed bag. When Len arrived, I pulled out four more on the pads working my jab-jab-right combination plus the right-left dig, left hook combo. My last was to work my way through 80 ragged sit ups — but they did count.
The point of writing about it is less to “crow” about boxing for a solid hour — and more about the work itself and the work of everyone in the gym. ‘Talk about inspiring, everyone and I mean every last person was pushing themselves and hard. That meant young kids, older kids, men and women of a “certain age” and everyone in between, not to mention the boxers sparring with speed and tartness prepping for upcoming bouts!
It got me to thinking that with all the controversies of late whether it’s bad refereeing, bad judging, obnoxious fighters mouthing off unnecessarily or the specter of female athletes wearing short mini skirts in their debut at the 2012 Olympics, the other side of boxing, the miraculous side is all the time spent in the gym, working.
That is what boxing is, isn’t it? At its essence? The magic of aligning the mind and the body to perfect exacting movements so that when a boxer enters the ring there is an opportunity to soar as an improvisational artist at the height of his or her craft.
As with jazz musicians who spend hours a day practicing scales and sonorous trills to keep their lips, fingers, hands, arms, legs and every other part of the body in condition, so does a boxer spend hours at a time perfecting the body and the subtle movements necessary to ply the art.
That doesn’t only mean round after round of throwing the intricate combinations, but understanding the subtleties of the pax de deux — after all, boxing is not a solo sport, but an intricate dance. No tag team, it is a one-on-one battle of skills, stamina, ring knowledge and what we all call heart. It is also performance art as there is that extra shot of adrenaline that happens precisely because it is a competition on a stage bounded by the four sides of the storied boxing ring.
And that is part of it — despite the hype and the crappy stuff that seems to accompany the professional side of boxing and even the amateur side; the ring itself is an arena of magic. It is the place where all of those hours of gym work and road work and mental work thinking about boxing gets played out in the brief snippets of time between the bells.
I know that boxing can be a heartbreaker — as terrible and cruel as any indifferent lover, but it is also a place of work and pride that at the end of the day every practitioner can feel triumphant about.
So yes, while the split decision of the latest Manny Pacquiao versus Juan Manuel Marquez championship bout may feel like ashes in the throat to some, we should also celebrate the hard work of boxing, it is after all what brought those two remarkable athletes into the ring in the first place.