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Friday
Apr052013

Why I Love Boxing

Lou Savarese's boxing gym in Houston, Texas, where I train. February 26, 2014.

A friend asked me what I loved about boxing. The sport had never appealed to him. Or, rather, he’d never thought about it much.

Iconic

Boxing is one of the oldest sports. Like wrestling, people have boxed for millennia. (Ancient Sumerian carvings dating from the third millennium BCE show boxers and spectators.)

Boxing’s history and elemental nature (more on that below) captures imaginations. People chronicle boxing in movies, documentaries, and books. The sport has become ingrained in our language through metaphors that many people may not even realize came from boxing:

  • “against the ropes”
  • “saved by the bell”
  • “in your corner”
  • “below the belt”
  • “lightweight”
  • “heavyweight”
  • “down for the count”
  • “go the distance”
  • “knockout” and “KOed”
  • “pull punches”
  • “southpaw”
  • “sucker punch”
  • “throw in the towel”

In many ways, boxing is the sport of all sports.

Elemental

The boxer is boxing.

From the physical perspective, nothing exists in a boxing ring beyond your training and physical conditioning. You have no tools—no racquets or sticks or implements. You can’t blame results on weather or field conditions. All you have is your ability. And you'd better bring it all.

You are the sport.

And the tools at your disposal? Only your fists. Boxers win matches through the number and quality of punches they land to the head and upper body. They cannot hang onto or grab the other boxer. They cannot use any other body part. They must maintain the right distance to reach their opponents. They need to maintain their balance—and lightness on their feet. Boxing is not a brawl.

Mental

As with many sports, boxing is as mental as it is physical.

While boxing, you need to calculate your next move and your opponent’s next move while moving quickly and in close quarters—and with your gloves up and while someone is trying to punch you. Boxing requires composure, strategy, and mental distance in a moment of high stress, when every instinct, fueled by adrenaline, wants to rage—or flee.

You try thinking strategically in that situation.

What’s your sport and why do you love it?

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Reader Comments (9)

Here I am assuming that you mean sports that you participate in. If it's from the spectator's perspective, that would of course be football (it's coded into Aggie DNA)

I have played both football and basketball in the past with varying degrees of success. I was probably a better basketball player than football player. But neither sport since I was a kid.

The last organized sport I played was handball. One of the few sports where you can hurt yourself badly just by practicing by yourself.

Tennis balls are bright green fuzzy things, Racquetballs are bouncy and springy. Handballs are black armor plated rocks made from thick latex. Some pro handball players will use leather handballs but back in my time it was all hard latex.

All you have to protect your hand is a thin leather glove. It does feel as if a rock hit your hand at high speed when you're playing.

Handballs seem to be possessed by equal parts tasmanian devil and kamikaze pilot in that they have the unerring ability to come right at your head from any imaginable and unimaginable angle. They particularly like to go after ears, noses, eyes, and the back of your head.

The point of the game as in racquetball is to hit the ball in such a way that the opponent can't return it. This involves hitting the ball into corners both hard and soft and forcing the opponent to run into walls or to change direction suddenly and making that person get their feet all tangled up. I had my share of busted shoulders and twisted ankles when I was learning the sport.

You have to keep moving and keep your eyes open at all time and look for any weakness in the opponent's play so you can take advantage. It's very cutthroat and quick

At the end of the day win or lose you're left with sore hands and a bucket of ice water to bring down the swelling.

April 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Pora

Ballroom dancing. If I have to sweat, I'd rather do it in heels with fabulous music.

April 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

I miss yacht racing. Strategy, speed (well on the small boats I sailed they topped out at about 3 knots), and being on the water. I wouldn't always call it exercise, but I definitely did not have a vitamin D deficiency when I was sailing. The best analogy I've heard for yacht racing was think a blend of an indy race and chess.

April 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Given my lack of coordination, Will, sounds like I should pass on handball.

And Rebecca, that answer could not be more "you." Love it!

And Chris--I'd figure yachting would get pretty physical at times. Provided you're charging at it, sounds like exercise to me!

April 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

Wow—honored to have inspired another post! Although I’ve devoted quite a lot of time to various sports over the years, my favorite one to play (albeit not necessarily my favorite to watch) has to be baseball (or nowadays, the softball leagues at Memorial Park…). Countless encomiums to baseball have been penned by far superior writers and thinkers than yours truly, so here’s just a few thoughts in not especially grammatical bullet point form:

… OK, I tried to be concise while still getting to the heart of why I love baseball, but I was thoroughly unsatisfied with the attempt. So here’s a better idea—just go watch Field of Dreams. If you’ve ever enjoyed playing baseball, that movie sums up all the emotional/tactile/physical elements that make the game so special and timeless. And if you’re not a baseball fan, it may well just seem like sentimental rubbish set in an Iowa cornfield. But darned if that “let’s have a catch, Dad” scene at the end doesn’t cause a very localized attack of watery eye “allergies” for me every time…

Actually, responding to your post makes me realize what a semi-unfair question I posed to you in the first place. So hard to describe exactly what makes a particular sport into an activity that you love. It’s not just the physical dimensions (and I could go on and on about how baseball is a special combo of strategy and action because you have time before every play to consider all the possibilities for the next pitch, but then have to be able to act instantaneously in different ways depending on whichever possibility actually takes place…), but also the emotional connections.

April 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Ha--just noticed that one of your boxing phrases listed above ("go the distance") is also of particular importance in Field of Dreams. It's all connected...

April 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick

"Go the distance" seems to have arisen at the same time in the sports of horse racing and boxing--and long before the advent of baseball. So your sport there, Nick, gets to credit my beloved boxing for something, sounds like. ;) Or, at least, the movie you mention.

April 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

When I went overseas recently for 6+ months, I packed very light. The only totally frivolous item I brought was my baseball glove and a baseball. Not even sure why I took it—I guess I just wanted a symbol of home as well as something that might help me bring a little piece of Americana to the foreigners I would meet along the way. As it happens, I got more use out of it than I could have hoped for—I played catch with many Australians ranging from kids to adults as well as several European backpackers (at a camel ranch, of all places). I’m actually buying a glove on ebay to send to an Australian friend who really took to the sport. Funny how those little cultural totems help to connect with people from different backgrounds. Maybe that’s another potential blog topic—if you could take one item with you to help share a little bit of our culture with people in other countries, what would it be? Perhaps your own overseas experiences give you some ideas in that regard…

April 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Hmmm. Nothing springs to mind immediately, Nick, but I'll ponder on it!

April 12, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

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