I like boxing. Eye-closing, lip-busting, nose-smashing boxing.
I don't know why, and it worries me. It is rare for me to want to see a human being hurt in any way.
Onnie Spears and I worked together. We both loved boxing. We'd do pay-per-view on just about any major match. It was a rare round when Onnie didn't come flying out of his recliner, wanting to join the fight, shadow-boxing in all directions. In his eulogy I said, "The closest thing to being in the ring was watching a fight with Onnie."
It has always amazed me that so many good people love this brutal sport. I began wrestling with my love for it many years ago. Perhaps it started when my father kept goading my cousin to box him. My cousin, Dale, had just graduated from paratrooper school, and he tried every honorable way to get out of boxing with my farther. But finally, the great bout came off and, within seconds, Dale had broken one of Daddy's ribs.
Maybe, my young mind concluded, there must be some unknown, mysterious pleasure in hearing bones crack. Maybe, because Daddy had whipped me so many times with the old razor strap, I just thought his time had come. All I knew was that, like Onnie, Daddy was an unusually good and kind man.
You can see the real question I was wrestling with: How could good men indulge in such a horrible sport?
My one and only professional boxer friend, Jack Quigley, actually had no nose. It had been broken so many times, he finally decided to just let it lay flat.
Once at lunch, I asked him why he boxed so many years before coming here as a minister. He said, "I guess it's an insane streak. Don't we all have them?"
I can still see him now, sitting across the table from me with two tiny eyes peeping from a tiny nose bridge and confessing his insane streak. I came to know him well enough to know that the man actually loved boxing.
Novelist Joyce Carol Oates became fascinated by these same questions about boxing that perplexed me and spent years studying it. Those who like what she said about boxing and those who dislike it admit that her writings are an important source of information. When you read her, you can smell the blood on the mat where boxing takes place. She leads you through the blood-spattered underground world that supports this brutal sport.
One boxer, when asked why he boxed, answered, "I'm not a poet and I can't write books." Joe Frazier might have made it as a poet if you judge by this quote: "Boxing is the only sport you can get your brain shook, money took, and your name in the undertaker's book." He would have lived a more pain-free life had he chosen poetry.
The old grandfather of all the philosophical boxers, George Foreman, saw the true beauty in a lot of boxing contests, many in which he was the star.
He said,"Boxing is like jazz: the better it is, the less people appreciate it."
Contact Dalton Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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