My writing is nothing, My boxing is everything” The words of Ernest Hemingway.
Boxing is a strange sport in so many ways. It’s brutal, violent and sometimes sickening but also artistic, beautiful and awe inspiring. Many men have been hurt beyond repair, some have been killed yet its a sport that also makes men and has made exponentially more than it has broken, instilling discipline and honour but allowing us to excise our urge for combat and lust for blood.
It has captured the imagination of the masses but remains a somewhat niche sport, yet another one of its oddities. Movies have been made about it, books have been authored and endless articles scribed. It has got its claws into every facet of society from high too low. Even some of histories greatest academics, political leaders and scholars Such as Hemingway have been enthralled by it.
There are obvious reasons for this, its a sport that can trace its routes back into antiquity, it is a leveller of sorts as in rich people can get their noses broken just like poor people, it is easy to gamble and take bets on, its always been relatively inexpensive at grass roots and has been a mainstay in working class communities which has aloud for many rags to riches type stories and its primal, no inflated pigs bladders are being kicked by over paid prima donnas between goal posts, in professional boxing men and women lay it all on the line.
Then there are the deep psychological reason for our appetite for pugilism, the archetype of the Warrior comes to mind, an offshoot of the original Jungian (Carl Jung) Hero archetype. If you look up its proper definition as defined by its specifier, author and phycologist Robert Moore “The warrior has mastered himself in body and mind. His power is rooted in self control. He knows when to be aggressive and how aggressive to be. He is the master of his energies, releasing them and pulling them back as he chooses.” These are the exact virtues amateur coaches endeavour to instil in the young children and card holders that represent this countries ABC’s and are also the exact qualities we find in boxing the sport over.
The warrior does not just represents aggression and a capacity for violence but ones virtuous ability to control and channel these masculine emotions and acts. Boxing is the literal act of two combatants controlling their aggression in order to deliver violence upon one another in a controlled setting until a victor is declared. This is one of the chief reasons people love boxing, not because it is controlled by sanctioning bodies, boards and clip board loving suits but because it is the competitors themselves that issue the control, they know how and when to dish out punishment and when to pull back, when to let the inner demons out and when to cage them up again. These are skills and virtues that the public at large have never had to hone or have rarely ever had tested. Boxers are tested every single time they step into the ring and that garners respect.
Then we have the Carl Jung’s idea of the shadow or dark side, Jung was a Swiss psychoanalyst and founder of the practice. This archetype represents such things as sexuality and life instincts and exist as part of the unconscious mind, its all very dry and psychobabbbleish but the shadow is also described as the dark side of the psyche, representing wildness, chaos and the unknown.
Boxing is a wild sport, when you really look at it, two people wearing horse hair and leather mittens and a veneer of vaseline get into and onto a large wood and canvas box enveloped by four ropes and have a fist fight for money, some times in front of thousands of paying customers which can and has self evidently lead to chaos. Then we have the characters that have donned those horse hair mitts, for some of which the words wildness and chaos do no justice at all, just some examples include Jack Johnson, Muhammed Ali, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, Tommy Morrison and Edwin Valero, a man who personified the words wildness and chaos to the extent of serious crime and murderous tragedy.
As Jung pointed out, we all have a dark side and as Darth Vader tried to inform Luke the dark side has its perks. All boxers need to be capable of harnessing their inner darkness and ill intention (their wildness and chaotic qualities) in order to deliver damage on their opponents and they need to enjoy this, at least to some small extent, if they didn’t do this they’d never be competitive or victorious.
And all of us enjoys wild chaos to some degree especially destructive chaos, even if we don’t want it present in are own lives, so strange creatures that we are we seek it out and we found it in boxing.