The manly art of self-defense
My last column about Mayweather and Pacquiao precipitated an extra heavy response. Which of course, I appreciated.
The comments overwhelmingly, however, pointed out an area I truly didn’t think about. Mainly, they centered on the barbaric viciousness of the event and the damage it can cause. A great many thoughts came flooding back to me filled with memories of the attempts to mitigate injury.
However, the public is bloodthirsty and almost 99% of all fans enjoy seeing two combatants pummel each other. They hope that perhaps one will render the other opponent senseless. Finally they are satisfied when they see a hand raised in victory after a tumultuous assault, which ended in a knockout.
Ironically, when I was active in the field many of the doctors I associated with, Ferdie Pacheco for the most part, worked together to try and have legislation enacted to protect injury. They only made small inroads.
For the most part, the promoters, astute in understanding what the fans craved and what would sell the most tickets thwarted Ferdie and others every step of the way. Much dinero found its way in to many pockets!
Boxing is called the “manly art of self defense”. Here’s how one dictionary describes it. “ The ability in a prize fight to avoid being hit and injured by using various taught and learned skills. These skills include dancing away from danger, using feigns to redirect punches away from hitting you and the ability to strike quickly and forcefully thus slowing down an impending attack”.
That’s what Boxing is supposed to be, but nothing is further from the truth. The fan has paid his money and wants to see claret flowing from various body parts such as eyes and nose. The fans shout phrases like “kill the bum” and “okay, now finish him off”! The fan is not interested in the science of defense.
Over the years, the most successful fights, in the eyes of the fans, have been those that are loaded with hard punching. Based on that, the action-packed Hearns- Haggler fight in 1985 where both fighters stood toe-to-toe, not giving an inch and never backing up, exemplifies that.
This fight was called by the late Burt Sugar, Publisher of Ring Magazine, “ Historically, boxing’s finest three rounds”.
Another good example of the blood lust is to take a look at the first Hearns-Leonard fight… one, I was deeply involved in. What I am about to say, I am sure my friend and Tommy’s confidant Prentiss Byrd will verify.
It was at Caesar’s Palace, September 16, 1981. Tommy was giving Sugar Ray Leonard a boxing lesson. It was a 12 round welterweight championship unification bout featuring two undefeated champions.
As Tommy who was way ahead on points got ready to leave his corner for the final round, the late Hall-of-Fame trainer Emanuel Steward cautioned Tommy to just take it easy and coast since he was way ahead on points. Tommy defiantly said words to the effect, “I’m going to knock the sucker out. Nobody will think I am a real champion, unless I put him away”.
Ray Leonard came out of his corner, his left eye swollen, wobbly on his feet, truly expecting the fight to end quickly in Tommy’s favor. Instead, Tommy throwing caution to the wind took his time preparing to throw his vaunted right.
Sugar, out of one blurry eye, saw his opening and swung from his heels connecting on Tommy’s mandible as he moved forward. THE FIGHT WAS OVER!
Some thirty minutes later, in his locker room while Cosell, Prentiss, Emanuel and myself looked on, a still dazed Tommy could not comprehend what had happened. He had been hit that hard.
Boxing is vicious!
A preponderance of letters responding to my last column pointed out that Sugar Ray Robinson had dementia and Ali is suffering from various other ailments the least of which is Parkinson’s.
Dr. Ferdie Pacheco left Ali and was not in his corner for Ali’s last five fights. He warned that Ali had fought too much and his health was in danger. Ali’s management would not listen.
Extremely few Boxers walk away from the fight game without injuries of some sort. Damon Runyon, in many of his literary endeavors, wrote about “Cauliflower Alley”.
In the Halcyon days when Madison Square Garden was Boxing’s Mecca, nearby watering holes and Pubs were frequented by ex-pugilists, many of them champs, who bore the telltale marks of their bygone ring battles.
The three most prominent features were crooked noses, battered ears that resembled Cauliflowers plus slurred, hesitant and stuttering speech… all directly a result of taking too many hits to the head.
Comedians, like Frank Fontaine and Red Skelton use to make fun by taking on that persona in comedy skits. The appellation is “Punch Drunk”. A terrible, but accurate decision, but certainly not a laughing matter.
Many states have banned the sport because of its violence. In the days when I was promoting, I was constantly being offered many opportunities to increase my earning capability.
Mixed Martial Arts ,prior to its rise, was one that came my way to promote. Feeling it was too violent, I turned my back on this chance even though I knew it would be a big moneymaker.
My father had an expression, ”men make money… money doesn’t make a man.” Floyd Mayweather epitomizes what my father said. Also, being Macho in the ring doesn’t make him a man either!