Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


America's Tragic Theater
September 14, 2011 6:44 PM   Subscribe

'Few Americans today can name more than one or two current boxers, but boxing once stood at the center of American life. It has become a ghost sport, long discredited but still hovering in the nation’s consciousness, refusing to go away and be silent entirely. But there was a time when things were very different. Boxing's history winds a thread through the broader history of the nation.'
posted by zarq (95 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Get the big fights off pay-per-view?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:45 PM on September 14, 2011


HBO OnDemand. :)
posted by zarq at 6:49 PM on September 14, 2011


I'm thinking primetime on Fox!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:49 PM on September 14, 2011


Nah, that would never work.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:50 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The GOP debates could use a new format.
posted by zarq at 6:51 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


What's with albums and songs being named after boxers? And singers using boxing iconography?

I just read some Nelson Algren and there's some great boxing noir in there.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:51 PM on September 14, 2011


"Hey, Claire, you know what? SHADDUP!

It’s you bunch of mind-controlling fascists our amateur boxing boys and girls need protecting from, not the other way around."


I don't know. I think the sport can stand up for itself; it's in good hands.
posted by sneebler at 6:52 PM on September 14, 2011


I remember driving home from work one night, listening to the 1971 Ali/Frazier fight on the radio... It pretty much went down hill after that.
posted by tomswift at 6:55 PM on September 14, 2011


refusing to go away and be silent entirely

Damn.
posted by ocschwar at 6:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a part of owner of a boxing club but a relative newcomer to participating in the sport. I have to say, it's really an awesome sport. But it really is dwindling, especially at the heavyweight level. Those title fights are like illustrations of how the sport can be dismissed as just barbaric.

Which is to say, I have no idea what the sport needs, but I wish more people appreciated it.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 6:59 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


You take the top eight heavyweights and put them in the A league. The next 8 go in the B league. Each league boxes three times per year. Maybe they go in February, June, and October. They are seeded one through eight. In February eight fights one, seven fights two, and so on. The losers fight in losers' brackets while the winners go on. In October the two undefeated boxers fight for the championship. Everyone else fights for position. Whoever finishes seven and eight drop to the B league. The top two in the B league move up to the A league. You do this for each weight class.

Boxing would become more predictable and easier to promote. You would know when the big fights are coming up. Big time boxers would have to fight more often. The three times a year everyone fights would become events. The boxers would get paid a percentage of the money generated (first gets twenty percent, second fifteen, third twelve, eg). The boxers would make a fortune and people would be much more interested in following it because it would be easier to follow and to understand. As it is now, the multiple organizations that have titles makes everything way too confusing. When there are multiple people claiming to be the champion, the very term loses any meaning. If enough money were thrown into such a league, all of those idiotic title belts would suddenly mean nothing.
posted by flarbuse at 7:02 PM on September 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


I really don't know anything about boxing, but from what I've seen, it seems to involve a lot of punching and hugging.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:04 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


where's the enjoyment in watching people hurt each other?
posted by sineater at 7:06 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Boxing needs consistency. Significant fights every month or every couple of weeks rather than one huge multimillion dollar fight every year. Get out in front of the people consistently, and get people to trust that a champ really can beat most people that are put before them.

On preview, what flarbuse said.

Getting there could involve a model like the UFC - a big promotion controlling the bulk of the top fighters, so that there's no time wasted between promoters fighting each other. That, of course, brings along different problems, so maybe a boxers' union to go with it.
posted by ignignokt at 7:06 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


where's the enjoyment in watching people hurt each other?

Better them than us
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:08 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The GOP debates could use a new format.

Bachmann would start off ferocious but wear herself out early, Huntsman probably has pretty solid technique but no real strength, Santorum would talk a big game and turn into a sniveling coward before the first punch was thrown, Ron Paul would be cool-headed with a few old man tricks up his sleeve but ultimately overmatched, Romney would get confused with the guy in the dinner jacket who says "Let's get ready to rumble!" and Rick Perry would cheat and bring a gun.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


Few Italians today can name more than one or two current gladiators, but gladiatorial combat in the arena once stood at the center of Roman life.
posted by straight at 7:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


Remember when you knew a boxer, baby?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:11 PM on September 14, 2011


where's the enjoyment in watching people hurt each other?

I think that might be what the hugs are for. To cancel out the brutality.

(Aww, they're hugging!)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:11 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Research into CTE is showing that even non concussive blows to the head are really bad for ones noggin. Kids should not be allowed to box and I don't think adore should decide to do it. You might as well give tue kid a lead pacifier.
posted by humanfont at 7:11 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that might be what the hugs are for. To cancel out the brutality.

same for butt slaps in football?
posted by sineater at 7:12 PM on September 14, 2011


Flarbuse's proposal would go a long way to fix boxing's organizational problems, but I don't think it will ever regain its old stature. Mixed martial arts has irrevocably replaced boxing in the national consciousness. Boxing is too decentralized to compete with the internal continuity of the UFC. It's more exciting and in line with a layman's understanding of a "real fight."
posted by troll at 7:12 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ever since I lost my ass on the Coolidge/Wislon fight in '94 I just havent had the stomach for the sport any more, I'm sad to say.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 7:13 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Boxing's history winds a thread through the broader history of the nation.

Well, there's the topic of Ken Burns' next PBS documentary series, then.
posted by hippybear at 7:16 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's cos everyone watches the UFC now. Why watch people punch, when you can see them strike with a variety of different body parts, execute takedowns and get busy on floor with ground-and-pounds, chokes and submissions. I used to love boxing but it all seems so one-dimensional now...
posted by greenhornet at 7:19 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's cos everyone watches the UFC now. Why watch people punch, when you can see them strike with a variety of different body parts, execute takedowns and get busy on floor with ground-and-pounds, chokes and submissions.

Plus lots and lots of hugging.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:22 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Holy hell, Flarbuse - that's awesome!
posted by codswallop at 7:23 PM on September 14, 2011


It seems to me that Mike Tyson killed boxing after biting off Evander Holyfield's ear. Or at least diminished it beyond a certain point. But I'm no fan; maybe boxing was already toast at that point.
posted by zardoz at 7:23 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


where's the enjoyment in watching people hurt each other?

How about any summer action movie?
posted by ReeMonster at 7:26 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watch far more MMA than boxing, but limits don't necessarily make something shallow. Boxing can explore hands, head movement, and footwork more deeply the same way that wrestling competitions are a deeper exploration of an aspect of grappling.

BTW, Sys Rq, I think you'll love grappling competitions.
posted by ignignokt at 7:26 PM on September 14, 2011


where's the enjoyment in watching people hurt each other?

It's the most dramatic possible sports competition, because the stakes are the highest. It's enjoyable just like any high stakes match between highly trained competitors in any field.

If it's not to your taste, that's fine. But it's to mine, and lots of other folks. The sportsmanship is at such a high level that it never seems like criminal violence happening.

Samurais, ninjas, gunfighters, duelists, Greek pankrationists, all these things are fascinating to me. The UFC in particular is like fantasy made real. I mean, if you had told 12 year old me that in ten years Bloodsport, starring Jean Claude Van Damme, would be made flesh and blood and put on PPVs every couple of months I would've shit a brick. Put all different kinds of fighters in a ring and see who wins---who wouldn't want to watch, or at least steal a furtive glance.

If that says something negative about my temperament, so be it. But I'm not alone, and being a fan of violent sports doesn't make me a fan of Non Consensual Violence.
posted by TheRedArmy at 7:26 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


People LOVE Ali, I mean, so many of us did. Then we watched him age before our eyes, the victim of too many blows to the head. I think watching someone suffer that way makes you reconsider why you ever liked it...

I am wondering with all the publicity and new information coming out about concussions if this will ultimately change how football is thought of... I dont know, maybe I am just getting old, but who can enjoy watching people injure each other?
posted by jcworth at 7:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Plus lots and lots of hugging.

That's such a tired complaint. And always has a homophobic sort of undercurrent to it. "Oh man, his face is in that guys balls and he doesn't even care!"

Grow up! And realize that you're condemning a whole arm of the sports world partly based on having viewed a few unexciting matches in a sea of events that involve hardly any hugging at all, and mostly based on not having any idea what it means to grapple. There are reasons the men hug, and not because they are flirting with bisexuality, or because they want to titillate anyone, and they certainly don't do it with any concern about your comfort level with that. If one fighters 'hugs' another fighter wrong, he stands to end up unconscious on the mat, having been 'hugged' around the neck.

That's just the most basic and commonly made and totally inane punter's comment about MMA, and it is completely uninsightful.
posted by TheRedArmy at 7:33 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's such a tired complaint. And always has a homophobic sort of undercurrent to it.

I just find it boring.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:36 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


If it's not to your taste, that's fine. But it's to mine, and lots of other folks. The sportsmanship is at such a high level that it never seems like criminal violence happening.

fair enough, but it's honestly for me something that I don't get. same for caring about a sports team that I'm not a part of doing well or not. I seriously couldn't care less. But boxing is different. It's poor people who provide an entertainment for wealthier people. I'm not sure I see any difference between boxing and gladiator fights in less "civilized" times. I get that there is some admiral physical talent and ability on display. and I totally get why boxers do it. but I don't get the audiences.
posted by sineater at 7:37 PM on September 14, 2011


I think boxing will (and should) be banned. That being said, I cannot deny a fascination for it. It is competition at it's most basic. There's no team and very little in the way of equipment. It's two guys facing off with nothing between them and no place to hide.

But, yeah, the sport's sad right now and should probably go away.
posted by DaddyNewt at 7:39 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plus lots and lots of hugging.

Well, and the occasional kiss.
posted by hippybear at 7:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grow up!

I don't know, I think cage fighting is pretty immature myself. I welcome any criticism of it, especially that which reduces it to absurdity.

As for boxing, it died with Mike Tyson.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


How about any summer action movie?
-------------------------
Samurais, ninjas, gunfighters, duelists, Greek pankrationists, all these things are fascinating to me. The UFC in particular is like fantasy made real.
-------------------------

I have no problem with the UFC and boxing or people who enjoy them, but these are specious comparisons. Enjoying violent fantasies between characters, portrayed by performers who get hurt only accidentally, is not the same as enjoying real violence with real physical damage to real people as a goal. Arguments can be made in criticism and defence of both. Different arguments.
posted by fatehunter at 7:54 PM on September 14, 2011


There are a lot of great boxers from countries which aren't called the United States and always have been. The undoubted decline of boxing in American society - due as much to the turgid dominance of Eastern European heavyweights in the last few years as its absence from free-to-air TV - doesn't mean boxing will 'probably go away' in the rest of the world. UFC and MMA are passing fads, like WWF before them, and boxing will return to prominence in the USA when coincidence sees several heavyweights - or middleweights or whatever - emerge at once. A golden age of boxing requires ongoing rivalries and a succession of great match ups - the tremendous heavyweights in the early seventies or the amazing middleweight division in the early eighties for example - and it's those which have been lacking of late. Sleazy though its history has been, boxing remains one of the great sports. Like it or not, simple unarmed man v man gladiatorial combat pre-dates every modern sport and will outlast them too.
posted by joannemullen at 8:00 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no problem with the UFC and boxing or people who enjoy them, but these are specious comparisons. Enjoying violent fantasies between characters, portrayed by performers who get hurt only accidentally, is not the same as enjoying real violence with real physical damage to real people as a goal. Arguments can be made in criticism and defence of both. Different arguments.

I wasn't speaking of performers. There used to be real samurai, ninja, duellists, and Greek pankrationists, you know. Not fiction, I was talking about history. Giant squid and sperm whales really fight at the bottom of the ocean, too. Or at least, whales eat the squid and get a little scratched up.

Hell, even Bloodsport was based on a real thing and a real guy named Frank Dux.

Slinging epithets like 'immature' and 'barbaric' is needlessly condescending, and is demeaning to the men and women who spend their lives perfecting a craft every bit as complicated and difficult and even beautiful in its efficacy as any number of activities you may take part in or enjoy spectating.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plus lots and lots of hugging.

That's such a tired complaint. And always has a homophobic sort of undercurrent to it. "Oh man, his face is in that guys balls and he doesn't even care!"


I wasn't complaining. I was joking. They hug a lot. Like, traditional style hugging (which in my family involves no face-humping). It's just ironic, is all, given that the point of the thing is the opposite of hugging.

If I were complaining, I'd point out that the artifice of MMA is made ridiculously clear when a fighter somehow finds himself lying in the diaper-change position, which always happens. What the fuck is that bullshit. I mean, really. In real life, the fight would be over with one final kick.

(But, uh, speaking as a dude who likes dudes: Dude, MMA is gay. But it's that sad, closeted, better-punch-him-so-he-doesn't-suspect/better-punch-him-so-he-doesn't-suspect irony of ironies.)

(It is also, yes, quite boring to watch.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like it or not, simple unarmed man v man gladiatorial combat pre-dates every modern sport and will outlast them too.

So, what would make MMA a passing fad then?
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:02 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, what would make MMA a passing fad then?

Maybe the fact that it is a fad which is passing?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:04 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


In real life, the fight would be over with one final kick.

Watch some PRIDE fights, and you'll see that's not always the case. But, right, you're not interested in learning anything just registering your dislike. Your entire comment pretty light on sense and heavy on anger.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:05 PM on September 14, 2011


Maybe the fact that it is a fad which is passing?

Do you seriously have any idea what you're talking about? The UFC just signed a massive deal with FOX. It's on the verge of being legalized throughout all of North America; the UFC is expanding to Brazil and Japan... But yeah, passing fad, sure.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:06 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq, you sound assholishly confident about that. Head to your local MMA gym or BJJ dojo and ask nicely to test your theory. You can start on top of your trained opponent. I guarantee the guy on the bottom will control you and put you where she or he wants.
posted by ignignokt at 9:07 PM on September 14, 2011


Sys Rq, you sound assholishly confident about that. Head to your local MMA gym or BJJ dojo and ask nicely to test your theory. You can start on top of your trained opponent. I guarantee the guy on the bottom will control you and put you where she or he wants.

Did I claim otherwise? Yes, beating people up takes skill. No, I don't have any.

Could a skilled mixed martial artist kick another skilled mixed martial artist, who is lying on his back with his legs spread, square in the nuts and run away? Yes, I am quite confident in that.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:18 PM on September 14, 2011


Boxing is failing because there are more superior forms of fighting for competition than standing there with thick gloves on punching each other in the face.

MMA is not one of these superior forms of fighting.
posted by Malice at 9:21 PM on September 14, 2011


Boxing's revival.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:22 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Want to increase boxing's ratings?

All 1 or 2 rounders - no bankers allowed in your corner...

Barack Obama vs. Gov. Perry

Hillary Clinton vs Sarah Palin

Merkel vs. Berlusconi

Gadaffi vs. Brown

John Stewart vs Bill O'Reilly

etc.

They should at least do this in console-based boxing games; it would be cathartic.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:28 PM on September 14, 2011


Could a skilled mixed martial artist kick another skilled mixed martial artist, who is lying on his back with his legs spread, square in the nuts and run away? Yes, I am quite confident in that.

It's almost funny how wrong you are.
posted by fatbird at 9:32 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Boxing will see its revival in the unlikely hybrid awesome that is CHESS BOXING. (previously)
posted by nicebookrack at 9:43 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's almost funny how wrong you are.

Good. I only came into this thread for the laughs.

(And also for the hugging.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:47 PM on September 14, 2011


Psst, people, you're being trolled.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Men who can kill me with their bare hands make me feel weak and insecure. I don't understand the first thing about how to fight, and I am certainly not willing to put in the effort to learn. Much easier to simply emasculate them by calling them gay.

I feel better about myself now.
posted by LordSludge at 9:57 PM on September 14, 2011


joannemullen: UFC and MMA are passing fads

By what basis can MMA be qualified as a fad? It is nothing short of the next evolutionary phase of martial arts. For thousands of years, the various fighting disciplines have been largely insular and self-limiting. MMA isn't merely an exhibition of pure stylists (for that, see UFC circa 1997); it is an incorporation of the proven elements of each discipline into a new system. It is, unto itself, a new martial art, and it's here to stay. The current generation of children will attend the thousands of new MMA gyms instead of the old Tae Kwon Do (my childhood sport) dojangs because every parent knows that a pure MMA stylist will defeat a pure Tae Kwon Do stylist 99 times out of 100.

Also, a "coincidental emergence" of talented American boxers is not enough to overtake MMA. The two sports simply do not have comparable entertainment value. A Boxing match can end by knockout or decision, entirely by way of punches. An MMA match can end by knockout (by way of fists, elbows, knees, and shins), submission (of which there are dozens), or decision. Tell me, which one has more inherent appeal to a neutral viewer? Boxing. Cannot. Compete.

Evolution, baby.
posted by troll at 10:01 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


the Rocky movies likely contributed to boxings demise. the fictional boxing scenes are way more dramatic that the vast majority of real boxing.
posted by davidmsc at 10:02 PM on September 14, 2011


Much easier to simply emasculate them by calling them gay.

Being gay is emasculating? News to me.

So when I said I was queer, what was that, exactly? Wouldn't that relevel the dynamic and put the scary guys who make a living getting punched in the head (and being all touchy about the sanctity of that pursuit) back in the dominant position?

Christ, people. Roll with the punches much?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:03 PM on September 14, 2011


I've been watching the UFC since 1994. Let me know when the fad is over.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:10 PM on September 14, 2011


I blame the Internets.

I mean, why watch two unattractive men knock each other out when you can watch porn?
Or spend time on Metafilter...
posted by sour cream at 10:15 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Men who are weak and insecure sure love the words "can kill with their bare hands," don't they?
posted by darksasami at 10:20 PM on September 14, 2011


For the first half of the 20th century, three sports were dominant in North America: baseball, horse racing, and boxing. Everything else - football, basketball, hockey, etc. - was second-tier at best.

Some reasons for boxing's decline are outlined in the article. Horse racing has fallen out of fashion in part because it no longer has a monopoly on gambling, nobody "gets" horses any more, and there's the (incorrect, IMNSHO) popular impression that it is rife with crime, drugs, and/or animal cruelty. Only baseball has maintained its status as a first-tier sport - and one more steroid scandal or strike/lockout could very well send it into a similar decline.

I admit I don't "get" UFC, although several of my nephews are avid fans. However, anyone who doesn't "get" boxing owes it to themselves to watch "When We Were Kings" for a brief history lesson.

Ken Burns has done baseball. Can we pretty please have similar TV documentary series on boxing and racing?
posted by e-man at 10:27 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Boxing's revival.
Hey, it's Rock'em, Sock'em Robots!
posted by e-man at 10:31 PM on September 14, 2011


Ken Burns has done baseball. Can we pretty please have similar TV documentary series on boxing and racing?

You can start here.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:56 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


In 1955, A.J. Liebling, while lamenting the deleterious effect of televised boxing on small-time promotors and boxing clubs (the decline of which had reduced the number of competent young fighters), managed to retain this ray of hope:
...the desire to punch other boys in the nose will survive in our culture. The spirit of self-preservation will induce some boys to excel. Those who find they excel will try to turn a modest buck by it. It is an art of the people, like making love, and is likely to survive any electronic gadget that peddles razor blades.
And I tend to agree with him. After all, this is a sport that's been around since the ancient Sumerians at least. But in this quote I think we find an alterante explanation for the continuing demise of the sport in the US (besides Pay Per View, graft, Parkinson's or Tyson). My theory is we don't have great American boxers because American kids don't fight each other these days. To quote Liebling again (who I just happen to be in the middle of reading this week),
The hardest up groups always produce the most boxers...
But in the last 20 years in the US the "hardest up" kids have taken to shooting each other. Fighting is on the decline. I've heard this from urban teachers and anti-violence educators again and again: at least here in Oakland boys do not get into fist fights. If anyone does it will be girls. Boys don't know how to fight and don't fetishize it in the same way. At least not the inner city kids who would in the past have filled the boxing gyms (of which there are few these days).

Whether MMA and UFC will "replace" boxing is, if you look at the centuries-long history of boxing, too early to call. Let's give them another few decades at least before we award the fight in their favor.
posted by serazin at 11:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Saw this on The Browser, took issue with a lot of it (and write about boxing).

The article relates, "In the long postwar boom, prosperity and higher living standards created different expectations for leisure and entertainment, as well as more refined attitudes."

As people have noted, the UFC and other MMA has become real popular in the last several years, which seems to shoot down the thought about "more refined attitudes." Too, there's a general argument that attitudes have become more base, less refined.

No question boxing's less popular than it has been, though as the author notes, there's always at least one person like Ali, Tyson, Leonard (and I note that the author didn't mention Oscar De La Hoya, who was quite popular, on The Tonight Show a lot). Now we have Pacquaio and Mayweather. They might be followed by Donaire, Alvarez, Khan, Ward....

Happened to hear something yesterday on the radio that's tangentially related and not mentioned in the article: Salaries in other sports have drawn people away from boxing. The guy on the radio played (American) football in the early 70s, did well in his first year in the NFL and got a raise to $20,000. He did real well in his second year and got a raise to $25,000. It wasn't that long ago that a good number of pro athletes had off-season jobs.

To look at any of the big-three American sports (football, basketball and baseball) now, there are plenty of athletes who would have had a ton of potential in boxing if they had gone down that road when they were younger.
posted by ambient2 at 12:09 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Throwing in a link here to Boxiana, which is just wonderfully written - updates are pretty rare but it's the best sports writing I can think of right now.
posted by piato at 1:57 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


the Rocky movies likely contributed to boxings demise. the fictional boxing scenes are way more dramatic that the vast majority of real boxing.
posted by davidmsc at 10:02 PM on September 14 [+] [!]


I posit that this is a symptom rather than a cause.

for example, the movie about Ali doesn't do the real story justice.
posted by eustatic at 6:20 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's the most dramatic possible sports competition, because the stakes are the highest.
It's statements like this that make it clear that boxing fans really would enjoy death matches if such things were easily accessible. You really would, wouldn't you?
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:51 AM on September 15, 2011


This is Ken Burns material. The definitive boxing documentary needs to be made soon.
posted by judson at 6:56 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's statements like this that make it clear that boxing fans really would enjoy death matches if such things were easily accessible. You really would, wouldn't you?

As a true boxing fan, I don't think this is true. Leaving aside all ethical and moral considerations, I appreciate the drama of a good comeback story. I also appreciate the nods toward civility in modern boxing (announcers in tuxedos, for instance), which gives the sport a comforting veneer of respectability.

However, I'm not sure that this applies to MMA and its fans.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:20 AM on September 15, 2011


I really don't know anything about boxing, but from what I've seen, it seems to involve a lot of punching and hugging.

Sounds like MetaTalk.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:28 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Boxing died the moment an American kid first asked the question "Do you think Bruce Lee could beat up Mohammed Ali?"
posted by Pastabagel at 7:55 AM on September 15, 2011


Cockfighting also was pretty mainstream once (and still is in a lot of places).
posted by Danf at 7:58 AM on September 15, 2011


A friend and I were just talking about this a few days ago. Boxing is more fragmented and doesn't seem as compelling as it used to. I wish I could still name more than five current boxers, but the sport doesn't generate the enthusiasm it used to.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:01 AM on September 15, 2011


Boxing died the moment an American kid first asked the question "Do you think Bruce Lee could beat up Mohammed Ali?"

...which was the purported idea behind UFC 1 -- although it was really a showcase for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
posted by LordSludge at 8:48 AM on September 15, 2011


What, City Journal is writing about boxing with dripping nostalgia for its "central place in American life"? How shocking. Fits right in with the rest of the issue: Keep Fear Alive; People v. Fish; Those (Academics) Who Can't Teach (What People Want); Wow Crime Is Down, It Must Be Us; The Left is So Silly When It Congratulates Itself; Black Racism Is a Serious Problem (for black women -- why CJ cares I dunno); and On and On, including a very typical troll entitled Is Islam Compatible with Capitalism? Sheesh.
posted by dhartung at 9:23 AM on September 15, 2011


Participants in cockfights are involuntary impressed into it. Also, know that when you call MMA 'cockfighting' you are siding with John McCain. Practically making out with him.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:40 AM on September 15, 2011


> Also, know that when you call MMA 'cockfighting' you are siding with John McCain. Practically making out with him.

You seem to be having a reaction to people who have a reaction to "professional" fighting. But, know that just because something takes lots of skill and discipline to perform, and is not without it's relatively redeeming characteristics, it's a pretty healthy reaction to find boxing, MMA, cage fighting, etc very distasteful. It's people inflicting pain on each other for the amusement and gambling habits of spectators. It's pretty darned disgusting. If you like to watch sweaty naked guys go at it, fine. But voicing disgust with it is a perfectly healthy response.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:44 AM on September 15, 2011


How come there isn't a fighting tournament sport (whether in the U.S. or in Asia) that allows different styles of striking martial arts, but no grappling? MMA always ends up with grappling.

Maybe I should just watch kickboxing.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:51 AM on September 15, 2011


What, City Journal is writing about boxing with dripping nostalgia for its "central place in American life"? How shocking. Fits right in with the rest of the issue: Keep Fear Alive; People v. Fish; Those (Academics) Who Can't Teach (What People Want); Wow Crime Is Down, It Must Be Us; The Left is So Silly When It Congratulates Itself; Black Racism Is a Serious Problem (for black women -- why CJ cares I dunno); and On and On, including a very typical troll entitled Is Islam Compatible with Capitalism? Sheesh.

Can you explain how nostalgia for boxing's role in American life "fits in" with the rest of the issue? There are plenty of lefty figures who have an affinity for boxing, including Joyce Carol Oates, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton and David Remnick.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:52 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


flarbuse: A competition to find a unified champion in each weight class is a great idea. Showtime's Super Six competition is similar to what you are suggesting and there are a lot of lessons to take away. I was excited by the concept, have watched almost all the fights and am looking forward to the final in October. The journey of Froch alone, in a controversial points win title defence, losing his title, then winning it back en route to the final has been compelling. Unfortunately the tournament has had half the original contestants pull out through injury and has dragged on too long. I think a heavyweight tourney would suffer many of the same problems, but an 18 month, 8 fighter straight knockout tourney would rejuvenate the division and hopefully displace the giant robotic jabbing machines that have been responsible for the most boring championship fights I can remember.
posted by IanMorr at 9:52 AM on September 15, 2011


Horselover, people would be doing this for close to nothing, as they did in the early days of MMA. For the most part, they do it because they want to do it, not because they have no other way to make a living. As someone that has trained (and competed, albeit only locally) in martial arts, I completely understand and don't find it at all distasteful. You are entitled to your reaction, but why is your uninformed reaction to be assumed to be universal and healthy?

If you like to watch sweaty naked guys go at it, fine.

This is interesting. Well, there's nothing wrong with watching sweaty "naked" guys, in a sexual or non-sexual manner, despite what you're implying here.
posted by ignignokt at 9:56 AM on September 15, 2011


Apocryphon, K-1 is more or less what you're looking for. However, I think anyone's allowed to compete in muay Thai matches, and muay Thai so you might want to check that out as well. Kyokushin karate guys have come to Thailand to fight in muay Thai bouts before.
posted by ignignokt at 9:59 AM on September 15, 2011


But I'm not alone, and being a fan of violent sports doesn't make me a fan of Non Consensual Violence.

I wish this were actually true but you see I grew up in Canada. So fighting was a necessary but unwanted part of my sporting life. I consented to play Hockey. I did not consent to fist fights every month or so. Yet there it was. Hockey fans made it so.
posted by srboisvert at 10:18 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was watching the Mike Tyson documentary a little while ago, and watching some of his fights from his golden years... My god, how did somebody THAT BIG move THAT FAST? It was amazing to watch. I haven't seen a heavyweight fight in maybe 10 years, but even then, it wasn't as exciting as some of Tyson's stuff from the 80's.

As for UFC - I enjoy watching it every once in a while... But so many of the fights nowadays are ground-control fights, where the guys are on the ground for the whole round, moving incrementally to try to get position on the other guy. While I can appreciate that there is an art to this, I can also appreciate that it IS SO BORING if you're not a jiu-jitsu fighter who understands wtf they are doing. I much prefer the fights that end with a guy getting kicked in the face
posted by antifuse at 10:34 AM on September 15, 2011


It's just after watching Bruce Lee and Jet Li and Donnie Yen movies where Chinese martial artists pummel foreign fighters of many different styles, I wonder if there's any actual tournaments that have such a spectacle. Kung fu gets no respect in MMA, since the latter is all about grappling and groundwork and takedowns. Are there kung fu fighters in K-1?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:44 AM on September 15, 2011


Kung fu gets no respect in MMA, since the latter is all about grappling and groundwork and takedowns

Didn't UFC start out as a TRUE "mixed martial arts" event - where practitioners of various different martial arts forms fought each other? I thought it was originally inspired by the series of videos featuring Gracie jiu-jitsu students kicking the crap out of other martial arts specialists.

Googling... Yeah, the first UFC DID have a bunch of different styles... Jiu-jitsu, boxing, muay thai, wrestling, karate. But it looks like things have sort of self-selected towards jiu-jitsu becoming more popular/successful most of the time these days.
posted by antifuse at 1:16 PM on September 15, 2011


(disclaimer: I am not a UFC expert, just a [very] casual fan who watches the occasional event with buddies)
posted by antifuse at 1:22 PM on September 15, 2011


Kung fu gets no respect in MMA, since the latter is all about grappling and groundwork and takedowns

Yet Muai Thai, boxing, and many other forms of striking gets plenty of respect.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:42 PM on September 15, 2011



Can you explain how nostalgia for boxing's role in American life "fits in" with the rest of the issue? There are plenty of lefty figures who have an affinity for boxing, including Joyce Carol Oates, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton and David Remnick.


The National called their last album 'Boxer' and they literally donated a song to Obama's campaign. One of my favorite local songwriters writes about urban poverty and uses an old boxer on his shirts. I don't understand it, but it seems to be a thing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:09 PM on September 15, 2011


Kung fu gets no respect in MMA

Kung fu gets no respect in MMA because no-one's shown up and demonstrated that it would be effective in any of the major MMA tournaments.

The funniest comment in the thread, outside of the usual insecure boxing fan class-driven bigotry and stereotyping, is the idea that MMA is a "passing fad". If anything, it's boxing that's the passing fad - boxing, in the sense being talked about here, is a mid-19th century English invention. Hitting only with the closed hand, no clinches, no takedowns, no elbows, feet, or anything similar, was completely alien to European fighting styles of the time (freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman; English boxing, which at the time certainly allowed elbows, trips, and so on; French boxing, which we now call savate). The insistence on such a narrow, artificial fighting style has barely lasted 200 years, while broader, more complex styles, such as wrestling, have a history of thousands and are still going strong; pancrase (which hearkens back to pankration), freestyle wrestling, judo, sambo, jiu-jistu, muay thay and the other streams that feed into modern MMA style fighting are the pedegreed lineages who were temporarily eclipsed by an upstart invented by a violent, crazy English noble.
posted by rodgerd at 1:25 AM on September 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Great article in the NY Times today about the business of boxing, as reflected by the upcoming Mayweather/Ortiz fight.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:31 PM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


5 Reasons MMA Is Better Than Boxing Right Now
posted by troll at 2:43 AM on September 25, 2011


« Older "Change Proposed for State's Electoral Vote Proces...  |  The Economist reports on 40% y... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments