This blog is now dedicated to boxing. I’ve been home from Brazil for two years now and fighting is the most interesting thing I’m doing with my time. It would be misleading to even say I am an amateur boxer, as that implies someone who still trains full-time. Most of the time, I am sat at a desk like a sack of potatoes, and at 41 boxing will never be my main occupation.
Nevertheless, after taking part in my first fight on May 24 2018, I am addicted. There is something about boxing which attracts writers, even though it might be said to be the opposite of a cerebral activity. Maybe because of that in fact. You are never so much in the moment as when you are being punched in the face, and fighting for your life as it feels at the time.
A little part of me feels guilty that focusing on any sport and its inner ramifications for the player is neglecting what’s going on in the world, like a kind of navel-gazing. Maybe there will be time to reflect on those things too. Maybe my age makes me think this is the last time I will be able to throw myself into the purely physical, and I have to rage against the dying of the light with a pair of gloves and a bloody nose.
Another reason I wanted to do this is because some of my favourite fighters have not been known for their ability to articulate themselves, at least not in words. Obviously Ali is an exception. That might be why the sport attracts the likes of Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates to do it for them. So much goes unsaid, and I want to try and say it.
Yet another is a thought which has been ruminating since I read A Fighter’s Heart by Sam Sheridan some time ago. It’s a good introduction to combat sports around the world, and also explores the compulsion to fight. While I find myself nodding along to a lot of it, there was very little in there about women fighters and quite a big focus on masculinity and the desire to join a pack and prove yourself. It struck me that for women doing this, it is not so much about belonging as transgressing. Women are supposed to nurture and heal, not compete, show aggression, and fight. Yet the sport appears to be becoming more and more popular among women. I want to explore that here, talk about some of the emotions it throws up and what it means to women to fight each other physically.
Let battle commence.