I remember seeing stories from my grandfather’s generation about their time in World War II in “smokers”, (in modern language this means short boxing matches).
It was normal for men from rural and working white neighborhoods to get engaged in boxing as a leisurely activity. Boxing was a bonding opportunity and good athletic exercise. Every neighborhood seemed to have a club (or a parish/county could have a basement boxing league).
This carried over to the army and even shipboard Navy times. Men could have an opportunity to blow off steam. You could also settle beefs and get on with your lives. I think this allowed men to sharpen themselves and “stay family” with their compadres.
When I was in the service; we never had anything like smokers. There was too much bureaucracy for someone to deal with so we could have a respite from the days worries. We had an all service team (and the tryout/camp process) but we missed out on the comraderie.
After my time in the service’; the few times I have ever sparred with someone were very enlightening. I got punched and I punched. Receiving a snappy jab was one of the most honest gifts I have ever received. It allowed for me to understand the weight of my actions.
I think that we are missing structure like boxing now. We have men failing to communicate and settle their problems like gentlemen. They choose to lose face and to commit to “disproportionate” responses.
I think it helped us keep each other honest and we learned what it took to take care of our tribe. I learned where my feet were. My feet have been somewhere and my feet needed to have a plan too. I had to be aware of my surroundings. It was a dance of sorts.
I never had a lot of respect for boxers growing up. They were always from “somewhere else”. They were often changing names on a marquee. But I had made a mistake of separating the artist from the art. Boxing is a fascinating art form. It is more than a sport.
The artists (boxers) that I have spoke with in my life were people that could have taught me a lot. Boxing was more than a jive ass money hustle. It was a respected olympic sport and a past time that used to bring men together. I look forward to the days when men allow boxing to become a part of their lives. I hope that us men will learn to be well rounded animals again.
(Special thanks to Ed Latimore. May it bring you to tomorrow).