I know librarians are usually reserved folks, but I can’t wait to watch Floyd Mayweather, hopefully, beat the stuffing out Shane Mosley Saturday night. I can’t fully explain why, but I truly love boxing. I like the bragging, the showboating, the introductions. I love the managers, the pre and post fight interviews, and I love the violence or, even more, the anticipation of violence. But, more than anything, I love the characters in the sport. Boxing attracts huge personalities and, luckily for us, it also attracts some talented writers. If you need to get your bloodlust going, come down to MLC and find a book that gets you ready for fight night.
The book I recommend is The Best American Sports Writing of the Century, edited by David Halberstam. Halbertsam’s book covers many sports but devotes several excellent essays to boxing. One of the best is Norman Mailer’s Ego, first published in Time magazine. Mailer offers several great passages including this one explaining the physicality of the sport:
“There are languages other than words, languages of symbol and languages of nature. There are languages of the body. And prizefighting is one of them. There is no attempting to comprehend the prizefighter unless we are willing to recognize that he speaks with a command of the body which is as detached, subtle, and comprehensive in its intelligence as any exercise of mind by such social engineers as Herman Kahn or Henry Kissinger.”
I don’t even know who Herman Kahn is or was but I love that description! This is just a small example of how well Mailer is able to explain the sport’s complexities. Another excellent example comes from Tom Boswell’s essay, Pain. Boswell writes:
“But boxing never changes. One central truth lies at its heart and it never alters: pain is the most powerful and tangible force in life. The threat of torture, for instance, is stronger than the threat of death. Pain is priority. It may even be man’s strongest and most undeniable reality. And that is why the fight game stirs us, even as it repels us.”
Now, if that doesn’t get you ready for a good old fashioned bloodletting, I don’t know what will! If you’re a fight fan, or any sports fan, you can find Halberstam’s book and many more here at MLC. Who says bookworms can’t kick a little butt every now and then?
Halberstam, David (ed). The Best American Sports Writing of the Century. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. p. 714 &457