Print Edition: July 18, 2012
I’ve written before about my grandfather on my mother’s side, and how he defected from the Soviet Union, and was in the army during the Second World War. What I didn’t write about was that during that time he had a second career – a career within a career in the army: he made quite a bit of cash for himself by prizefighting.
Back in those days, boxing was a mandatory fitness exercise that the allied forces engaged in to keep the soldiers fit. My grandfather was not a very large man. In fact, he was rather short in stature, but what he lacked in height and weight, he made up for in speed and agility. He was a feisty Russian fighter with a quick temper, with steadfast honour and determination. He was what some people call an in-fighter, meaning he would get close to his opponent, and hurl a barrage of punch combinations at them – offensive, rather than defensive.
I, myself, inherited this style of fighting. I don’t do as much boxing now as I’d like to, but when I was a young boy growing up my friends and I would gather in the backyard on a hot summer day after school, don gloves and try to imitate the fights we watched on television. It was from these matches that I got my first taste of the sport of boxing. It wasn’t always fun. Teeth were knocked loose a few times, and we didn’t wear the proper protective gear we should’ve been wearing, but in the end, no one was ever seriously hurt. Ever since those days I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this noble sport.
Boxing is an excellent workout. It is a great way to strengthen core muscles, as well as a way to tone the body. Even boxing with a punching bag instead of a real person is excellent for improving stamina and strength. It’s also very therapeutic and relieves a lot of stress.
Boxing is a sport that has its roots in the early days of the Ancient Olympic Games. Originally, there was no protective gear, nor were gloves worn. In fact, gloves are a fairly modern addition to the sport of prizefighting, popularized after the Marquess of Queensberry rules were published in 1867 making them mandatory. Leading up to that move, the only protection was strips of leather or other fabric wrapped around the knuckles.
The sport teaches respect amongst your fellow man. In film, boxers are portrayed as having a fierce hatred of one another. In reality, this is far from the case. In fact, most boxers have an intense respect for one another, and their abilities, and it is this respect that drives them to practice good sportsmanship and fair play in fighting one another.
The goal in boxing is to land a knock-out by striking an opponent with one’s fists, and nothing else, and to render the opponent unable to fight. It is an honourable sport, but a violent one. As I wrote in a previous article, I am a fencer first and foremost. That is the sport I mostly deal in. However, one of the reasons I love boxing so much is because in many ways it reminds me of fencing; in a way, it is like playing a mental chess game. The game is fast, and you have to quite literally roll with the punches. You must bob and weave, and then counterattack, and then launch an offence of your own. It requires finesse, and grace, as well as a quick thinking mind, which is not easy if you’ve just taken a number of blows to the head and you’re feeling a bit foggy. It is very much a game of wits, just as much as it is a game of fists.
Speaking as a man who has had his nose broken a few times, I’d like to point out the obvious: it’s a rough sport. It’s not for the timid. You have to be bold, and ready to get dinged up – because at the end of a match, if you don’t walk out of there feeling like someone drove a truck over you, then you probably weren’t boxing properly. It’s a sport that leaves its share of scars on the fighter. After a really good fight, you probably won’t look so pretty.