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"He's the toughest machine
I ever built." --Coach Izzy
IzzyDuzItFitness at Extreme Kung Fu Chicago

Below, featured boxing book review:
  Kasia Boddy, Boxing: A Cultural History.
      (April 2020)

Kasia Boddy, Boxing: A Cultural History. London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 2008. $35.

This book aims to be an encompassing study of boxing, although the emphasis falls on the modern period. The first two chapters are an excellent history of the sport. Boddy believes that the "golden age" of boxing was over by 1830 (p. 8), by which she seems to mean that the more ritualized forms of the sport began to fade then. Up to that point, she suggests, boxing had more to do with honor and less to do with simple prowess. Today boxing seems like show business, and honor and other shades of the duel seem antique. As Boddy points out, however, boxing histories are always nostalgaic, always looking back to a golden age. She honors the convention herself.

As to conventions and golden ages, at the very end Boddy turns a skeptical eye on boxing today (her book appeared in 2008, so a decade ago). She focuses on Mike Tyson, heroicized by Joyce Carol Oates and others, and his ultimate failure to live up to the high hopes set for his career (pp. 367-69). She takes an amusing look at writers and jazz musicians who try to describe themselves as boxers (a trope that brings Gerald Early's essays to mind--he is a writer I wish Boddy had consulted more often).

For writers and artists who interpret boxing and boxers, Boddy offers a long and useful conclusion. She deflates the claim that writing and art get closer to boxing than boxing itself, or at least get so close to boxing that pictures and texts can make you sweat and duck punches (p. 391). That is nonsense, as anybody knows who has gloved up and gone into the ring. Art can "pack a punch," and texts can do the same, but nothing compares to the experience of getting punched in the face by a skillful boxer, or taking one in the ribs that shows up as a bruise for a week.
More, and reviews of other boxing books, including Early's, here: .

April 2020