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Excerpt from Boxing Beyond the Ring
Copyright Allen J. Frantzen, 2018. All rights restricted.
When I hit my 60s, I realized that I wanted a change. It seemed that life was all about competition. This competition was real, but in the white-collar professions it is always disguised as something else—as professional accomplishment, as popularity, as financial success, and so on. Those things were important, but taken together they added up to a lot of head-time and not much time for body and heart.
My body that needed exercise, but so did my heart. The heart is the center of courage, a word that comes into English from the Latin cor, meaning heart. I didn’t know much about boxing, but I knew that it took courage. Boxing is undisguised competition. When you face your opponent, you both know that one man is going to do better than the other. You meet this challenge on your own, with no team members to help you. You have gloves but no other tools—no bat, no ball, no racquet, no club. How well will you do? How much heart do you have? Those simple questions about our performance in the right relate directly to our ideas about ourselves as men.
When I started boxing, I benefited from both the how-to and the so-what sides of the sport. The how-two side helped me put on muscle and lose weight. The so-what side helped me gain confidence and build a new idea of myself as a man. Whether you are in your twenties or your fifties, boxing can do the same for you. Boxing will invigorate your sense of yourself as a masculine man. It is an exciting experience well within your reach.
There are five parts to Boxing Beyond the Ring.
1. Why box?
By boxing we discover who we are as men. It’s a way to experience whole manhood and create a manly presence for yourself in a world that is less friendly to men all the time. Today we often see the word “masculinity” qualified by the adjective “toxic.” That’s the media reminding us that we have to be men on somebody else’s terms. Boxers have to be men on their own terms. Boxers have to be strong and also have to be ring-smart. In the arena, boxers need strategy as well as strength and big hearts as well as good heads. We throw punches and absorb them, shifting from offense to defense and back. In life, warriors do that many times a day. Modern men are searching for ways to experience body and brain working as one. That’s wholeness. We want to get out of our heads and into action. This section argues that boxing has unique power to bring body and brain together and to create the whole man.
2. Preliminaries: gear and fear
A lot is made of the risks of boxing, so protective gear is important. Boxing gear is more than protection, however. It’s also fuel for our boxing passion and a way to express our boxing identity. Related to protection is danger, so this section also talks about fear. That is one the risks of boxing that is seldom mentioned. I discuss ways to deal with fear. Handling fear in the ring is a great way to learn how to handle fear outside it.
3. Learning to box: classes
Most men get their first taste of boxing in large classes. That makes sense. Boxing classes are full of beginners, and beginners feel safe in groups. In this section, I describe my experiences in fitness centers, boxing gyms, and other environments in which men new to boxing, men like me, usually make their start.
4. Finding a coach
Boxing classes will make you hungry for a boxing coach of your own. Classes offer a taste of the legendary excitement of boxing, and also its beauty. Boxing is part combat and part ballet. As you start to feel power and grace of the sport, you will want to do more than hit mitts held by another student. You need to learn about your reactions, your strengths, and your weaknesses. A boxing coach will bring you closer to action in the ring. These chapters describe coaching styles I encountered and suggest how you can get the most from your boxing coach.
5. Boxing contexts and boxing resources
In the course of my boxing journey, I noticed how often boxing appears in the arts and entertainment, even in opera. There are so many boxing movies to write about, and they are so well-known that I left them out. I focus instead on boxing in fiction and in art. The section concludes with a list of books, articles, and websites that will guide your boxing journey.