Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Yesterday I documented my part in the Friday tournament. This time out I'd like to focus on one particular incident that stuck out in my mind. It was a minor one, and the party involved may have just been kidding. But still, it makes one think.

After the match between Rickyy Smit and snake5608 Boa was fought to a draw, the two fighters, now out of the ring, exchanged congratulations for a fight well fought. Not at all an unusual sight for anyone who's spent time in the Averlast gym during sparring throughout the week.

But then an audience member reacted. It was something along the lines of: "What's all this 'good fight' stuff? We wanna see blood!"

Again, verbal irony being notoriously tough to convey online, he might have been joking.

Then again, he might not.

We seem to have developed in America a sports culture that not only demands victory for the winners, but for the losers to be not only defeated, but demeaned, humiliated, and probably assaulted.

You see it everywhere (ask anyone who dares wear a Giants jersey to an Eagles home game), and in boxing it manifests itself in pre-fight interviews that nearly degenerate into slugfests. Incidents like this, of course, guarantee heavy rotation of the clips on ESPN and the local news, thus generating more publicity for the fight. This gives promoters very little incentive to discourage these childish displays, beyond protecting their investments by making sure that the fighters don't actually break each others' jaws while the gloves are still off.

And so, one highly publicized incident at a time, we become conditioned to the idea that this is the norm.

Thus a display of actual (gasp!) sportsmanship elicits a reponse akin to disbelief.

Of course, Averlast has a different culture than professional boxing (in addition to, of course, not being real). Fighters aren't surrounded by entourages devoted only to them, with private sparring partners and managers and press agents and whatnot. We have no way to hone our skills except with each other. Anybody carrying on like Mike Tyson at a bachelor party will soon find themselves persona non grata.

Take, for instance, my relationship with Alma Despres, my division's champion. I make no bones about it: I want her title. Anybody competing in my division, or any division, would say the same about the championship.

But I would have to be a complete jerk to let that be the sole definition of our relationship. We sparred yesterday, for instance. Any fight manager in the world seeing his fighter go up against a likely opponent just for practice would choke on his own bile at the sight, but this is the norm at Averlast. In the process, we talk about different things: Food. Pets. Some politics, even (we both share a loathing of President Bush, but of the two of us I'm the only one to has to share a country with him as well).

If my only thoughts were of the title, I would have missed out on a chance to get to know an interesting and compassionate human being.

Of course, there was trash talk, too. But it was a privelige of friendship, rather than a product of malice.

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