Monday, May 12, 2014

No Remorse -- To An Extent

During the finals of the most recent Chicago Golden Gloves, Andres had told Alan that he talked a little with the guy whom he fought for the championship.  Alan half-joked along the lines of "why be friendly with the other guy?'

I've been told that too before bouts I've had.  But try as I might, I can't stir up any hostility against someone across the ring from me.  I never knew any of the people I fought before I stepped in the ring with them, so I had nothing to hold against them.  During the fights, I tried to keep my mind on anticipating their next moves, figuring out how I was going to counter those moves, and score points.

But I do agree that fighters can't have a whole lot of remorse about the damage given out.  Boxing is a chess game, and it involves outwitting opponents as much as outlasting them.  But boxing is also a sport of hurt.  People get cut open, bruised up, and knocked out.  When people step into a ring for a bout, or even for sparring, that has to be understood.  If there's a constant worry about getting hit or hitting back. . . .well, there's always aerobic boxing where only the equipment takes the punishment.  Or taking up a non-contact sport.

Steve, the former coach at Loyola Park, used to get on me for apologizing to people during sparring sessions after I had punched them.  Once in awhile, I still say "I'm sorry", if I stepped on somebody's foot or if I had thrown a hard punch during sparring.  Sparring is not a contest to see who is better; it is for practicing skills. But in the middle of an actual boxing match, feeling sorry for the other person can be inappropriate.  It would be like feeling apologetic for slapping the hell out of someone out in public who tried to pull something dangerous like a robbery.

But if someone really became seriously hurt during a match. . . .that is when fighters have to learn to back off.  Most likely, they've already won, but depending on how much time is left on the clock, work still has to be put in.  But it has to be done within the rules.  There are few boxers walking around -- both in the amateur and professional ranks -- who are carrying remorse for permanently injuring or killing someone in the ring.  People are quick to blame referees for not stopping contests, and in some cases, like the 1962 fight between Griffith and Paret, a strong argument can be made for that.  But remember, the fighters are in the ring, too, and have say so in maintaining control.

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