Boxing: The Ghost Sport

Boxing: The Ghost Sport

Even now, making our twenty-first-century rounds, we’re never far from the reach of the Fancy. Outside Grand Central Terminal on a raw spring morning, the UPS drivers are doing their moves: one guy, slight and older, crouching and bobbing his head, his breath making clouds in the chill air, throws hooking punches, left and right, which stop just short of the larger and younger man, who tucks in his elbows as if he were tapping his ancestors’ instincts: protect the body, move your feet, position yourself to be ready when the chance comes. The scrap ends almost as soon as it began, the men laughing.

Politicians, pledging to “fight” for a principle, sometimes hold up boxing gloves as a sign of commitment to cheering supporters. The gloves bring to mind a familiar image: a narrow, roped square; eager spectators surrounding the ring; and, in the fighters’ corners, old, wrinkled seconds with Q-tips behind their ears, holding buckets. The scene frames an odd, brutal human activity that disappears from the public mind for long periods, then surfaces again when a fight or fighter reaches out to us, demanding a response.

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