Boxing Still Matters

By Tom Donelson
Updated: May 17, 2007

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Boxing is like defending the local prostitute on the street corner.

Boxing is sports red light district but it is a sport with a unique and colorful past.

B oxing is more than a sport; it is a way of life that very few understand today.

Boxing is not the sport for the genteel but a sport that derived from the underground and featuring fisticuffs combat.

At the turn of the 20th century, boxing existed as much in the underground as it did legally and it never truly recovered from its rough bare knuckles days in the eyes of many.

Tennis and the golf became the sports of the upper class but boxing became the sport of the blue collar guy.

For many, boxing became the human version of cock fighting.

There is no sport that matches boxing tradition or history, with the exceptions of baseball.

Names like Dempsey, Ali, and Louis don’t just matter in sports history but they matter as part of American history.

Their names that legends and sports are based on and they all transcended their sports unlike very few in any sports have.

When it came to race relations, boxing proved more progressive than any other sports, baseball included! Long before Jackie Robinson played between the white lines of a baseball diamond, Joe Gans, Henry Armstrong, George Dixon, Joe Louis and Jack Johnson had world championship belts around their waist.

They dominated their sports.

Did boxing suffer from racism, yes it did. Boxing also provided opportunities for African-Americans long before any other sports.

Baseball forced African-Americans to a league of their own but boxing allowed African-Americans to fight their white counterpart for money.

Joe Louis became the first African-American athlete to transcend the color barrier and he did within the confine the square ring. Other sports have survived their own storied pasts to become part of America’s mainstream.

NASCAR derived its past from moonshine drivers. When NASCAR began, many of its drivers developed their talent from the southern back road transporting illegal liquor.

Some early NASCAR drivers drove illegal liquors during the week and raced on weekend.

Today, that aspect of NASCAR history has been forgotten but it showed that boxing is not the only sport with an illegal past.

Boxing matters not just for what happens in the ring but the tradition that permeates the port outside the ring.

In the 1920’s, Jack Dempsey was one of the biggest name in sports, as large as the Babe and this at a time when NFL was a collection of teams barely surviving year to year.

NFL was not America’s passion in the 1920’s and college football was far more popular. Professional basketball was closer to traveling show than organized league. Boxing was one of sports’ king.

We all know the problems of boxing but what is lost in the discussion of boxing proud history and the athletes that still populate the square ring. Boxing’s proud history is deserving more than the back pages and occasional mention in America’s sport pages.

It is a sport that seeped in America’s DNA.