Boxing

Float like a BEE, Sting Like a BUTTERFLY…Huh!

16.09.04 - By Coach Tim Walker: Muhammed Ali is probably the greatest living example of what a boxer can be and what a boxer can be. From 1960 until about the end of the 70’s Ali was the dominant force in heavyweight boxing. He was charismatic, flamboyant and extremely gifted. He coined phrases that are still widely used today by media and laypersons alike. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and “I’m young, I’m beautiful and can’t possibly be beat” are just a couple of his more infamous quotes. He has enjoyed success both inside the ring and outside the ring and his recognition can only be rivaled by the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, David Beckam, and of course, love him or hate him, Iron Mike Tyson. But as recognizable, and gifted, and loved as Ali is he suffers from the same thing that many aging athletes suffer from…the inability to know when to stop.

Every time I hear that Evander Holyfied has been signed to fight I cringe. When a 55 year old George Foreman considers stepping into the ring again I can only ask myself, “Why?” These guys are well past the primes and realistically don’t seem to have a good chance at winning a title. Holyfield and Foreman are rich beyond anything that I will ever understand. So what makes them climb back into the squared circle and continue to take punishment round after round? Why can’t they just let it go?

It’s simple. The same ultra-competitive spirit that makes a man step into the boxing ring in the first place is the cause. To be a boxer you have to be a special kind of individual. That is precisely the reason why the turnover rate in amateur gyms is so high. Most amateurs think that all they have to do is go a gym, hit a bag a few times, jump a rope and they will instantly be crowned champion as soon as they climb in the ring. Many don’t realize, until it happens, that the person standing across from them actually hits back. When that first punch lands their eyes get wide and the legs get a mind of their own. Twenty seconds into the first round the adrenaline rush has worn off and the pain from that punch kicks in. At that moment is when many novices decide that boxing is not for them. But, some love it and eventually need it. They love the one on one competition that is the center of this gladiator style sport. They feed off the hit me and I’ll hit you back mentality and before long boxing becomes who you are not just what you do.

When I hear that a 37 year old Riddick Bowe is coming out of an 8 year retirement I recoil, and believe it or not there is a 42 year old middleweight version of Hector Macho Camacho anointing the ring with his presence these days. Troy Weaver, who is probably best known for his first creaming at the hands of Julian Letterlough, is 40 years old and last boxed in May of this year.

Boxers become our heroes and some can’t let go of the admiration. The fanfare, lights and roar of the crowds engulf them. When a mass of people boo a boxer he knows that those boos are more like appreciative cheers from his opponent’s home town crowd.

Ali now suffers from Parkinson's Disease and though many suggest that too many blows to head contributed to him contracting the disease there is no real way to prove it. When Holyfield, Bowe and Douglas speak they seem to stumble at putting their words together. But maybe it isn’t necessary to prove the association. Virtually every boxer at some point feels the effects of being a boxer. Shakes, neck pain, short term memory loss, nose and ear problems, eye muscle issues, scar tissue, boxer’s knuckles, and decreased motor skills are only a few of the problems that can occur. Those for and against boxing argue back and forth to no resolve. But it doesn’t take a degree in medicine to realize that brain tissue beating against the skull will have an effect on the brain.

In retrospect I am sure that many boxers who suffer the effects of boxing would take back that one last bout if it meant that they could live without so much pain, or decreased functions, or regrets. But, once you’ve committed to this sport, similarly to committing to a punch, there is no taking it back. Once that punch comes off the shoulder it is gone forever and that is exactly how long the physical effects of boxing last…forever.

Article posted on 16.09.2004



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