The Heart Of A Fighter

10.22.04 - By J. Matt "Bam Bam" Barber: It’ a riddle of sorts – Some will ask; what on God’s Earth compels two otherwise civilized human beings to climb into a ring in front of hundreds; thousands; millions of people and attempt to bludgeon one another into unconsciousness? What kind of bloodthirsty spectator achieves some twisted gratification from watching such a display?

To some who are outside boxing’s tightly knit and exclusive fraternity, ours is a brutal sport with no redeeming qualities. From boxing’s inception to present day, there have been those who have feverishly endeavored to ban the sport (so-far, to no avail). These so-called “progressives” from Yuppieville, USA purport to be of the laissez-faire mindset, but worship at the alter of political correctness. Their life’s mission is to better the world by protecting you from yourself.

To Joe Pay-Per-View, who sits on boxing’s fraternal periphery, the sport merely provides passing amusement.

But, to those on the inside – to those who have thirsted for the thrill of victory, tapped boxing’s wellspring and tasted of it’s sweet waters; the riddle has a foregone conclusion…The fight-game is a way of life - It gets in your blood like a drug. There is no antidote.

For the vast majority, who have neither stepped into the ring, nor given so earnestly of themselves as to help foster a fighter in preparation for combat, there can be no true understanding of what occurs – of what the fighter experiences in body, mind and soul as the highly anticipated, duly feared moment for which he has painstakingly prepared is upon him. And so, in the interest of enlightenment:

Introductions have taken place. Our warrior stands in his corner anxious yet poised. The impetus for battle is the bell’s shrill chime; but the hunger to fight wells up from within. Numbness subsides, and he realizes…he’s alive! As if someone has turned down the volume, the clamor of the eager crowd fades into silence. He hears only the sound of his own measured breathing. He meets his adversary at ring’s center and gauges him with the jab. His opponent erupts into a wild flurry of punches! Yet, he remains calm. He very purposefully absorbs the blows with his elbows, forearms and gloves…Thud, Thud, Thud…and still, the sound of his own, un-labored breathing. It’s now a chess game; anticipate his next move – react – counter punch – left hook to the body…to the head – slip his jab – right uppercut, left hook, straight right…the right connects! – pay dirt! His opponent’s knees buckle and his eyes glaze…and then the bell.

As he returns to his corner to refuel and receive instruction, the fear is gone…only adrenalin. He lowers himself to the stool. His subconscious faintly picks up the whistles, whoops and hollers, as rowdy fight fans express their approval of the ring-card-girl who proudly displays “Round 2,” as well as other assets. But he doesn’t see her. His gaze is fixed upon his opponent across the ring. Their eyes meet – his opponent falters and shifts his gaze toward the canvas…and our warrior knows at that moment, that victory will soon be his.

When a man steps into the ring, he takes an enormous gamble. He exposes himself to risk of knockout, broken-jaw, broken-nose – any variety of injury. But, it’s not physical harm of which he’s fearful. What he dreads is failure – humiliation – letting down those who have invested so much in him. Friends, relatives and fight-fans look on as he rolls the dice and puts it all on the line. He lay awake the night before fighting the fight over and over again in his minds eye, only to later realize that the outcome was entirely unpredictable.

The tremendous courage a fighter must somehow muster in order to undertake such a challenge is mind-boggling. The discipline and mental preparation that’s required, and the countless hours of excruciating and monotonous training are staggering. Any man who is willing to expend his own blood, sweat and tears in order to achieve the level of preparedness required to succeed in the fight-game, is deserving of much respect.

Really, our world is a little like the ring. Every day, life throws different opponents our way. Some people choose to take a dive; but most of us, if we get knocked down, get right back up again and keep on fighting. So, the next time you hear some Birkenstock wearing, pansy academic type railing on boxing’s pointless brutality; don’t beat-em-up. Take the time to extol boxing’s many virtues. Demonstrate for them the fundamental parallel between boxing and life. Explain that boxing is more than just tawdry entertainment – it takes us all through the school of hard knocks. Tell them that if they’d just take a moment – quit their grumbling and sit down to watch…they just might learn something about the heart of a fighter.

Copyright © 2004 by J. Matt Barber

J. Matt Barber is a non-practicing attorney, an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer (Matt “Bam Bam” Barber), and a jazz drummer in the Chicago (IL) Land area. In addition to his Law Degree, Barber holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy from Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA). Matt is a Contributor to the Washington Times “Insight Magazine,” and a Columnist and Contributing Editor for e-news publication.

E-mail your comments to Matt, at

Article posted on 22.10.2004

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