Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Boxing: A Cultural History

Boxing fans and aficionados do not agree most of the time when they talk about boxing. While some people say Muhammad Ali is the greatest heavyweight champion of the world (he even declared himself being so) during his prime, others say it is Mike Tyson. While most agree that George Foreman packs a devastating punch, his is nothing compared to the late Max Baer’s famed ‘killer punch’, and by that, Baer’s punches literally killed.

Whatever the case, boxing has its equal share of glories and tragedies. Mike Tyson, for instance, is used to be known as the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history. Now, he is known as the guy who bit a chunk off from Evander Holyfield’s ear. But still, the fact remains that people drove in millions to watch boxers pummel each other and be there while these pugilists rise and fall in the ranks.

Kasia Boddy’s book, Boxing: A Cultural History, explores the deepest recesses of the people’s minds as to why they love to see men fight and why people box in the first place. Boxing: A Cultural History also traces the origins and the roots of boxing. While modern-day boxing started in 18th century England, pure brawling dates back to the age of the Mesopotamian Empire. Boddy also takes the readers on an evolving journey, filling readers piece by piece as to how boxing became the sport it is today.

But Boddy is not just a mere historian writing a simplified explanation of the what’s and the why’s and the who’s and how the boxing sport came to be. Boxing: A Cultural History is filled with symbolisms and tackles sensitive topics, such as racism, poverty, and exploitations of people who thrive on making profits from boxers who deem boxing as their ticket out of their misery. The book also serves its readers the wells where they can draw inspirations to continue living.

Kasia Boddy’s Boxing: A Cultural History is a well-written and well-researched book by any standards. Award-winning author Peter Temple rates Boddy’s venture into the world of boxing as a writing that emanates an overall-quality so good, that anybody can forgive Boddy’s lapses, if she has made any. Matthew Syed of The Times sees Boddy’s book as “one of the most intelligent sporting books of recent times, even if it consciously, and pleasingly, resists going for the knockout blow.”