The Biting Incident

September 21st, 2015

bitingindentImagine CBS TVs elegant Charles Osgood actually saying these words out loud: “Twenty-four persons were injured in a melee that broke out after last night’s heavyweight championship fight when Mike Tyson was disqualified for biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear.”

Well, not all of the ear. Just a snack-sized portion at the outer rim. As proof that even in boxing there are humanitarians on the loose, someone picked up the piece of ear from the ring canvas and transported it to a hospital where plastic surgeons tried to put the champ together again.

How, you may ask, can a fighter bite off a piece of flesh while wearing a mouthpiece? The answer is that Tyson came out for the third round without his mouthpiece. Ostentatiously, he left it behind in a second’s hand. This was a case of premediated mastication. And not only did he take a piece from Holyfield’s right ear, but Tyson went on to chomp the left ear–the second bite after a warning and a four-minute delay to stop Holyfield’s bleeding–before referee Mills Lane stopped the feast.

A mouthpiece? How about a …

Talking Tyson

September 18th, 2015

tysonIn the 1960s and ’70s, America’s youth cried out for people who went against the grain, who fought issues such as racism and the violence of war. Many of us cheered when civil rights activists and anti-war protesters went to jail while fighting for an ideal. Some people lost their lives in those battles but not nearly as frequently as youth do today.

There was no crack, no AIDS, no gang violence or overt, violent acts of racism in our schools. The schools themselves were comparatively safe havens. Now, middle schools in some places have grieving rooms and funeral funds. Teachers and students alike wait for what seems the inevitable call that one of their students has joined the list of children killed by guns or other lethal weapons. It happens every two hours, every day. Sooner or later, the barrel of a gun could point at almost any child.

Tyson survived that kind of childhood and became a hero to many–a fabulously rich hero at that. Sports are so intertwined with society that Tyson’s image spread beyond the youth who lived on …

Learning To Take A Punch

September 14th, 2015

athleticI stepped inside the ropes for the first time with Big Lon. I was nineteen, six foot three, and tipped the Toledo at a buck ninety. Lon had come down from 360 to 280 on his six-foot frame. A semipro football career and a three-year bid at Lorton Pen behind him, he’d settled into life as a gym rat in Washington, D. C. “Yo, you wanna move around a little?” Big Lon shouted to me. I felt like James Dean being called chicken at a drag race.

The gloves felt tight and heavy, the headgear fit like a Pop Warner helmet, and the support straps on the leather cup had me showing too much leg. Lon leaned on the turnbuckle, almost reclining, his arms on the top rope. The green light on the round timer buzzed like a cheap alarm clock, and someone yelled, “Time,” as if I didn’t know.

I managed a tentative jab before Big Lon dropped his head straight down, pulled his left arm south to about Georgia, and — Bloouwwhhh! I looked for the source of the din but could …

Thoughts From Inside The Ring

September 10th, 2015

On Being Hit. And Hit Again.

phisicalpainThe more you sweat, the less you bleed. If that’s true, I should be immune to bodily harm, because I’ve sweated more since joining this boxing gym than ever before in my life. But as I stare at a Mr. Potatohead doll perched atop the drinking fountain–a tribute to gym members who have suffered broken noses–the perspiration trickling into my eyes stinks of fear rather than exertion. I try clumsily to wipe my face, but in padded gloves, my hands are good for one thing only: a fight.

And that’s exactly what I’ve gotten myself into. “Anyone want to spar?” my coach asked a the end of practice. My arm shot up like a champ claiming victory. “I do,” I said.

I do?

I’ve never thrown a punch at anyone in my life. I joined the gym purely for the rigorous workout; I never planned to smack anything other than a punching bag. But in a moment of delusional enthusiasm, I’ve volunteered for combat. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror–my face distorted by a mouthpiece, …

Ladies Boxing: The Future Of The Sport

September 6th, 2015

Beyond the lipstick shows of the pros, a world of deadly serious amateurs slugs it out.

ladiesboxingIt is finals night at the first-ever Women’s National Championship in amateur boxing. In the women’s bathroom, a boy and a girl wrap toilet paper around their fists and flail away at the legs of their harried mother. Ringside, ESPN commentator Al Bernstein sucks down a Coke and pushes popcorn into his mouth. All week, 67 boxers have repeated the words making history over and over like a mantra. But on this historic night for women’s boxing. Bell Auditorium in Augusta, georgia, is nearly empty. Earlier in the day, tournament director Sandy Martinez-Pino reminded the boxers to remove their protective headgear as soon as their bouts are over: “We have some beautiful women in this tournament, and we want you o be seen by all the world.” But now a thin lick of gloom hangs over the proceedings; what if you threw a party and nobody came?

Sparse or not, the crowd wants some action. They get in the 119-pound contest, as Patricia Alcivar of Queens and Leona …

Talking Rhames’ Workout

September 2nd, 2015

The Workout

You step into the ring. You tell the coach it is your desire to box.

Really, he says.

rhamesThen he invites you to remove your loafers from his canvas. “The approach we took with Ving was the way you train an amateur fighter,” says Darrell Foster (bottom photo, right), coach to Sugar Ray Leonard since the seventies and the owner of Omega Bodies fitness consultancy in Pasadena, California. “We didn’t want Ving to feel entitled to get in the ring from day one.”

Leonard and Foster’s training prescription is one you can put into practice, too, even if you don’t have a professional fight coach and aren’t starting with the 221 pounds of regularly flexed human steel that Rhames brought to the deal. Any or all of the parts of Rhames’s workout can help you, whether you actually go to a boxing gym or hang a bag from the basement ceiling. It’s about strength, endurance, agility, and hand-eye coordination, all of which are equally useful, whether your plan actually involves boxing or ballet: (which, come to think of it, aren’t as different …

Rhames Took It To The Limit With The Sonny Liston Story

August 27th, 2015

To get in shape to play the lead in the Sonny Liston story, actor Ving Rhames followed this program designed by Sugar Ray Leonard. You can, too.

The fist is six inches wide and powering smack into your face again and again and again, like a giant piston, fast, and you’re staring straight into the fighter’s unblinking eyes because they command you to do so, and you have no doubt that he hates you–hates you–and you damn sure dare not flinch.

You are in the fighter’s house. In his house.

On the other end of the fist is a man, Irving “Ving” Rhames, who weighed 208.5 pounds when he got up this morning, though he used to tip the scales at 221. Sweat streams from the crown of his shiny, shaved head, and he snorts hard with every punch, Hnhh! Hnhh! Hnhh!, because this is not a performance–he has already hyperextended his elbow once doing this–it is a serious training session. A puff of air kisses your eyeballs with each jab, because, instead of crushing your septum into your brains and bringing about the …

A Battle Outside The Ring Was Key To Boxing

August 24th, 2015

abattleoutsideArizona Senator John McCain wants to protect the boxing business from itself. The sport’s biggest promoter, Don King, wants to protect the boxing business from John McCain.

Theirs is a fight about the future of prize fighting. Because regardless of whether Evander Holyfield fights Lennox Lewis or either of them fights Mike Tyson someday to unify the multiheaded heavyweight title, boxing’s real heavyweight championship will be decided by two headstrong, street-savvy, powerful leaders. McCain, a conservative Republican and a projected 2000 presidential candidate, is a former collegiate boxer at the U.S. Naval Academy, a Vietnam war hero and a former prisoner of war at the infamous Hanoi Hilton.

King is, well, King. He’s a bombastic, electric-headed Hall of Fame promoter who also was once incarcerated but at his own government’s insistence, not that of a Third World country.

“This is nothing but an anti-Don King bill,” says King, boxing’s biggest promoter, when asked his feelings about the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act that McCain proposed and shepherded through the Senate last year. McCain is now trying to move it through the House and into …

Exercise Class Types And What’s Best For You

August 21st, 2015

exerciseclassBoxing (aka Executive Boxing, Boxerobics, Boxercise, Aerobox): Expect an abbreviated version of what an amateur or pro boxer would normally be put through, minus the contact. The first half of the class typically focuses on standard exercises from the sweet science, switching from skipping rope to push-ups to a few ab exercises (sometimes involving a medicine ball). The second half is more hands-on, hands-up. You’ll throw all the basic punches with either hand (jab, cross, hook and uppercut), then combinations of each to up the intensity. Some classes utilize shadowboxing; others feature bag work and focus mitts (baseball-like gloves without pockets). Most, however, keep the punches in the air and off any live opponent.


* Best at isolating and defining upper-body muscles

* Alleviates stress

* Twisting action from punching hits the love handles harder than normal

* Requires concentration to learn combinations and hand positioning


* Lower body is largely ignored

* May aggravate lower-back problems due to torso rotation during punching

* Abundance of unqualified boxing instructors can lead to injury

* Requires concentration to]earn combinations and hand positioning

Expense …

In Praise Of Ali

August 18th, 2015

inpraiseof-AliOf course, there are other sporting occasions that have a slow-burn of anticipation and an ability to spring surprise from what can appear a pre-ordained drama or a lost cause: the recent second-half mauling of the All Blacks, the resurrection of Manchester United in the final ten minutes of the European Cup final. It is at such moments that sport enlarges for us the realms of the possible. But there is little that can compare with the steady spotlight that was brought to bear on the most fearsome and the most famous fighters on the planet as all the jigsaw pieces leading to Zaire fell into place.

Did Ali see what we saw when he looked at Foreman – and Liston before him? Doubtful. LeRoi Jones, for example, described the force of Liston as “the bad nigger, a heavy-faced replica of every whipped-up woogie in the world. He is the underdeveloped, have-not, backward country, the subject people, finally here to collect his pound of flesh.” Ali, however, both cleverly and cruelly turned Foreman into the “white man’s nigger”, while claiming that he, himself, was …