Supplemental Reading: Hugh McIlvanney and my 2004 self

Earlier this week I was reading some old diary entries from back when I first started learning how to box. I threw my first punch in a class at a New York Sports Club back in 2003, and I loved it so much I went a few times a week for a couple of years. I wish I’d never stopped, but I’m more than making up for it now, obvs. The class was mostly circuit training that combined bag drills with jump rope, crunches, a little padwork, and whatever else the instructor could think of. It varied according to how diabolical he felt. Sometimes, if there were a lot of regulars in the class, the instructor would let us act out sparring with each other – no contact, but we’d weave and counter and work on our stance. That was always my favorite, even though I’d be pretty well gassed out after three or four rounds. (This makes me laugh a lot now.)

Anyway, I ran across this in an old diary entry dated April 7, 2004: “Eventually, like many months into the future, I have visions of actually boxing, although reconciling this vision with the fact that I really don’t want to hurt anybody on purpose is proving to be difficult.”

(This also makes me laugh a lot now. Apparently I got over that somewhere along the way.)

I go to a different gym now, but I sort of wish I could find out if my first instructor is still teaching there, and if he is, I wish I could drop in on a class now and show him what my attendance in that class eventually evolved into, and thank him for helping me lay down the fundamentals.

And then, I just realized, this next and wholly unrelated part of the blog entry is extremely ironic because it deals with an article about a man who died while boxing. UNRELATED. REALLY. I PROMISE.

So, again, unrelatedly, I wanted to share a favorite piece of boxing writing, by legendary sportswriter Hugh McIlvanney. His account of the fight that killed Johnny Owen is emotionally wrenching and every time I reread it I’m reminded that it’s one of my favorite bits of writing about anything. If you’re a boxing fan at all, I’m sure you’ve already read it, and if you’re not, you might not be wild about an article in which someone dies doing the sport your friend engages in, but all the same, I’m sharing it in case you haven’t read it and it’s maybe possibly your kind of thing. The best line in this article, and maybe the best line in any article about boxing:

Outside the ring [Johnny Owen] was an inaudible and almost invisible personality. Inside, he became astonishingly positive and self-assured. He seemed to be more at home there than anywhere else. It is his tragedy that he found himself articulate in such a dangerous language.

Incidentally, I recently bought the domain dangerouslanguage.com and forwarded it here – I don’t know if I’ll end up using that as my permanent blog home, but it’s the only name that’s really fit so far that hasn’t already been used in a similar context by someone more famous than me.

Also, you CAN watch the fight McIlvanney is writing about on Youtube, but it is really not an easy thing to watch, so I’m not sure I recommend that, especially if you are only a casual or incidental fan of boxing.

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