Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 6 of 7)

By Peter Weston Wood on May 25, 2018
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 6 of 7)
“He caught on quickly. Frank weighed only 119 pounds, but he became a good fighter.”

President Reagan appropriated Jack Dempsey’s iconic phrase when he spoke to his wife as he was lying in a hospital bed: “Honey, I forgot to duck…”

Boxing is ugly, stupid, and violent—but boxing fans are beautiful, insightful, and peaceful…well, most of the time.

This horrible blood-soaked sport is a throwback to our violent past. Boxing is a vestige of our dark, irrational inheritance. That’s why it’s so exhilarating.

It’s cultured violence.

Professional boxing has always been under sharp attack because people like to believe they have evolved into a peaceful species with superior values…but look around—there is more emotional, political, social, religious chaos and violence outside the boxing ring than inside it.

True, the most open-minded, learned, and elevated boxing fan struggles with his love of boxing. He is a bit embarrassed by his admiration of the fight game. He pays good money to sit safely in the comfort of his ringside seat while shuddering and gasping at the violent beauty of a heavyweight title fight.

Boxing is the darkness howling at the bottom of each of us. It is unleashed up in the ring for everyone to see. What could be better?

Boxing’s appeal crosses all barriers, race, religion and, today more than ever, the sexual divide, with women’s boxing gaining more momentum than at any other time in the sport’s long and colourful history. Kings and commoners, princes and paupers, movie stars and mobsters, guys and dolls have all been brought together by the sport’s indefinable glamour,” so writes a perceptive Thomas Myler in The Sweet Science Goes Sour.

The “thrill of the fight” and the “sensuous experiences of boxing” is a recent topic submitted by Christopher Matthews in his doctoral thesis for his Doctor of Philosophy degree at Loughborough University, England.

Professional boxing is a throwback, a vestige, of our dark, ancestral past. You cannot convince a person to be sympathetic, or appreciate, such a corrupt and irrational sport—a sport where you get extra points for producing brain damage.

Even I have a hard time defending it.

But there are plenty of open-minded luminaries who respect the sport. Who are they?

• a United States President!
• a Pulitzer Prize winner!
• three award-winning actors!
• two critically-acclaimed playwrights!
• two singer/songwriters who have won a total of 26 Grammy Awards!
• a world-renowned philosopher!
• a talented prima-donna opera singer!
• …and many more!

So take your ringside seat—here are 16 well-known boxing fans walking down the aisle now! One of them might sit right next to you!

DING…The bell has rung!


101—MICKEY ROURKE—Oscar-Nominated Actor & Former Professional Fighter…I don’t know if Mickey is beautiful, insightful, and peaceful, but he is a talented artist.

102—DAVID REMNICK—Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author—New Yorker Editor—Pulitzer Prize Winner (1994)…Remnick, a Princeton graduate who is the author of King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero, is most definitely a beautiful, insightful, and peaceful artist. Watch Remnick’s interview with Charlie Rose—it’s 20 minutes of boxing bliss.

103—CHARLIE ROSE— American Journalist and Talk Show Host for Charlie Rose (TV series)…Charlie Rose is a bigger boxing fan than David Remnick. He actively seeks out boxing figures to interview. Some interviewees: Rock Newman (twice; discussing Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe), Pete Hamill and Seth Abraham (discussing the current state of boxing), actors Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale (discussing “The Fighter”), Roy Jones, Jr., Don King (discussing Don King), and the creative team behind the making of the film “On the Ropes.”

104—RONALD REAGAN—40th President of the United States… I’m not too sure how many boxing cards Reagan has attended, but he was certainly a boxing fan. Upon Joe Louis’s death, President Reagan waived rules so that Louis, a man he called “my friend” could be buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery… When there was an assassination attempt at President Reagan’s life in 1981, he appropriated Jack Dempsey’s iconic phrase when he spoke to his wife as he was lying in a hospital bed: “Honey, I forgot to duck.”

Here are a few interesting photos of Reagan squaring off against George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, Jerry Quarry, and Sugar Ray Leonard.


105—BARBRA STREISAND—Ten-Grammy-Award-Winning Singer and Critically Acclaimed Actress… Barbra Streisand, an avid boxing fan, was sitting at home with friends watching the Ali-Spinks title fight. When the 8-1 underdog defeated Ali, she was inspired to produce the film, The Main Event, a classic screwball romantic comedy about an underdog boxer, starring Ryan O’Neal, her former lover in real life. It’s a love match between a boxer and his new owner as they spar both in and outside of the ring. Former lightweight contender, Chu Chu Malave makes a memorable cameo appearance. (The Boxing Filmography, Frederick V. Romano)

106—PAUL SIMON—Sixteen-Grammy-Award-Winning Singer/Songwriter…Paul Simon, the composer of the hit song, “The Boxer” was in the middle of an evening concert in Berkeley, California when he was told that Muhammad Ali died. As Ali’s death happened while the singer was onstage, it was Simon who informed the audience of Ali’s passing while performing, fittingly, the Simon & Garfunkel classic “The Boxer.”

Midway through the song, Simon told the crowd, “I’m sorry to tell you this way, but Muhammad Ali has just passed away.” The stunned crowd then audibly let out their grief before Simon gracefully stepped back into the 1969 song, “In the clearing stands a boxer/and a fighter by his trade…” The San Jose Mercury News wrote that the news of Ali’s passing added a layer of poignancy to the evening’s final song, “The Sound of Silence.”

107—JEAN-PAUL SARTRE—Author & Philosopher…This revered thinker did a bit of boxing in his tender youth. It is reported that this brilliant “brain-addled drug-addict,” in his school days, was a decent featherweight who, “when he took off his glasses, was apparently quite fierce.”

108—GEORGE BERNARD SHAW—Nobel Prize Winner in Literature—Playwright and Political Activist…The curious story of the unlikely relationship between a champion boxer and a celebrated man of letters is between Gene Tunney and George Bernard Shaw. Tunney, the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1926 to 1928, seemed an unusual companion for Shaw, but the world-famous playwright found the Irish-American athlete to be ‘‘among the very few for whom I have established a warm affection.’’ The Prizefighter and the Playwright chronicles the legendary—but rarely documented—relationship that formed between this celebrated odd couple. 

109—BUDD SCHULBERG—Two-Time Academy Award-Winning Novelist and Playwright…You wouldn’t think the young son of a wealthy Hollywood film mogul would be attracted to the seedy sport of boxing. Or would you?  Stuttering and stammering, Schulberg demonstrates his vast knowledge of boxing while flipping through a boxing scrapbook handed to him. He comments on Billy Soose, Ceferino Garcia, Tony Zale, Carmen Basilio, Jake LaMotta, Tony DeMarco, Paul Berlenbach, Mushy Callahan, Benny Leonard (his favorite), Archie Moore and many more. Watch this fascinating clip of a brilliant writer who is also a boxing historian!

110—SUSAN SARANDON—Academy-Award Winning Actress and Political Activist…Sarandon is a big boxing fan and has gone on record claiming Gennady Golovkin, the WBA, WBC, IBF, and IBO middleweight champion, is her favorite fighter. And that was several years ago, even before Golovkin was popular!

111—GARRY SHANDLING—Comedian/Writer/Director—Nominated for 19 Primetime Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards, …Shandling’s great love was boxing. He co-owned the Wild Card West Gym in Santa Monica and sparred multiple times a week when in good health. In interviews, he always compared boxing to his career in comedy. “It’s getting over that fear. Boxing taught me how to bob and weave onstage, to be agile and not get back on my heels.” (NYT Magazine/Nov. 2017)

In this riveting interview with Al Bernstein, Shandling says the beauty of boxing is its “truth.”

The last two videos show him in the ring sparring with actor Alec Baldwin.

112—USHIO SHINOHARA—Avant Guard Painter… Shinohara is an 80-year-old, world-renown, Japanese artist, and the first painter to “paint” with boxing gloves. “Cutey and the Boxer” is a critically-acclaimed documentary about his ground-breaking art. He is a modern-day Jackson Pollack with boxing gloves. Since his inventive style of painting, there have been a few imitators. He and “Cutey,” his artist wife, live in Dumbo, Brooklyn, ironically, close to Gleason’s Gym.

113—FRANK SINATRA—Academy-Award and Golden-Globe-Award-Winning Singer and Actor…Sinatra had a soft-spot for boxers and boxing. A compassionate Frank Sinatra came to the aid of Joe Louis and paid for his hospital and medical expenses that included heart surgery when the Champ was down and out…In his youth, Sinatra once asked trainer, Al Silvani, to train him. “I took him to Stillman’s and taught him how to throw a punch and how to move,” Silvani recalled. “He caught on quickly. Frank weighed only 119 pounds in those days, but he became a good fighter.” (p.294, Corner Men, Fried)

114—ED SULLIVAN—Television Host for “The Ed Sullivan Show”...Sullivan was a devoted boxing fan who attended many fight cards in the old Madison Square Garden. The clip below shows Sullivan speaking with a young Cassius Clay before the Doug Jones fight. Priceless!

115—OLGA STECK—Opera Singer…Back in 1922, among the many listeners of the sensational Benny Leonard-Lew Tendler bout included Olga Steck, a prima donna of the Broadway musical comedy, Sue Dear. Steck listened to the bout on her Aeriola Senior radio set in her dressing room before one of her performances! (The Golden Age of Boxing on Radio and Television, by Frederick V. Romano.)….0…1c.1.64.img..0.1.90….0.cJU4F2CBac4#imgrc=5fYhhwvoWFWWzM:

116—SANDRA CAMACHO—Fashion Designer…Sandra, hailing from Bogota, Colombia, is a fashion designer specializing in women’s boxing apparel. She ships her unique apparel to fashion-conscious boxers around the world. What women boxers wore during their first-ever women’s boxing exhibition in 1904 is dramatically different than what is worn now.

117—PERCY SUTTON—Politician and Head of the New York Chapter of the NAACP…Sutton was a big Floyd Patterson fan.  “Hell, let’s stop kidding,” he said of the Patterson-Liston fight. “I’m for Patterson because he represents us better than Liston ever could.” (King of the World, David Remnick, pp. 15-16)… Sutton also closely followed the careers of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.

                                                                  * * *

Someone once said, “Boxing is a horrible way to earn a buck, but somebody has to do it.”

What I say is this: These talented men are very fine athletes. People who know them seem to feel that they are also gifted artists. That’s not a bad combination—fine athlete, gifted artist. It puts them two up on most people.

Well, that’s it for today. 

The seventh—and final—part of this delightfully eclectic series is forthcoming. Stay tuned!

Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 1 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 2 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 3 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 4 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 5 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 6 of 7)

Peter Weston Wood is a 1971 NYC Golden Gloves Middleweight Finalist in Madison Square Garden; a Middleweight Alternate for The Maccabean Games in Tel Aviv, Israel, and author of two books: Confessions of a Fighter, and A Clenched Fist—The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion, published by Ringside Books. He is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at his webpage:

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  1. Lucas McCain 09:05am, 05/30/2018

    I’m looking forward to the Mae West entry.  Rumors of her love affairs include “Gorilla” Jones and Johnny Indrisano, but whether true or not, she was known for her kindness to ex-fighters.

  2. Bill 06:19am, 05/29/2018

    Wood is a tireless researcher and always comes up with gems worth reading and watching. Great Job! Thank You.

  3. Kid Blast 12:21pm, 05/28/2018

    I just re-read it. It’s that good.

  4. Bob 03:40pm, 05/27/2018

    This priceless series exceeds the mark every time out. I really look forward to reading them and viewing all the attachments.  Thank you, Mr. Wood, for this exceptional work. It doesn’t get any better than this.

  5. Lucas McCain 05:28am, 05/27/2018

    Is it possible to be a bully with a heart of gold?  Sinatra was good not only to fighters but to entertainers, including the very sick Mildred Bailey.  Complex guy, and a helluva singer

  6. Kid Blast 01:42pm, 05/26/2018

    Lot’s of work went into this one. Great stuff Peter.

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