Love, Hate, and Boxing

By Ted Sares on September 26, 2011
Love, Hate, and Boxing
I’m looking for old-school types with the charisma and electricity of a Tony DeMarco

These days, I look, seemingly in vain, for those fighters who remind me of old-school types—a sure sign that I myself am aging…

“My strategy was to be as scientific as I could when I fought. I didn’t want to be seriously hurt, and I didn’t want to do that to anybody else either.”—Muhammad Ali

Boxing has been one of my passions for over 60 years and maybe that says it all. During this time, I have walked a fine line between love and hate. Sometimes I worry that my guilty pleasure might intersect with my revulsion and if and when that happens, I don’t know what I will do, but something may have to change.

I remain repelled by a sport that allows a Greg Page to go into a ring without the necessary safety precautions or permits a Riddick Bowe to make a comeback. I am repelled by a sport that makes halfhearted efforts to provide benefits for its participants and provides a platform for the subjectivity of incompetent judges. I am shocked by a sport that enables too many fatalities and horrific injuries to occur. That these tragedies often happen in plain sight, without subsequent correction, simply add to my revulsion.

Yet watching Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios stalk and then overcome Miguel Acosta in the late rounds like a predator after prey on the Serengeti, or watching a Manny Steward-trained Wladimir Klitchko suddenly end matters with a straight right, or a Vitali Klitschko break down and then take out his opponents with systematic brutality, or a Freddie Roach-trained whirlwind named Manny Pacquiao take apart tough Miguel Cotto is something to truly marvel.

My love for boxing has endured, but it continues to be strained. I have been thrilled by live fights in South Korea, Thailand, Tijuana, San Juan, and Glasgow. I love the odiferous alchemy of expensive cigars and cheap perfume mixed with the odor of sweat and greasy food at club venues. Yes, whether in the basement of the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas or at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Mass., boxing has been a sensual pleasure of mine for lo these many years, but something corrosive—something toxic and difficult to articulate—is ever-so-slightly beginning to find its way into the mix. Whether it will overtake my enjoyment of the sport and tilt the pendulum remains to be seen.

One thing is certain, if and when it does, I will have a tough decision to make, though I am not ready to embrace the words of the late Jack Newfield from his compelling article, “The Shame of Boxing” to wit: “My conscience won’t let me remain a passive spectator to scandal any longer. I think too much about Bee Scottland being strapped onto a stretcher. I dream about Ali’s tremor. I am haunted by the Alzheimer’s stare in Ray Robinson’s eyes …”

In the inner city of Chicago where I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, boxing was a part of my heritage—first as a participant and then as a fan. It was drama, glamour and noir before I knew what those words meant. Marigold Gardens, Rainbow Arena, the Coliseum, and the massive Chicago Stadium became places where I found comfort with my father and friends; they became our stomping grounds. Guys like Tony Zale, Chuck Davey, Bob Satterfield, Spider Webb, Bob Foxworth, Luther Rawlings, Jesse Bowdry, Holman William, and Johnny “Honey Boy” Bratton thrilled us.

Later, with the advent of television, I was taken by Bobby Chacon, Danny Lopez, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Ali, and the great Salvador Sanchez. Today, there are others too numerous to mention who have filled the gaps. How can I relinquish those thrills?

Yet, in Pete Hamill’s 1996 classic article “Blood on Their Hands: The Corrupt and Brutal World of Professional Boxing,” I was reminded that “Old loves are a long time dying. They can survive deceptions and separations, petty cruelties and fleeting passions. But, eventually, they give way to the grinding erosions of time. And suddenly, one cold morning, they are dead. For too long a time, I loved the brutal sport of prize fighting. But I’ve arrived at last at that cold morning. You cannot love anything that lives in a sewer. And the world of boxing is more fetid and repugnant now than any other time in its squalid history.”

Like a moral pendulum, I periodically go back and forth. Sometimes I look at boxing with more cynicism, particularly when I see guys bite, butt, or even kiss their opponents. Other times, I’m okay with the way things are, especially when I learn that a Wlad Klitschko is sending checks to former opponent (Zoran Vijecic) who is suffering from a terrible disease that comes from damage to the brain and spinal cord.

These days, I look, seemingly in vain, for those fighters who remind me of old-school types—a sure sign that I myself am aging. I look for fighters who are humble and gentle outside the ring but ferocious and vicious inside. Courageous, respectful, and hard working—their behavior will mirror the values that I believe existed in the 1940s and 1950s—when men toiled on blood-stained canvases amidst the hazy smoke. Back then, it was a time of perceived higher standards or level of craft and not just in boxing. Men were hard and determined, well schooled with great trainers, and had more fights to earn and stay sharp. They also had an uncommon ability to regroup from misfortune. I’m also looking for those guys with the charisma and electricity of a Tony DeMarco, Mando Ramos, Jerry Quarry or Bobby Chacon, the guys who had that rare connection with the fans. 

Of course, gazing through the prism of nostalgia makes everything seem better and I like to play out old-school memories just like other old-timers. However, I also try to be thoughtful and objective when making comparisons between the past and the present.

In the end, Boxing is essentially a man’s world; it’s not for the politically correct or the fainthearted. And for me, it remains a passion—at least for now.

Take a visit on the author’s website at www.tedsares.com and enjoy the photo galleries.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios VS Miguel Acosta - (1/3)



Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios VS Miguel Acosta - (2/3)



Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios VS Miguel Acosta - (3/3)



Mando Ramos Highlight



KID GAVILAN VS. JOHNNY BRATTON - MAY 18th 1951 (Old Time Radio)



Ray Mancini vs Bobby Chacon Full Fight (HQ)



Danny "Little Red" Lopez vs Juan Domingo Malvarez



MATTHEW SAAD MUHAMMAD, BRUTAL KO!



Salvador Sanchez Tribute from ABC



Tony DeMarco TKO 1 Chico Vejar



Jerry Quarry Tribute



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  1. Norman Marcus 08:01am, 04/10/2012

    Ted: I just discovered this piece you wrote last September. It really sums up the way many of us feel about the sport today. You really hit the nail right on the head. I always look at boxing as a microcosm of society. A mirror that shows us the good and bad in man at the moment. Sometimes it is hard to look at but also hard to walk away from. Super piece buddy, I really enjoyed it.

  2. The Thresher 05:21pm, 09/27/2011

    THE WELSHMAN, addiction is a distinct possibilty. I have it as well.

  3. THE WELSHMAN 11:54am, 09/27/2011

    “How come you like boxing so much ?” is the question asked of Eddie Brown, middlewieght contender in W.C. Heinz’s novel “The Professional”, and Brown answers, “because i find so much in it . The basic law of man. The truth of life. It’s a fight, man against man, and if you’re going to defeat another man, defeat him completely. Don’t starve him to death like they do in the fine, clean competitive world of commerce. Leave him lying there, sensless on the floor.——-FROM THE BOOK BLACK LIGHTS by THOMAS HAUSER.

  4. THE WELSHMAN 11:41am, 09/27/2011

    Ted I think I’m addicted to boxing. Is this possible ?

  5. The Thresher 07:27am, 09/27/2011

    Irish Frankie, I will

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 08:12pm, 09/26/2011

    The Thresher: Check out Chekhkiev….see if you see some old school there.

  7. Kansas City '65 05:21pm, 09/26/2011

    This article is a thing of beauty like Jerry’s five straight KO’S to win the Golden Gloves Heavyweight title all those years ago…Thank You Ted Sares!

  8. Harold Lederman 04:49pm, 09/26/2011

    Hey Bull,

    Nice article. You will never tire of boxing. You will be there when the cows come home and when the dog won’t bite. So will I. We started too young, and now the fascination for boxing is too deeply engrained in our spirit for us to walk away. It hurts to see old favorites like Georgie Benton pass away, but as long as there is a new Hagler somewhere on the horizon, we will be there till the day we die. Have another piece of pumpkin pie, and turn on telemundo or telefutura or Azteca TV of whoever is televising boxing, and get some enjoyment before they start talking about your Gleason Score.

  9. Mary Lynn McDavid 04:07pm, 09/26/2011

    Ted, when I fell in love with boxing, I soon realized that I had really fallen in love with fighters.  They are unparalleled—regardless of the training or lack thereof that they get, they still share that special “something” that urges one man to step into a ring against another, in front of everybody.  That takes gumption. I will always love the fighters.  Regardless of what anyone says about the sport or the business, those guys are at the top of sports—at the top of their game.

  10. raxman 03:54pm, 09/26/2011

    Beautiful piece Bull. A meditation such as this warrents the time to re-read before I comment properly.

  11. TEX HASSLER 03:51pm, 09/26/2011

    Most fighters today are trained to be all offense and most have little defensive skills. Harry Greb the 1920’s great middleweight fought many heavyweights and beat most all of them. He was never KO’d by a heavyweight. He had tremendous defensive skills. There is not enough competition today for a fighter to learn to be a complete fighter. In the old days a fighter usually had 40 fights before he fought any real competition. That way he could be brought along slowly and learn some all-around skills. Today many fighters are retired after about 40 fights. Boxing is a hard game to learn and getting some quick KO’s and a title shot prepares few to become top flight fighters. There is a high premimum on violence and bloodshed in boxing today and it appears many promoters are only too happy to provide what makes a buck for them.

  12. THE WELSHMAN 01:22pm, 09/26/2011

    This article is a classic piece of sports writing, just loved it.

  13. The Thresher 11:44am, 09/26/2011

    Man, great to see you on here Randy. We now have France, Switzerland, Australia, UK, and NYC on board here

  14. Randy Loathsome 11:29am, 09/26/2011

    Ted. this article caught me at the right time. I too, as always, have a love-hate relationship with the sport and, as I get older, wiser, I become saddened by what, when I was younger, I overlooked. It remains, of course, as you say, a great sport at its best. At its worst the smell is overpowering. But, just perhaps, that makes it what it ‘s always been.

  15. The Thresher 11:17am, 09/26/2011

    Oh yeah, last week’s event had absolutley nothing to do with inspiring this article. In a strange way, last week’s mayhem did more good for boxing than one might suspect at first blush—particularly in the mainstream.

  16. The Thresher 11:15am, 09/26/2011

    Great question, Pug. Pretty much what triggered it was the realization that most good boxers hit a point from which all they seem to want is one good payday and then that’s it. Cherry picking in particular saddens me. And the failure of the best not fighting the best. But most of all, the way some of the writers (none here) semed to have formed their own exclusive country club and God forbid if you don’t pay homage.

    And then the way cerain organizations seemed to be linked in a way that suggests conflits of interest. I’d just as soon not go into detail on this except to say RING Magazine will soon show what I am getting at.

    I am tilting toward morphing out of boxing—but just tilting.

  17. pugknows 10:55am, 09/26/2011

    Hey Ted, this gem seemed to come right from the heart and I’d love to know what inspired it. Did it involve last weekend’s events? If not, just what?

  18. The Thresher 10:53am, 09/26/2011

    Well, thanks for all th nice comments here.

  19. johnwriter60 08:33am, 09/26/2011

    It’s a love/hate relationship. even w /the boxers, I think. at least it was for me. metaphorically you hate the guy in front of you, but afterward, when you are the winner, you embrace him as a counterpart, worthy or not, yes?

  20. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:26am, 09/26/2011

    Passion and heart come through this article like velvet cast in bronze (a shimmering softness and warmth with a casting that shows off a patina that can only be achieved with touch and age).  As moving a reflection on this topic that’s ever been read.

  21. dollar bond 08:08am, 09/26/2011

    This may be one of the very best articles on boxing I have ever read.  Bravo!

  22. Iron Beach 08:04am, 09/26/2011

    This is a real gem Ted, even for an author as accomplished as you, THIS is a real gem. Coincidentally I too have been having similar thoughts Bull, sometimes to the point of disgust and despair as I see a sport I love unraveling before my eyes. I’m still hangin’ on…but I am truly disgusted, especially after the latest fiasco in Vegas.  Pitiful exhibition of professional boxing that will no doubt take its toll on casual fans that paid $60-$70 for a most unsatisfying result.

  23. jofre 07:36am, 09/26/2011

    Ted and Mike Casey, you hit the nail on the head. When I was a young kid and into my 50s I found a lot of fighters with the charisma and electricity of those you mentioned. Sadly, there are only a small handful of fighters out there today that beckons me back to the good old days.

  24. The Thresher 06:18am, 09/26/2011

    Thanks Mike. And thanks to Robert for some incredible videos.

  25. mikecasey 04:00am, 09/26/2011

    “These days, I look, seemingly in vain, for those fighters who remind me of old-school types—a sure sign that I myself am aging. I look for fighters who are humble and gentle outside the ring but ferocious and vicious inside. Courageous, respectful, and hard working—their behavior will mirror the values that I believe existed in the 1940s and 1950s—when men toiled on blood-stained canvases amidst the hazy smoke. Back then, it was a time of perceived higher standards or level of craft and not just in boxing. Men were hard and determined, well schooled with great trainers, and had more fights to earn and stay sharp. They also had an uncommon ability to regroup from misfortune. I’m also looking for those guys with the charisma and electricity of a Tony DeMarco, Mando Ramos, Jerry Quarry or Bobby Chacon, the guys who had that rare connection with the fans.”

    My sentiments exactly! Nothing to do with age, Ted. Everything to do with the way it was and the way it is. It is why Tony DeMarco is still so loved.

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