The Boxing Impurist

By Robert Ecksel on September 18, 2013
The Boxing Impurist
"Why was Corbett revolutionary? Because everybody else was a crazy friggin’ slugger!"

There will always be demolition derbies of the flesh, where two fighters, like Mack Trucks on steroids, crash into each other until one can no longer move…

What is a boxing purist? A boxing purist is someone who relishes watching fighters hit and not get hit, which is the essence of boxing. Boxing purists respect the past, not in lieu of respecting the present, but as a black and white adjunct to the Technicolor present.

By that definition or any other, boxing purists, concerned with the fate of the sweet science, are dismissed, as much is dismissed in our woe begotten times, as being traditionalists clinging to a counterfeit ideal. Arguments over size, weight, skill and conditioning will never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. But boxing purists are not boxing absolutists. They have nothing against all-out war, per se. There is, after all, something to be said for kamikaze pilots hurling themselves into the unknown. But when a fight is a tactical masterpiece, it is often greeted with disdain, with outright hostility coming in a close second.

Since we know what a boxing purist is, can we assume that the opposite of a boxing purist is a boxing impurist? Although no such term presently exists, it’s never too late for a little creative wordplay. The difficulty arises when we attempt to define what exactly a boxing impurist is. Based on what appears to be their position, which echoes the position of most fight fans, the boxing impurist looks down his or her nose at scientific boxing. Defense, as in the “gentlemanly art of self defense,” is a unwelcome intrusion, maybe even an impertinence, that stops the flow of the action. It’s either blood-and-guts or nothing.

There will always be demolition derbies of the flesh, where two fighters, like Mack Trucks on steroids, crash into each other until one can no longer move. I wouldn’t trade that for the world, as it’s an integral part of the fight game. But nor would I trade it for an exemplary demonstration of the sweet science in action. That may make me a boxing purist and if so, mea culpa, I’m ready be to be drawn and quartered. There are however conditions. If I’m to submit to the ignominy of being turned into fractions, the same needs apply to the boxing impurists.

Perhaps this debate is as old as boxing itself, but I doubt it. If boxing genius were held in the same low regard in the past as it is today, we would never have heard of Gentleman Jim Corbett, Gene Tunney, Harold Johnson and Willie Pep. That we’ve not only heard of them but that they are revered in some circles suggests that times have changed, that thrill now trumps skill, that hard-fought knowledge has taken a backseat to the screech of opinion.

In the spirit of unfair play I spoke with Mike Silver, author of “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science,” to ask about the boxing purist vs. boxing impurist, if such a distinction exists, or if I was, not for the first or last time, overplaying my hand.

“Boxing reflects society,” said Silver, “and it’s a reflection of the times. How can you be a purist today? How can you be a true purist if you don’t know what the hell you’re watching? The last few fights I saw on TV were horrendous. They were brutal slugging matches with no science whatsoever. They appeal to the lowest common denominator in terms of who watches the sport—and that is the people who understand boxing as a street fight, a ‘fight,’ a brawl. That announcer who uses the ridiculously stretched out catch phrase ‘Let’s get ready to rummmmmmble,’ (before my stomach knots up hearing it I always press the mute button) has, without realizing it, given us the perfect clarion call for what boxing has morphed into: an artless and destructive brawl. If you cannot understand boxing’s basics and baseness, it’s equivalent to asking somebody, ‘Do you understand basketball?’ ‘Yeah, you throw a ball through a hoop. Isn’t that it?’ ‘Well, what about the art of passing, the art of defense, the art of dribbling?’ ‘No, it’s throwing the ball through the hoop. Doesn’t matter how you do it. You gotta get that ball in the hoop.’”

I could care less about basketball, but recognize a good comparison when I see one.

“So boxing is understood as Hit the other guy. Ooh, he hit you. You’re tougher than the other guy. Ooh, knock him out.  Let’s check the punch count stats. There is no real understanding, and it goes from top to bottom, from the trainers down to the fighters down to the seconds down to the fans. Ignorance is rampant in this sport, but so few know it. I would say along with the disappearance of strategy, proper balance, timing, combination punching, and feinting, you have the disappearance of the purist. The purist is an endangered species and they’ll be gone completely with the last generation of purists, such as Teddy Atlas, such as Mike Casey, such as Gordon Marino, such as Springs Toledo. Shortly, unless there’s a revolution of some kind, you will see the end of any sort of purist and people will not know what they’re watching because there’s nothing to watch anymore and what they’re seeing is a watered-down, demented version of the sport.”

Mike Silver doesn’t pull his punches. And while the Marquis of Queensberry rules don’t encourage it, he hit the nail right on the head.

“Look,” he said, “this sport has come full circle. We are now in the age just before Corbett came up, in terms of how the guys fight; you know, the 80-round fight, which were basically fights of attrition. We are back to the uneducated fan watching two guys mix it up to see who’s tougher. Really, if this sport were true to itself today, we would have fights to the finish. Why was Corbett seen as revolutionary? Because everybody else was a crazy friggin’ slugger! You had Nonpareil Dempsey fighting with half his ear off. It was unbelievable. Why do you think those bareknucklers and all those guys died so young? The human body, which is amazing, can eventually only stand so much.”

There has been less talk of late about MMA eating into boxing’s fan base.  And while I might not care for MMA, which lacks the symmetry and grace of boxing at its best, I understand why people do: its brutality is a better reflection of our age than a sport that has its roots in the 19th century. When time is short and attention spans shorter, who has the patience for all that balletic moving around? Straddling an opponent and punching him in the face is much more to the point.

“The people who say MMA takes boxing fans away and blame MMA for boxing going downhill as a mainstream sport, except for superfights, that’s wrong,” insisted Silver. “Before MMA ever came in, boxing was going downhill, and that’s because of King and Arum and all the world champions. It’s ridiculous to have a sport with a hundred champions and people were starting to say, ‘What the hell is this?’ MMA is absolutely a reflection of the times. It truly is a sign that the culture is declining, in my opinion. But what does boxing do in reaction to that? It goes right back to what you said. Boxing lacks purists, lacks people who understand, and is controlled by people just looking to make money.

“But it’s a professional sport. Why is boxing seemingly more brutal than ever? Why do we see these fights and listen to these idiot announcers who are cheerleaders for this, screaming ‘Oh man, what a fight, fight of the year,’ when all we see are two guys slamming away at each other with hardly any science at all? It’s like having two businesses in competition across the street from each other. One is offering an inferior product and they’re lowering the price. You’ve got a great product and your price is high because you’re selling a great product—but you’re going out of business! So what do you do? You have to make a choice. Either I close shop or I start importing from Taiwan or Bangladesh or wherever. I start getting something that is inferior, something whose price I can lower, something that will fall apart in a year. But at least I’m still in business and still in competition with the guy who is selling garbage across the street.”

We may be surrounded by Philistines, but if we’re all Philistines, how would anyone know?

“In my opinion, the announcers and everyone else who is encouraging this type of boxing, this type of brutality, this type of violence—not that boxing was ever two Little Lord Fauntleroys—it was never a sport that was not brutal—approves of the diminution of technique. Somebody who really knows the sport would say, ‘Did anybody ever teach these guys how to slip a punch? Did anybody ever teach these guys, if you put up your right hand you can block a left hook?’ That’s what the sport has come to. And nobody wants to hear from any purist, the purists that are left. ‘Yeah, okay right. Go write a history book. We don’t want to hear from you. Go away.’”

Silver’s passion can be over-the-top, but no one can accuse him of being indifferent.

“In mimicking MMA is boxing raising itself?  No, it’s lowering itself. MMA is a fad. MMA stepped into a vacuum. The guys who run MMA are very smart. Oh man, they are sharp business people. The guys who run boxing are also smart business people, but they couldn’t give a rat’s ass about respecting the fan or maintaining the standards. Who’s going to maintain the standards? You have trainers being praised today, trainers going into the Hall of Fame, that don’t know in their whole body what Charley Goldman knew in his little finger. Listen to them in the corner. ‘Throw more punches.’ That’s their big advice. ‘Throw more jabs.’ What does ‘throw more jabs’ mean? The jab can be used five different ways. They don’t know what they’re saying. The level of ignorance in this sport is astounding. But, you’ll be criticized for saying that because most people who are watching that don’t know what the hell they’re watching.

“If I produce a ballet, do I want a critic in the audience whose whole exposure has been to break dancing? Do I want him to explain a ballet and what’s going on? Will he understand someone who is not performing up to par as opposed to someone who is? Where’s the frame of reference? Where’s the perspective? To anybody who watched boxing from the 1940s through the 1970, when you still had guys like Ike Williams, Jimmy Carter, Giardello, Carlos Ortiz, Duran, Arguello and then Hearns, Hagler, and Sugar Ray Leonard, to name a few, there were still some pretty good boxers out there. One of the last great body punchers was Julio Cesar Chavez. Even good wild men like Matthew Saad Muhammad could put on a show. But the way the sport is now, it is virtually unrecognizable.”

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Gene Tunney & James J Corbett Sparring Film, New York 1925

Harold Johnson vs Willie Pastrano

Willie Pep vs Ray Famechon

Ike Williams vs Enrique Bolanos

Carlos Ortiz battles Battling Torres

Thomas HITMAN Hearns battles Wilfredo Benitez Tactical Defensive clinic

Roberto Duran vs Pipino Cuevas

Sugar Ray Leonard vs Wilfred Benitez

Julio Cesar Chavez vs Edwin Rosario

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  1. nicolas 02:30am, 09/29/2013

    I did not see the Chavez Jr-Vera fight, but most feel it was a horrible decision. I would suggest to Mr. Silver, that the reason MMA may also be popular among people is not a sign of a more violent time, but a wish for people to feel that the better man in a fight gets the deserved decision, or victory, which I think most might suiggest happens more in MMA competition than boxing.

  2. nicolas 11:30am, 09/26/2013

    One of the sad truths about boxing today, is that boxers while in the past may have fought too many times, boxers today are not able to get enough fights. Nat Fleischer even in the late 50’s to early 60’s was claiming that boxing was becoming impure, and he blamed this on the television age, in which ratings and viewership was what promoters were looking for, and what was this but slugfests. Harold Johnson in his time, and I think even Pastrano while appreciated by many of us today were not so popular in their day. Also to suggest that boxing today somehow appears to be more violent than in the past I think is way off. How can one say that when we have the Zale Graziano trilogy, and a referee today from the film that I have seen on the third fight would have stopped that fight much sooner. Boxing’s popularity really began to suffer because of the lack of exposure, and MMA filled that void. MMA is not a reflection of a more violent time, but it is what I suppose some might consider a more honest assessment of who is the baddest man in the house, much like what John L Sullivan and later Jack Dempsey tried to say.

  3. kid vegas 08:26pm, 09/22/2013

    Thanks Peter. Anything to get away from the avalanche of fantasy fight posts that are driving me crazy and driving me away from

  4. peter 04:00pm, 09/22/2013

    @ Kid Vegas—-a live debate—old vs new—Interesting idea.

  5. kid vegas 10:22am, 09/20/2013

    Fascinating posts. Love to witness a live debate between New School and Old School. Can we arrange that Editor. Maybe in Las Vegas or Canastota?

  6. Clarence George 05:48am, 09/19/2013

    Glenn:  In answer to your question—masochist.  Anyway, it’s not a match-up that appeals to me in the slightest.

    Beaujack:  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating—your reminiscences are priceless.

    I share your affection for Beau Jack.  I rank Ike Williams slightly higher, but I just like Jack more.

    Ted:  You’re right, of course, but it’s hard for me to take seriously a boxer who, regardless of the reasons, graces the ring with his august presence but once or twice a year.

  7. Ted 05:29am, 09/19/2013

    The business model back in the day made it necessary for boxers to fight more often so they could earn a living. Less bang fro the buck back then.

    Today the goal is to get more bang for the buck.


  8. beaujack 05:24am, 09/19/2013

    hiya Clarence… Never saw Davey Day kod by Armstrong…My first pro card my dad took me to, was in 1942 when a new sensation from Augusta, Ga, Beau Jack fought Tough Terry Young a Paisano of Rocky Graziano at the
    now defunct St Nicholas Arena in NYC…What a battle between the young Beau Jack and Terry Young ! From that moment on I was hooked on boxing….Still remember some of the prelims..There was a heavyweight over 7 feet tall, Big Ben Morosz and a Golden Glove heavyweight champion Buddy Moore who was being groomed to be the “new Joe Louis.
    Not to be. though…Beau Jack when coming up was the most action packed fighter I ever saw…His manager ruined Beau Jack by matching him in 50 bouts his first 3 years…Years later I traveled to Philly by bus to see
    a faded Beau Jack destroyed by Ike Williams…Too bad that this fight in 1948 is the only film of a faded Beau Jack…Too bad…

  9. GlennR 05:10am, 09/19/2013

    I like the idea of Hopkins v Mayweather at 160….... does that make me a purist or a masochist?? :)

  10. Clarence George 03:20am, 09/19/2013

    Peter:  Are you referring to my “Not Playing the Piano”?  It was my first article for, and I continue to cherish some of the reviews.  “Erotically charged,” for example.  No, wait, that was for something else.  Anyway, gold star next to your name for resonating to “Two Ton”—my absolute favorite boxer.  What a brawler, eh?  Nothing dainty or delicate about him, and his idea of experimental nutrition was sausage instead of meatballs with his spaghetti.

    I, too, am a huge admirer of guys like Tunney and Williams, but—come on!—let’s hear that leather smack.

  11. Clarence George 02:50am, 09/19/2013

    Outstanding observations, Beaujack, with which I fully concur.  Well-nigh impossible to favorably compare the current generation of boxers with their brethren of the past.

    Armstrong defended his welterweight title three times in one month, in March 1939—against Bobby Pacho on the 4th, Lew Feldman on the 16th, and Davey Day on the 31st.  Perhaps you saw the Day fight, which took place at the Garden.

    Though I’d hoped Mayweather would fight again in February or March (is that too much to ask?), his next bout probably won’t be till May—eight months from now.  Ridiculous.  Not that I’m much looking forward to his shoulder roll, which makes him look like a girl whose little brother has just presented her with a frog.

    By the way, Armstrong would have destroyed Mayweather.

  12. peter 01:52am, 09/19/2013

    I continue to be a proud boxing impurist. I have always appreciated an Ike Williams, a Gene Tunney, a Giardello, a Carlos Ortiz, or a Salvador Sanchez, but I still resonate to an Oscar Bonavena, a Dempsey and a Mathew Saad Muhammad. I am not alone. Look back to see how many hits and responses the recent Tony Galento article generated. Perhaps, in my old age I should have become more sophisticated in my fistic taste, but it hasn’t happened…In my humble opinon, boxing lost much of its pungency, allure and drama when it tried to become politically correct and attempted to sanitize itself with the use of headgear for amateurs. If I were a young boy watching my first amateur bout with boxers using headgear, I would not have gotten so hooked and inspired by the sport…This was a significant article—it belongs in “The New Yorker”. Robert Ecksel is our new, and improved, Nat Fleischer. (Robert, if you are ever called upon to referee a fight, I hope you will do better than Fleischer.) Thank you.

  13. beaujack 08:12pm, 09/18/2013

    Someone posted that Floyd Mayweather hasn’t a scratch on his face…
    Does he realize that a young Willie Pep who I saw ringside in 2 years had 46 fights in a row winning almost every round, averaging 1 bout every 2 weeks…Does anyone think that if Mayweather fought in the early 1940s every two weeks or so he would have lasted til the age of 36 still on top ?
    Why in one year Harry Greb had as much fights as Mayweather in his entire career…Mayweather is the best of his era, which is mediocre at best…In the early 1940s my dad and I saw Beau Jack, Ike Williams, Bob Montgomery, Henry Armstrong etc, fighting each other in frequent 15 round bouts at the old MSG…Does any rational fan think that with such taxing and frequent fights, Mayweather would still be “unmarked” ?

  14. FrankinDallas 06:40pm, 09/18/2013

    A guy just made $42 million in a boxing match, and people say boxing is dead? If that’s so, give me some of that dead stuff.

  15. robert durian 05:48pm, 09/18/2013

    Hit and not be hit.. you have a good or fast reflex
    Hit me and I’ll hit you harder to knock you out.. strong puncher.
    Boxing with different technique

  16. Tex Hassler 04:17pm, 09/18/2013

    You can add me to the list of boxing purist. A friend who does not know a lot about boxing even noticed that boxing is not the same sport today that it was in the 50’s and 60’s.  A lot of the fighters in past days had 100 or more fights without getting hurt because they were all around fighter with a solid defense. They knew how to roll with punches in order to take most of the sting out of them. I seldom see this any more. I seldom see any of the things that a fighter like Harold Johnson did in the ring. When Ray Arcel and Eddie Futch left the scene, they took with them a ton, make that tons of boxing knowledge that no one seems to have or want to study in order to have today.

  17. Ted 03:53pm, 09/18/2013

    Mohummad Humza Elahi. Good stuff

  18. Mohummad Humza Elahi 03:14pm, 09/18/2013

    I’m a proud boxing purist.  How do I know that I’m a purist?  When I was explaining the shoulder roll to a colleague at work on Monday after the Floyd-Canelo fight, I could hear the yawns through the whole office!
    But I have to say, sometimes the faux purists can be worse than the “impurists”, at least with the people who want guts and blood, their motivation and view is clear, they want excitement and action and have no time for intricacy.
    As for the faux purist, they don’t take the time to understand why footwork is important but are hell bent on talking themselves up as experts on the sweet science.

  19. Ted 01:12pm, 09/18/2013

    “strategy, proper balance, timing, combination punching, and feinting” [and counter punching] describes many fighters I follow today. but if they fight in a manner that is not fan-friendly, they will not have box office appeal. and boxing is a business just like all other professional sport and profit is the main goal (though boxers do not have and never will have a union). The business model is constantly changing and boxing styles and training will change with it.  For me, that’s not necessarily bad. It’s just different. Rigo is Exhibit One of a situation that does not fit the model. The model will be the trigger.

    Basketball as taught by C’lair Bee, Rupp, Iba,  and Dean Smith is no longer in vogue except with the women who still work the fundamentals more than the men. It has changed because of speed and height translating to a new norm which in turn translates to more money.  Heavyweight boxing will follow suit. Not better, not worse,  just different—a new norm..

    These days, I am happy with Floyd, Broner, Ward, Hopkins, GGG, Lomachenko, both Garcias,  Martinez, Geale,  Barker, even Paulie, Pac,—and I was happy with Calzaghe, Nelson, Sanchez,  Barry McGuigan, Barrera, Morales, and many., many others during that period. Many Ghanaian and South African fighters are steeped in Brit technique combined with a warrior’s proclivity. What’s not to like?


  20. Mike Casey 11:26am, 09/18/2013

    Good points, Irish!

  21. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:54am, 09/18/2013

    Mike Casey-Hopefully Matthysse isn’t vulnerable in that respect….because if I’m not mistaken he’s had issues with his eye swelling up in at least one recent bout here in the States.

  22. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:46am, 09/18/2013

    Mike Casey-Which reminds me…outcomes can be decided by certain physical vulnerabilities that a fighter might have that would literally handicap him in a bout….as I post this I have one of my favorites in mind… Frankie Ryff.

  23. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:12am, 09/18/2013

    Mike Casey-Thanks for a great answer….whether one is a purist or not, all must agree that at heart a boxing contest is a physical activity….and as much as we all admire grit, sand, heart, will and skill….. more times than we may care to admit the outcome is decided in favor of the more physically gifted athlete…..or the fighter who has certain physical advantages over his opponent. When Ted Sares refers to Mayweather’s “uncommon reflexes” this would be a case in point as would your recognition of Sandy as a naturally “terrific puncher” or my view strictly as a fan that the stats on Boxrec are bogus in the respect that in reality Sandy as a 5’8” Featherweight had a 72” or even greater wingspan.

  24. Mike Silver 09:52am, 09/18/2013

    Ted, I am sure we agree more than disagree but the sub-title to my book is “The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science”, not the “Rise and Fall”.  Boxing is without question in decline and has been for many years. Will it survive—probably—but unless things change it will survive in a very dumbed down state. One only has to view the films our editor has provided to see the difference. (And if one can’t see the difference then no point in continuing this debate). Take the time to view Williams vs. Bolanos, or Ortiz vs. Torres or Johnson vs. Pastrano. These fighters display magnificent “old school” skills. Boxing is a lost art. No European boxer of today comes near that type of sophisticated technique. IMO the only reason the East Europeans thrive is because of the dearth of talent and good trainers in the U.S.

  25. Mike Casey 09:49am, 09/18/2013

    Saddler was a sound technician, but also a terrific puncher (103 knockouts against stellar opposition) and one of the great spoilers. He was a clever and dangerous package and he knew all the dirty tricks into the bargain. We must bear in mind also that the post-plane crash version of Willie Pep - albeit still a class above most others - was not as good as the original. Additionally, some fighters just have the hex on other fighters and their respective abilities sometimes has little to do with it. Young Corbett shouldn’t have knocked out Terrible Terry McGovern once - never mind twice - but did.

  26. kid vegas 09:03am, 09/18/2013

    Interesting debate going on here. I am learning a lot.

  27. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:28am, 09/18/2013

    Which reminds me…and while we’re on the subject…....why couldn’t the great master technician/tactician Willie Pep get the best of Sandy Saddler in their series? BTW any answer that implies that Saddler was an even greater technician/tactician would be a bullshit response.

  28. Ted 07:28am, 09/18/2013

    Lord knows! Agreed 100%

  29. Robert Ecksel 07:24am, 09/18/2013

    I know we both want boxing to flourish. Lord knows we’re devoting a large part of our lives to keeping it front and center.

  30. Ted 07:20am, 09/18/2013

    I should add that we are closer in agreement than might appear.

  31. Ted 07:01am, 09/18/2013

    I don’t buy your defense of what Mike said for one second. I maintain that doomed is what he meant because all you have to do is read the title of his book and then read it—as I did. It’s a great book and he makes a compelling case indeed. But he does not paint a rosy future.

    But this is a boxing thread and a boxing site. This is a debate about boxing—not the future of the world. The phrase “last man standing” is all about boxing and has a specific meaning to those of us who were around this sport longer than most. ““In mimicking MMA is boxing raising itself?  No, it’s lowering itself.” sounds pretty cynical and pessimistic to me.

    My issue is that “historians” seem to want it to be like the old days when boxing was popular (as I know from first hand experience). Well things change and maybe it has become more of a boutique activity like other less popular sports. I loved old nourish movies with their shadows and special music. But today, you get “Rocky.” It’s awful but it is true. Today, I am satisfied with the trend I see boxing taking. Plenty to be excited about.

    As for a cultural decline, I believe I could write a long and compelling rebuttal, but again this is a boxing debate and that’s what I will stick to. I will say, however, that I for one am a tad more optimistic than either you or Mike seem to be about both the world we live in and the sport/business of boxing that plays an infinitely minuscule part of that world.

    As for misconstruing things. No, that’s is your term. Not mine. I know exactly what I read and I will respond with civil and respectful disagreement because a civil debate should be what sets apart from other sites.

  32. Robert Ecksel 06:39am, 09/18/2013

    No one ever said boxing is doomed. That’s your word. Boxing preceded us by millennia and will be around long after we’re pushing up daisies. To offer a critique isn’t the same as writing an obituary, and if it’s misconstrued as such, we’re in even worse shape than I feared. The decline of boxing—and you’re old enough to remember when boxing was a mainstream sport—both in terms of popularity and technique would seem inarguable.  Also, you’re taking the “last man standing” too literally. Mike Silver was using a well-known phrase to make a point. He was not suggesting that history is chasing its own tail. He is positing that boxing, along with the species and the culture at large, is on a downward spiral. It has nothing to do with Eastern Europe. The decline transcends borders and nationalities, and is considerably larger than our beloved but sadly misunderstood sport.

  33. Ted 06:04am, 09/18/2013

    Here is what I am thinking with a clearer head this morning. I pretty much am in agreement that boxing has become less pure and, as Mike says,  has mirrored society. However, I only agree with that insofar as the US is concerned. On a global basis, I do not think the sweet science is either doomed or will it become a victim of a new (or reversion to the old) style of “last man standing.”

    I repeat—for the last time—that the Eastern Euro-surge will make its influence felt in the US and trainers and their boxers will take note.

    I will take no response as agreement.

  34. bikermike 03:47am, 09/18/2013

    ‘tuff man contests’ have a following, to be sure.

  35. bikermike 03:41am, 09/18/2013

    Great read !!

    Even today….footage of Pep is a beautiful thing to watch..

    Today….some ringside open mouth to microphones…call ‘Boxers’  cuties.  Obviously a negative description.
    Byrd was criticized ad nauseum for his syle…and when he tried to change ....he got blasted into the ninth row…or at least parts of him

  36. Ted Spoon 02:24am, 09/18/2013

    Mike Silver hit on an ugly home truth when speaking of boxing falling into the same vacuum as MMA; cringe-worthy novelties like solid gold belts (words can’t describe how pointless the silver WBC belt is), moronic commentators like Benny Ricardo, and the growing use of MMA training methods - they sure as hell aren’t making for better fighters, not in the ring. Boxing history is essential when trying to get a gauge of what you see today, and on that note it must be said that most bare-knuckle fighters died young, not because of their careers, but due to liver cirrhosis. Gin was cheaper than water back in the 19th century.

  37. Paul Gallender 09:11pm, 09/17/2013

    Excellent article, Robert, but too bad so few people have read it. Like I always say, there’s a reason they call the sport “Boxing.”

  38. Clarence George 08:13pm, 09/17/2013

    Ha!  A sound recommendation, Ted, especially since I didn’t sleep well last night.  I was awakened several times by a disembodied female voice demanding that I change the batteries…the smoke alarm.

  39. Clarence George 08:10pm, 09/17/2013

    Ted:  Father George Rutler once told a tale simultaneously amusing and depressing:  A college student asked, “Father, if there was a World War II, does that mean there’d been a World War I?”

  40. Ted 08:04pm, 09/17/2013


  41. Ted 08:01pm, 09/17/2013

    CG I get that and I respect that.

    Now go to bed and dream about Hungarian goulash :twisted:

  42. Clarence George 07:58pm, 09/17/2013

    Ted:  I have the utmost respect for Mayweather’s ring genius, and I don’t blame him for having a healthy sense of self-preservation.  But he’s an antiseptic clinician, and that’s anathema to me.

  43. Ted 07:56pm, 09/17/2013

    CG, when boxing was super popular, it was both violent and technique-based. You had the Graziano -Zale trilogy, but you also had the Ike William’s and the SRR’S. You had Jake and you had Joey Maxim. The 40-70 era was, in my view, both, but then it morphed to more violence

    From my book Reeli’n in the Years:

    “Boxing experiences turmoil from 1980 through 1989. The
    end of universally recognized champions comes in the late
    1970s, as the WBC and WBA begin to recognize different
    champions and top contenders. This becomes the era of
    multiple champions, unworthy mandatory challengers, and
    general corruption and confusion that come to be associated
    with sanctioning bodies in later years. Boxing morphs toward
    the casino industry, and public broadcasts begin to be replaced
    by closed-circuit. Can pay-per-view be far away?”

  44. Ted 07:47pm, 09/17/2013

    I’d also say that for young fans, the history of boxing is not all that compelling. Or maybe I should say, it is readily available from a smart phone and requires not early as much research as it did.

    You can go back to ancient Greece or to the UK, but the fact is for many fans, as soon as they see the old timers, they tend to groan. They want what is relevant now and, like Mike says, they mirror society in that respect.  .


  45. Ted 07:42pm, 09/17/2013

    Guys like Whitaker, Winky Wright, and Mayweather combine defense with fighting. But to look at Mayweather’s unmarked face after a 12 round fight is truly amazing. I agree CG that primarily defensive fighter can be trying and boring, but defense is half the battle. It’s what allows a boxer to go back to sparing and training uninjured. In a sense, it pays the bills.

  46. Clarence George 07:34pm, 09/17/2013

    Hard to believe how popular and highly regarded boxing once was.  No longer.  I recently read that only 1% of sports’ fans follow the Sweet Science.  The reasons are manifest.  One, for example, is that most of today’s so-called fans have little or no knowledge of the sport’s history, and therefore little or no appreciation for the sport, which explains why the flavor of the day—the supposed best of the current era—is assumed to be the best there ever was.  Those who think (using the word loosely) that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the greatest of all time know nothing of Sugar Ray Robinson’s career…if they even ever heard of him.

    But the key issue is the proliferation of titles.  It used to be that one was Champion of the World…or one wasn’t.  Today, for example, the middleweight division “boasts” four titleholders…but not a Champion.  Titles today are pretty much meaningless trinkets…and the fans recognize and dismiss them as such.

    As for defensive technicians…it’s a skill to be respected and admired.  Hey, I consider Willie Pep among the greatest pound-for-pounders of all time.  As a general rule, however, I’m not at all a fan of boxers who limit themselves almost exclusively to defense.  Protect yourself while fighting…not instead of fighting.

  47. Ted 07:27pm, 09/17/2013

    That is all——-for now.

  48. Ted 07:26pm, 09/17/2013

    Meinhard, what are you doing up this late? But yes, vasyl will find the most comfortable weight and then, after 4 or 5 pro fights, will become a world champion along with the Klits, Kovalev, GGG, and several Russians. It is simply the way of the new world. It is the new Boxing world and those who refuse to recognize it will be left behind to lament, “Oh ain’t it awful.” .

    I don’t usually get this intense, but this is a debate for which I have been waiting. And I AM a purist at least within the context of how I define purist.

  49. Ted 07:20pm, 09/17/2013

    And even though he has a foul demeanor, Broner is a skilled fighter as is Lara and a number of UK mid-weights. I think the underlying theme in this article begins to lose a tad of steam when you look at the global picture including Ghana, South Africa, UK, Cuba (defectors), and several other locales. I view Germany as one of the major hubs of boxing (that might be redundant). MSG and Las Vegas are not the only venues from which to draw conclusions.

    For me, It’s not all that complex.  In the beginning it was last man standing (quite literally). Then it became more technique -based (30’s-70’s). Then with PPV and multiple titles, and especially with Ali-Frazier, Marquez-Vazquez and Gatti-Ward, it became more like it was in the beginning. So 1-2-1.

    Now, I suggest it is morphing to a new paradigm that includes 3 - a more Eastern Euro -based style (and Cuban style) that incorporates a different type of boxing and discipline,  and 4- MMA for those who simply have surrendered to pure violence.

    I also suggest Poland as an example of a country that has paralleled the US in terms of impurity.

    Random thoughts and I think Mike makes very solid points and compelling arguments. I also think what I see as a trend is not necessarily less technique-based.

    With all dues respect.

  50. Meinhard Schmidt 07:19pm, 09/17/2013

    Ted, only today i ran into a friend i used to spar with who knows Lomachenko personally. We talked some boxing as always but he couldn´t believe me when i told him Lomachenko will make his debut at featherweight. He was like “wtf, vasyl walks around 70kgs nowaday and had a tough time to boil down to lightweight/lightwelter the past two years”.

  51. Ted 06:54pm, 09/17/2013

    This will be a different kind of boxing purism but still technique driven: “The 25-year-old Lomachenko is a speedy and technically crafty Ukrainian amateur boxer who won the silver medal at the 2007 World Amateur Boxing Championships; gold medals at the 2009 World Amateur Boxing Championships and 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships;  and gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a featherweight and the 2012 London Olympics in the lightweight division. Lomachenko, coached by his father Anatoly, wants to be on a fast track.”

  52. Ted the Bull 06:39pm, 09/17/2013

    Not sure I really get the point here. But if it’s what I think it is (and I could well be wrong), I could not disagree more. I think more fans like technique than you suggest. Sure, Molina vs. Smith was horrible, but Hopkins vs. Cloud was not. There is a reason for FMJ being the biggest attraction in boxing and it’s not blood and guys or last man standing. And for PPV getting bigger and bigger on a global basis.

    I also submit that if an impurist goes over the top, he or she has left boxing for MMA

    The authors says, “But when a fight is a tactical masterpiece, it is often greeted with disdain, with outright hostility coming in a close second.” Really, and by whom might I ask? Who are these so-called blood and guts types who want to see the last man standing. I submit this is an overdone assumption. I have met or talked with no one who did not appreciate what they saw Saturday night as Mayweather coiled like a wired cobra and spit out his venom with sharp counters, leads, and jabs all generated by uncommon reflexes. It was a masterpiece and wonderful to witness.

    Maybe the criticism leveled at Rigo backs the position here, but I’d counter it with a Calzaghe and now a Ward and Lomachenko. Want sluggers, Mikey Garcia and GGG are great as is Kovalev.

    I think both you, Robert, and Mike S have missed the possibility that the paradigm has shifted—not necessarily to impurity but to whatever and however you want to describe the Eastern European style. I know I could describe it pretty well and still remain—AT LEAST IN MY OPINION—a purist

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