Why Boys Should Fight

By Johnathan Lee Iverson on January 25, 2019
Why Boys Should Fight
If I dare to make any noise in this arena, I’ve got to pay my dues. (Gordon Parks)

Recently, I was invited to preside over the Reyes Macho Time Boxing Club’s amateur bouts in Tampa, Florida…

I’m in hot pursuit of a closeted dream of mine: Ring Announcer! Let’s just say in my former life I was privileged to emcee and host some rather extraordinary people and things and the urge to continue to do so, has yet to subside. Personally, I doubt it ever will. The way I figure it, the great Michael Buffer and the legendary Jimmy Lennon, Jr. have crafted remarkable legacies worth aspiring to, so why not?

Like all things, you have to start somewhere. I can’t rest on my pedigree. Ring announcing is a completely different kind of business and if I dare to make any noise in this arena, I’ve got to pay my dues just like everyone else. Recently, I was invited to preside over the Reyes Macho Time Boxing Club’s amateur bouts in Tampa, Florida. This would be my first foray into the squared circle as an announcer. A mix of excitement and curiosity blended within me, as I’ve grown accustomed to expect the unexpected. I wasn’t so worried as to how I might fair in this new venture, but rather if I could appreciate it at this level. What was supposed to be a card of nearly 25 bouts ended up being 8. Minor logistical matters arose, but nothing that wasn’t swiftly and effortlessly handled. It was clear the organizers, which included USA Boxing were well acquainted with the unexpected. I knew I was in my element.

Fighters and coaches situated themselves, as one would expect—reviewing paperwork, running through their check ups with the fight doctor on duty, and of course warming up and reviewing prospective fight plans. Everything was in place, including English and Spanish speaking commentators. There was the pesky inconvenience of their National Anthem singer bailing at the last minute (or maybe he/she didn’t show). It didn’t matter. I know that song like I know my name, so I stepped in and performed it.

From the second I stepped in to the ring until I exited for the final match, it was effortless. It was clear that my efforts were well received. More importantly it was a great card of fights. The officiating was precise and the combatants purported themselves gallantly and as great sportsmen. I was privileged to interview the winners of each match. Everyone was well spoken and humble, still displaying their youthful innocence though they possess such vicious ability. Judging from the talent I saw, we can officially do away with the silly notion of boxing’s demise. It has a very bright future. Better still, having observed the rapport between the respective coaches and their charges and even the bond between the fighters themselves, I think we may very well be witnessing the grooming of some standup men.

It is not lost on anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock that lately, the narrative on men, manhood, or all things masculine has been quite grim. “Toxic Masculinity” is the newest term adopted by this sound bite obsessed culture of ours. One has to wonder though, if behind every great man there is a great woman, how is it that when he’s “toxic” there’s no one to be found to account for him? I’ll leave that for the intellectuals to ponder.

Without a doubt, boxing would likely be thought of among the activities this new thought pantheon believes constitutes or contributes to toxic masculinity. I’m always baffled by the squeamish and uninitiated souls that cast well-articulated, but misinformed dispersions upon things they truly do not understand or even care to know. My time announcing those amateur bouts at The Reyes Macho Time Boxing Club further corroborated my belief in the combat arts or sports in general, as one of the ideal tools in the cultivation of boys to men. What I saw and enjoyed were adult coaches with a clear respect and knowledge of their charges; and in turn, how receptive those charges were. To actually hear a coach belt out instructions to his fighter, who then enacts those instructions with immediate perfection testifies, not only to well practiced craftsmanship, but that boy’s ability to adhere to well intended leadership and that coach’s ability to show himself worthy of that trust. What I saw as gym mates rallied for one another, not at the expense of their opponents, or the display of sincere of sportsmanship, were boys who are being trained to understand that a man’s power lies not merely in what he might have to beat down in defense of self or others, but more often than not, by what or who he lifts up. What I saw were boys, though defeated, learning to comb the lessons of disappointment and not lose their dignity in the process.

What our society must come to grips with is that manhood doesn’t just happen. We don’t get to surmise the whole of the masculine experience with a sound bite. Manhood, like anything else worthwhile, requires cultivation. There are so many dynamic facets that go into the make up of a man that too often go ignored or repressed, particularly that which encourages and fosters his warrior or competitive spirit. Perhaps, if we gave proper space, as opposed to condemnation or shaming, to the fine-tuning and guidance that spirit requires we wouldn’t have to bear witness to its many tragic misuses.

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  1. Johnathan Lee Iverson 06:43am, 01/27/2019

    @peter BTW I very much enjoyed your piece, “Why Did I Fight?” It was tremendously moving. I felt like I was present in your experience. You conveyed it with vivid detail.

  2. Johnathan Lee Iverson 06:40am, 01/27/2019

    @peter Thank you very much.

  3. The Barker 06:04am, 01/27/2019

    If I’m not mistaken, boxing is a part of the curriculum in some British schools.

  4. TheOneAndOnly 04:49am, 01/27/2019

    I boxing or most fighting arts in general would work wonders for girls/women as well. I know and have met plenty of female fighters and they don’t exhibit the confidence issues or erratic emotional tendencies associated with so many girls/women.

  5. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 07:37am, 01/26/2019

    Boxing should be part of our physical education programs in our schools. Granted, you don’t have to have the kids spar, just have them go through the other training, mitts, heavy bag, speed bag, double end bag, rope skipping, etc. Hit the track or do a long run on opposite days, etc. Would promote discipline, healthy lifestyle, and self confidence if nothing else. You have junior high school kids in this day and age, in the prime of life, no physical disabilities other than being out of shape, who can’t even perform one full range pull-up. That was almost unheard of while I was growing up a few decades ago.

  6. peter 12:08pm, 01/25/2019

    “Toxic masculinity”—I discuss this topic on the very first page of my article entitled, “Why Did I Fight?”  The address is here:  http://www.boxing.com/why_did_i_fight.html

  7. Stanley Holloway 10:26am, 01/25/2019

    @peter-Same for you….if you can act you can announce! In fact you should be licensed in some capacity….referee….judge….on the NYSAC!

  8. Stanley Holloway 10:17am, 01/25/2019

    Don’t be shy…post some snippets of your schtick as a ring announcer! Let’s see what you got! BTW the best ever was Jimmy Lennon Sr!

  9. peter 07:13am, 01/25/2019

    Thank you for sharing your well-phrased thoughts. It is so refreshing to read such an enlightened and upbeat article. Much needed! What is “toxic” today is not masculinity, it is the “toxic” environment we all find ourselves swimming in. Strong, virtuous, honest, masculinity is actually the antidote to today’s toxic woes.
    This was a great line: “One has to wonder though, if behind every great man there is a great woman, how is it that when he’s “toxic” there’s no one to be found to account for him?”

  10. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 06:32am, 01/25/2019

    “Toxic masculinity” is yet another ridiculous MANUFACTURED mind f*ck brought to you by the USUAL SUSPECTS bent on destroying Western Culture. Of course these same cretins see no problem with a huge transgender male to female rugby player bashing women half his/her size on the field. These same problem solvers wring their hands about what to do with other kids being bullied, but yet will punish a kid if he gives the bully a much needed beat down. A recent event saw a teen age boy chastised for “standing his ground.” Somehow “standing your ground” and not cowering is “aggressive” and provocative. Fighting is not encouraged, especially in an environment as violent and unpredictable like we live in, but it is and has always been a part of being a man whether you like it or not. Like that old Kenny Rogers song said,  “sometimes you have to fight to be a man.” hehe. Teaching your kid to avoid fights whenever possible is responsible teaching, teaching your kid to never fight is unreasonable and unrealistic.

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