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I remember it like it was yesterday. It was 23 years ago when I witnessed my first boxing match. The fighters were Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago.
As a young child, I understood what perseverance and fortitude meant; Rocky Balboa was the epitome of those things. Even when afraid, Rocky drove head first into his seeming invincible opponent. No matter how many hard shots Rocky took, he continued to attack his opposition. No matter how many times he was knocked down, he rapidly jumped to his feet to continue in the assault. Bloodied, beaten, and bruised, he emerged the victor with immense pride.
I was astonished not only that he won the fight but that he was able to come back from getting hit so hard. He showed a true champion's heart. By the time this fictional fight was over, I was drawn to boxing. This sport had gained my attention. I then immediately began watching as much boxing as I could.I started watching so many great fights which eventually made me a boxing fan. I had then determined that boxing was the sport for me; that this sport would be my favorite. In the fictional fight and the real fights, I found a sport that stands apart from all other sports. Boxing stands alone as my favorite sport because of the heart of the fighters, the one-punch factor, and the unpredictability of the fights.
Many battles in the ring have been won simply because of the "heart" of the fighter.
Some people say that "heart" is the courage a fighter displays, despite his lack of skill, who continues to give it his all. Others consider "heart" a fighter who will continue to fight with a broken hand, a dislocated shoulder, broken ribs, or any other injury regardless of the pain. Still, others will contest that "heart" begins in the gym where the fighter gives his all in preparation for the fight, then it carries over to the ring. Regardless of how one chooses to define heart, we can all agree that heart is responsible for some of the greatest boxing battles.
Some of those great battles include Graziano vs. Zale, Louis vs. Conn, Ali vs. Frazier, Ross vs. McLarnin, Foreman vs. Lyle, Chavez vs. Taylor, Benn vs. McClellan, Corrales vs. Castillo, Gatti vs. Ward, Pryor vs. Arguello, Holyfield vs. Bowe, and Morales vs. Barrera.
All of the above mentioned fights were action-packed fights fought in close corners. These fights were beyond exciting. At some points it was nearly impossible to guess who would win. Each fighter gave and took powerful, clean shots to the body and the head. However, those shots did not stop them from coming forward and fighting with all the heart they could muster.
These boxers had me hooked to boxing. I had not seen such determination in any other sport up to this point.
Although all of these fights impressed me, the most memorable fight I can recall is Ring Magazines' 2003 "fight of the year:" Gatti vs. Ward III. In this rubber match, both fighters displayed so much heart and determination. This was a fight of constant action. First, Gatti broke his right hand on an uppercut to Ward's hip in round four. Then, after fighting nearly one-handed for several rounds, (using his right from time to time) Gatti got caught with an overhand right to the head in the sixth and went down. Later, Gatti recovered from this assault and avoided getting into any more trouble after that round. The fight went the distance and Gatti won the unanimous decision. And that decision was won with a BROKEN HAND. If that isn't heart, I don't know what heart is.
Although a boxer with heart was what first thing that drew me to boxing, the one-punch factor is what kept me there.
I was so amazed at how one punch could quickly change the outcome of a fight. A fighter can be winning a fight convincingly but in a split second, his opponent can surprise him with one power shot and send him to the canvas. After the Referee counts to ten, the fight is over.
I witnessed this firsthand on November 5, 1994, when Heavyweight champion Michael Moorer defended his title against 45-year old George Foreman. In this fight, Foreman was the substantial underdog. Michael Moorer tattooed Foreman round after round. Foreman landed a few good shots on Moorer but not enough to win rounds. However, Teddy Atlas continued to warn the confident Moorer not to stay in front of Foreman. Nonetheless, Moorer refused to listen and kept pounding on Foreman with every punch in his arsenal.
Going into the tenth round, Foreman was behind on all scorecards. Then, out of nowhere, Foreman threw a few long-range jabs followed by a right hand to the point of Moorer's chin that sent the champion plummeting to his back onto the canvas. Moorer attempted to raise his head but to no avail. The referee then counted to ten, and the fight was over. The new heavyweight champion was a 45-year-old power punching warrior who won the fight simply with one punch.
In a split second Foreman had regained the title he had lost 20 years ago. He went back to his corner and kneeled in supplication. He realized he had done the impossible; the unthinkable.
With this victory, he had broken three records: he became the oldest fighter ever to win the world heavyweight title; he broke the record for the fighter with the longest time between his first and second world championships; and he also broke the record of having the largest age difference between two fighters in any heavyweight championship fight. And Foreman had done this all with one punch.
There is no other sport I could think of in which a person or team can be behind in all aspects and all of a sudden do something miraculous that would cause them to win. In any other sport, one would need much more time to complete such a feat. However, in boxing, all one needs is a few seconds and an opportunity for one punch.
Apart from the heart and the one-punch factor of boxing, it stands apart from all other sports also because of its unpredictability.
There are so many things that can happen during a boxing match that can either make the difference between a fight stoppage, a disqualification, win, or a loss.When watching a boxing match, one is never certain of what can or will take place.
At one point in a fight, boxer A can be winning convincingly over boxer B but then a referee can call an unintentional foul an intentional foul and stop the bout, causing a disqualification. In this case, boxer B wins the fight due to a disqualification. As unfair as the fans, the corner men, the ringside spectators, or even the commentators may believe the referee's call is, it is irrelevant. Once the referee stops the fight, the fight is over. And then comes the controversy.
One particular fight I recall in which a referee made a controversial call is the first bout between Julio Cesar Chavez and Meldrick Taylor in 1990.
Taylor was winning most of the early rounds with his speed and combinations However, Chavez's power began wearing Taylor down as the later rounds approached. Going into and final round, Taylor was ahead on the scorecards. Chavez was aware of this and began fighting harder as though he wanted to knock Taylor out. With his famous right hook, Chavez sent Taylor to the canvas with only 13 seconds left in the fight. Taylor got back to his feet before referee Richard Steele finished the 10-count. Steele asked Taylor if he was okay twice, but instead of answering he looked over to his corner. Steele waved the fight off with just two seconds left, giving Chavez the TKO victory.
That moment in boxing was one of the most controversial calls ever made by a referee. Many people believed Steele should not have stopped the fight with only two seconds left. Also, others along with Taylor felt he was robbed of his victory. That decision changed Taylor for the rest of his life.
So, in boxing, you can witness a great athlete facing a seeming invincible opponent with all courage, never backing down. You can also witness a warrior fighting with a broken hand or dislocated shoulder regardless of the pain. Furthermore, you can share in the awe of a fighter taking on an opponent who is beating him convincingly but wins the bout eventually with one punch. You can also rejoice with a 45-year-old fighter as he regains the title he lost when he was in his 20's. And sadly, you can witness referees make controversial decisions that determine the outcomes of boxing matches and that negatively impact fighters for the rest of their lives.
As you take it all in, the good, the satisfying, the inspirational, the gratifying, and the dismal and morbid aspects of boxing, you cant deny its purity. You cannot deny its excitement and wonder.
I firmly attest that boxing is my favorite sport because of the negative and positive aspects. On one hand, it inspires, encourages, and excites me. On the other hand, it sadness, and sometimes anger's me. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, I remember that boxing, like life, is imperfect. But despite its imperfections, there is nothing more perfect than watching two warriors battle with all determination, with all heart, with every fiber of their being, unaware of the outcome of their battle.
And as all the smoke clears, boxing becomes more than just a sport but a testament of life. And the message which boxing preaches is this: "No matter the battle you encounter in life, face each one head on with all heart and determination. Some battles you will lose, some battles you will win. In the end, what will matter is not how many battles you won but how many you faced without backing down. For the true victor is the one who does not run from the battle."