Boxing, Fighting, and Nelson Mandela

Fighting for equality was the struggle that defined Nelson Mandela's life. Boxing, which was Mandela's greatest sports passion, fits right in with that.
Share |

A traditional belief in Mexican culture is that there are three stages of death. Rudimentarily recounted, the first stage is physical death, our last breath; the second is when our bodies are lowered into the earth; the third is the last time our name is spoken, when there is no one left to remember us.

Nelson Mandela, who is in some part of the first phase at present and will almost certainly never reach the third, was -- among all the other things that made him one of the towering figures of the last century -- a boxing fan. A frankly aberrant, avid and feverishly passionate boxing fan. Before he took up the fight against apartheid, which was the fight that defined his life and ensured his legacy, Mandela was a boxer himself. At this late moment in his life, everything about Mandela is both more poignant and more significant. His love for boxing, this elemental, self-defeating, vital and troubled sport, is no different.

***

Marco Cianfanelli's "Shadow Boxing" is a sculpture of Mandela that’s five meters tall; it stands in front of the Magistrate's Court in Johannesburg, a route that the Mail and Guardian's Laurice Taitz notes, "that a young Mandela must have walked many times." The sculpture's steel plates are painted gray and black and its likeness is based on a photograph of Mandela sparring with professional boxer Jerry Moloi. The photograph was taken in 1953, on the rooftop of a building in the downtown core of the city. It was the same year Mandela opened a law firm with Oliver Tambo, which was the only African-run law firm in the country.

At the time, an Italian boxer from Boston, Rocky Marciano, was in the second of a four year reign as heavyweight champion of the world. Muhammad Ali was 11 years old, still named Cassius Clay, and seven years from his professional debut.

Less than ten years later, Mandela was in prison. His first sentence was five years of hard labor for inciting workers to strike and leaving the country without permission. Two years later, while still serving that sentence, he was charged again, this time for conspiracy to overthrow the government and four counts of sabotage. In the courtroom, he said, "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." And then Mandela was found guilty, after an eight month trial. He would spend the next 25 years of his life behind bars.

On the outside, the fight for equality and civil rights continued on his home front and in the United States. Four months before Mandela’s life sentence, Ali, 22 years old by that point, fought heavyweight champion Sonny Liston for the first time. Prior to the match, he told the press he was going to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”

On February 25, 1964, in Miami, Ali defeated Liston in one of the biggest boxing upsets of all time. The victory earned him The Ring, WBA and WBC World Heavyweight titles. It also earned him the attention of the world.

Ali took up his own causes outside of boxing, of course. He refused to fight in the Vietnam War, a stance that led him to be banned from boxing for three years and robbed him of the prime of his career. He spent some of that time attending rallies and giving speeches at universities and colleges across the country. His fierce and boldly expressed anti-war beliefs and champion’s charisma made him one of the more complicated and compelling icons of his generation. By the time Ali got back in the ring, he was much more than a boxer, and lent the sport a vast and peculiar cultural relevance. Simply because of its association with Ali, boxing seemed a vehicle for change. Boxing would never seem quite so great or important again. It was, maybe, the last time that fighters as diverse in their aims and approaches as Mandela and Ali could both fit within the sport.

***

Boxing is doing better than you’ve probably heard, but it is undeniably and increasingly not what it was when it mattered most. It is, like a great many other things, governed by idiotic internecine politics and crude greed, and hampered by a self-defeating scuzziness. But buried beneath it all, its tough roots -- primal and honest and essential -- still remain.

The 1920’s are widely regarded as the golden age of boxing. It was newly legalized, fashionable, and exciting. But defining a golden era in any sport is often misleading and colored by nostalgia. In the late 1700’s boxing reached America; the great fights of the late 1800’s are still baffling, awe-inspiring and outsized. Golden ages bumped up against each other throughout the first half of the 20th Century, and the 1960s brought the Ali era; there were miniature renaissances in years after that centered around Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson. Each of these epochs carries its own importance, culturally and otherwise. The same, we might as well assume, will someday apply to today’s diminished boxing scene.

Now, the sport is in transition. While its popularity in America dwindles, it continues to remain not just relevant but vital in the rest of the world. It is changing, as such things do, and attracting new fans and fighters who will change it further in the years to come. Like all things popular and consumed, its lifespan is cyclical. Boxing is not finished; fighting is not going to get any less central to the experience of being human. It’s one of the truest things people do.

Mandela, of course, understood this. In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote:

“Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant…I never did any real fighting after I entered politics. My main interest was in training; I found the rigorous exercise to be an excellent outlet for tension and stress. After a strenuous workout, I felt both mentally and physically lighter. It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle. After an evening’s workout I would wake up the next morning feeling strong and refreshed, ready to take up the fight again.”

Sports are representative of the culture in which they reside and arguably no sport is wrapped more intrinsically around in-the-moment culture than boxing. Beyond its elemental, binary objectivity, it has ties to gender, race, and class. Beyond that shifting subtext, though, is an essential truth at the center of it: one fighter wins and one loses. The fight is a struggle, a contest that’s representative and reflective of the individual fighters in the ring, but also of much more than that. The fighters are concerned with the first part, as they must be. The rest of it is us.

When we lose Mandela, a loss that will reverberate globally, boxing will lose one of its most important and powerful proponents. One of history’s great fighters, he lent a richness to the sport simply by his association with it. His kinship with and closeness to boxing’s central struggle defined him, and ennobled the sport by projecting its hard, simple binaries outward into the world.

Mandela’s name will never reach that third and final stage of death; his legacy is too salient, too pervasive and too defiant and too strong. Boxing is in trouble, as it often is; it’s a business and a sport. Fighting, as Mandela defined, understood and exemplified it, is a bigger thing, and forever.


Share |

Comments

Excellent and decent post. I found this much informative. I'm impressed by the details that you have on this web site.
rare heirloom seeds

Mmm.. good to be here in your article or post, whatever, I think I should also work hard for my own website like I see some good and updated working in your site. Call Psychic

free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." And then Mandela was found guilty, after an eight month trial. He would spend the next 25 years of his life behind bars.
the language of desire phrases

Oculus Rift oculusriftprice.com I feel really happy to have seen your webpage and look forward to so many more entertaining times reading here. Thanks once more for all the details. Limousine

Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson. Each of these epochs carries its own importance, culturally and otherwise. The same, we might as well assume, will someday apply to today’s diminished boxing scene.
acne breakout natural remedy

Just pure brilliance from you here. I have never expected something less than this from you and you have not disappointed me at all. I suppose you will keep the quality work going on.
Blog Comments

fitness Excellent read, Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. bedroom style

garage design I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. eye make up

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. combat, law enforcement You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post..read more here

These are designed to take the confusion out of dating and teach men step-by-step how to quickly and easily navigate through relationship phases such as meeting her, getting her number, texting her, kissing her, intimacy, and ultimately forming a committed, long-term relationship.
branded sms

A simple bookmarking tool that makes it easy to save, organize and share your favorite web pages. Access your bookmarks from any computer, phone or tablet. Listango works on all modern web browsers…
voyance en direct

fototapeta 3d Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me when I get a chance to start my blog. zobacz tutaj

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.
craps dice

On February 25, 1964, in Miami, Ali defeated Liston in one of the biggest boxing upsets of all time. The victory earned him The Ring, WBA and WBC World Heavyweight titles. It also earned him the attention of the world.
Rebelmouse com

Excellent read, Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now,PROTEIN and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work.

I am a new user of this site so here i saw multiple articles and posts posted by this site,I curious more interest in some of them hope you will give more information on this topics in your next articles. Glad to chat your blog, I seem to be forward to more reliable articles and I think we all wish to thank so many good articles, blog to share with us.blogging

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!
car modification

Content Marketing I don't have the schedule at the minute to totally show your scene however I have bookmarked it furthermore besides append your RSS eats. I choose be corroborate in a age or pair. blesss for a awesome position

Easily, the article is actually the best topic on this registry related issue. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your next updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, voyance telephone for the fantasti c lucidity in your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.

Key West tour I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work. liberty mutual auto

Excellent and decent post. I found this much informative. I'm impressed by the details that you have on this web site. Thank you for this post
Brampton Limo Service

Easily, the article is actually the best topic on this registry related issue. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your next updates.
fingernails in egypt

Amazing knowledge and I like to share this kind of information with my friends and hope they like it they why I do.
SEO BACKLINKS

It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or tips. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!
kids taekwondo Varsity Lakes

bulk sms goa service Quality articles is the important to attract the people to pay a visit the website, that�s what this web site is providing. bulk sms lucknow provider

psychoterapia-par.webnode.com Hello! I just wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the nice info you've got right here on this post. I will probably be coming back to your weblog for more soon. urls para seo

Wow, cool post. I'd like to write like this too ? taking time and real hard work to make a great article... but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though.
iphone reparation 5

anchorvale ec This is my first opportunity to visit this website. I found some interesting things and I will apply to the development of my blog. Thanks for sharing useful information. click here

It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or tips. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!
http://ledgrowlightshq.net/

Wow! Such an amazing and helpful post this is. I really really love it. It's so good and so awesome. I am just amazed. I hope that you continue to do your work like this in the future also.Google Ranking

I am overwhelmed by your post with such a nice topic. Usually I visit your blogs and get updated through the information you include but today’s blog would be the most appreciable. Well done!
click here

boxing seemed a vehicle for change. Boxing would never seem quite so great or important again. It was, maybe, the last time that fighters as diverse in their aims and approaches as Mandela and Ali could both fit within the sport.
Argosy University Denver

This type of message always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content, so happy to find good place to many here in the post, the writing is just great, thanks for the post. chiropractic business loans

This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really helpful information. Keep it up. best vitamin c for face

The photograph was taken in 1953, on the rooftop of a building in the downtown core of the city. It was the same year Mandela opened a law firm with Oliver Tambo, which was the only African-run law firm in the country.
sex inserate

This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing this great article! That is very interesting Smile I love reading and I am always searching for informative information like this! amazing selling machine bonus

Once I thought about things like: why such information is for free here? Because when you write a book then at least on selling a book you get a percentage. more information

Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbour were preparing to do some research about that. We got a good book on that matter from our local library and most books where not as influensive as your information amazing selling machine

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, amazing selling machine review

I feel really happy to have seen your webpage and look forward to so many more entertaining times reading here. Thanks once more for all the details.amazing selling machine

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here. helpful resources

Your article has piqued a lot of positive interest. I can see why since you have done such a good job of making it interesting. florence personal injury lawyer

I most likely appreciating each and every bit of it. It is an incredible site and decent impart. I need to much obliged. Great employment! You all do an incredible blog, and have some extraordinary substance. Keep doing awesome.mold inspection toronto

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading.
Bio-Nagellack

Wonderful illustrated information. I thank you about that. No doubt it will be very useful for my future projects. Would like to see some other posts on the same subject!
pristine

Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me when I get a chance to start my blog.
Made To Measure Roller Blinds

I’m excited to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site.
Sol Acres

tesaturi textile din bumbac We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work. download mp3 free

pics I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page! Tricks and Tips

portable projector A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work. insurance quote state farm