Olympic boxing is the shit.


This is an old-ass post from 4 years ago, written during the last summer Olympics. I’m rerunning it in an effort to let you know that Olympic boxing is the shit. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to get in the habit of reposting old shit.)
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I have a confession.

First, let me tell you that I love the Olympics. I’d watch them all day every day if I could. I’m not crazy about synchronized diving or gymnastics, but I haven’t found one Olympic sport I just won’t watch.

What’s crazy, though, is the surprising realization that I really like a sport I thought I hated.

I feel weird saying this, but holy crap:

My name is Tracy and I love boxing.

There. I feel better.

I thought I hated — or at the very least didn’t like — boxing. I’ll admit that I stereotyped. I thought of boxing as big giant crazy Mike Tyson guys, women in bikinis who have no purpose other than to look sexy and hold a sign, and some weird Vegas cigar-smoking-steak-eating manly man vibe. And like any time you generalize and dismiss something, I was wrong.

I started watching boxing when nothing else was on, because I’m a sucker for the Olympics and I’ll watch anything. The first cool thing is that I was able to, with approximately 99% accuracy, predict who would win any given match (which is cool because, as I’ve mentioned, I’m terrible at predicting anything). The second cool thing is that, and this is so weird, boxing is freaking AWESOME.

For the last couple days, I’ve been trying to figure out why I like boxing so much. I’m not sure, but I have a few ideas.

Boxing is kind of pure and certain, like math. When I was younger, I was very touchy-feely and into things like literature and psychology, where you talk about themes and feelings and there often is no “right” answer. I also used to like figure skating and gymnastics.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate things like math, where there is a right answer and no time for bullshit or speculation, while losing patience in the kinds of touchy-feely things I liked when I was younger. I don’t want to talk about feelings and I don’t give a shit about what some judges think about the artistic expression in that triple toe loop. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things, but they just don’t appeal to me any more.

Don’t get me wrong — boxing isn’t definite or completely objective by any means. It’s scored by humans. If you don’t know how it works, here’s an explanation from the about.com boxing site, written by Andrew Eisele, which says it better than I can:

The boxers are paired off at random for the Olympic Games, without regard to ranking. They fight in a single-elimination tournament, with the winner advancing to the next round and the loser dropping out of the competition. Winning boxers progress through the preliminary rounds to the quarterfinals and semifinals. The two semifinals winners fight for the gold and silver medals, while both losing semifinalists receive bronze medals.

Bouts consists of a total of four rounds. Each round is two minutes in length with a one-minute interval between each round.

Contests are won by knockout or on points.

A point is awarded for a scoring hit with marked part of the glove on the opponent’s head (side or front) or body (above the belt).

A panel of five judges decides which hits are scoring hits.

Judges each have two buttons before them, one for each boxer, and they press the appropriate button when they believe a boxer delivers a scoring hit.

An electronic scoring system registers a point whenever three or more judges press the button for one boxer within a second of each other. No point is awarded for a hit unless three of the five judges agree.

When two boxers trade blows in a flurry of infighting, where no full-force punches can land, the judges wait until the end of the exchange and award a point to the boxer who got the better of it.

At the end of the bout, when each judge’s points have been totaled, the boxer awarded the most points by a majority of the judges is declared the winner.

I don’t find the subjective element of boxing (scoring) to outweigh the objective element (punching the other guy) the way I find the subjective element of, say, gymnastics, to outweigh the athletic part (for me — I know they have elaborate guidelines and it’s probably not as subjective as I think it is, but I find it annoying).

I also appreciate the simplicity of the sport — there are two guys trying to hit each other. There’s no fancy equipment or much of anything other than gloves, muscle, sweat, and will. I fucking love that. It just seems so pure and elemental. I didn’t know I was into that sort of thing, to be honest. But I guess I am.

I’m still learning about the weight classes. “Light flyweight” (106 pounds) is the lightest classification in the Olympics (I guess a light fly weighs less than a feather?). 106 pounds. That’s tiny! I do like the little guys better than the super heavyweights. I’m not sure why — maybe it’s just that they seem to rely more on speed and craft than power, which I find more interesting to watch. Most of the matches I’ve seen have been smaller guys.

Have you heard about U.S. boxer Rau’shee Warren? He lost (and was eliminated) because he was down by one point but because of the crowd noise, he thought he was up by one point, so he stopped throwing punches at the end of the match. It’s nuts. He was just on TV talking about it, and he really has an awesome attitude despite what happened. He showed up to support his teammate and gave him props for working hard. It’s really cool that, in the face of amazing disappointment, he comes out to do an interview and cheer for his buddy.

The other day, I saw the guy who lost the match hug and then carry the guy who just beat him back to his corner (and the winner — I don’t remember his name — was just adorable, with bright dyed-red hair and the interviewer at the end asked him [through his coach/interpreter] if he’d heard of Dennis Rodman but he hadn’t and it was too cute). The sportsmanship in boxing is pretty amazing. And I’m really impressed by the fact that these guys can be out there, trying to beat the crap out of each other and then, at the end, hug and it’s over, because it’s just a game. I like that. That’s kind of a lesson all of us, myself included, could use in everyday life, you know? Boxing has the potential to make us better people, and I guess that’s what I love most about any sport.