joe frazier rip
And now, a few words about boxing. I used to look down on it as nothing but a blood sport, a matter of brutish, brainless men, bashing it out before shady audiences of equally brainless, possibly mafioso punters.
“Boxing is an art form,” my first boss, Lucio Manisco, told me when I was in my early 20s. Lucio was the chief correspondent for an Italian TV network in New York, and I worshiped him, for he was a true maverick reporter, in the way that Clarence Darrow was a maverick lawyer. A passionate defender of human rights, he did things like regularly interrupting his live news feeds with anti-Desert Storm rants.
But much as I tried to understand his admiration of boxing, I couldn’t get beyond my repugnance, and while I loved films like Rocky, Raging Bull, and Million Dollar Baby, I favored the characters over the fight sequences.
Until I saw Tatanka. Based on the real life story of Olympic medalist Clemente Russo, as told by anti-mafia crusading journalist Roberto Saviano, it’s about how a boy from the wrong side of the tracks redeems himself from a life of crime through boxing. It’s not a great film, but for some reason, it made me understand what Lucio had said all those years ago.
I saw how all the true champions – Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Jake La Motta, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson – were great because they represented something greater than themselves. And how at its best, boxing is not just about a contest of brute strength, but also of heart and courage and passion and integrity.
So here’s to you, Smokin’ Joe. I think this fight is something to behold.