Saturday, June 19, 2010

Boxing: Fight night in the Bronx, Part 1

My lifetime exposure to the sport of boxing has been limited, mostly by my own lack of interest.

There was an evening of Golden Gloves bouts in a church basement in upper Manhattan, sometime in the ‘80s.
I liked the rowdy, colorful crowd, and the noir-ish vibe of the whole thing—but not quite enough to attend another fight for the next decade or so.

Then there was the second Julio Cesar Chavez-Meldrick Taylor battle, 1994—my buddy and I flew to Las Vegas to see it.
But for me, the fight was secondary to the Vegas scene; I never understood the drama of that contest, and did not even remember who won, until some recent reading filled in the gaps.

I’ve seen some of the
Rocky films, of course, and I go back often to the best New York City movie ever made, Jimmy Cagney’s boxing-themed City for Conquest. And what writer wouldn’t love Pete Hamill’s fine novel Flesh and Blood, an arresting blend of memorable characters, boxing and incest. But that’s about it. And so my overall impression of boxing remained this: Two high-school dropouts put on some padded gloves and pummel each other until one falls down.

But it's difficult to get to know Arlene Schulman, as I've been fortunate enough to do, without developing at least a dollop of curiosity about the sport a 19th-century Englishman called "the sweet science of bruising." Arlene, a talented photographer and writer, spent a good part of her career chronicling boxing and boxers (she blogs here by the way).

And thus it tranpired that on a recent Saturday afternoon--June 5th--she and I found ourselves at the Yuri Foreman-Miguel Cotto fight, the first boxing match to be held at the new Yankee Stadium, and the first at either Yankee Stadium since Muhammad Ali fought Ken Norton in 1976.

Here are a few photos and observations from the event:

Before entering the new Stadium, we visited the grave of the old one on the other side of 161st Street. Perhaps the most historic square block in the city, it is now only a raw patch of soil on which will be built a bland and featureless public park.

A movement had arisen to preserve the oldest part of the old Stadium—“Gate 2”—for history’s sake, but the hunger of politicians and bureaucrats (particularly the New York City Parks Department) to destroy was too great, and every bit of the old Stadium went the way of the old Penn Station. Even a cri-de-coeur from the legendary Daily News sports cartoonist and columnist Bill Gallo
(last five paragraphs of his column) did not avail. To read more about the failed effort to save Gate 2, click here.

But though the senseless destruction of this American cultural treasure was a crime, it is a completed crime, and no bitter thoughts will undo it. (But that doesn’t mean we ought to forget; it is likely that those responsible will be remembered as villains who failed to preserve a vital link to our city’s past.) In any case, we eventually turned away from the sad and old, and walked toward the bright and new—the brand-new Stadium on the north side of the street, all dolled up for the night’s action.

To Be Continued...

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At June 19, 2010 at 11:07 PM , Anonymous arlene said...

Way to go, George!


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