I Am a Boxing Writer.

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Recently, through the magic of Facebook, I found myself chatting with a woman who was formerly one of the impossibly gorgeous young girls who once made life at Plymouth Junior High a horrible ordeal for me.

I confess that I made trips to the restroom far more frequently than I needed to back then, and for a very different purpose than my teachers or classmates probably could have guessed.  And this girl was one of those who – wittingly or not – instigated many of those purposeful strolls.

We were glad they were wearing 'em!

We were glad they were wearing 'em!

The passage of more than twenty years had changed us both, and I realized (thankfully) that as the old tension had gone, so had much of the  awkwardness and bashfulness that plagued me in my youth.  We visited about our jobs and our kids, the backgrounds that had produced us, and some of what had transpired in our lives since we had last talked.  There was a surprising level of openness about the challenges we had struggled to overcome, as well as speculation as to what the future held for both of us.

I mentioned, during the conversation, that I am a boxing writer.  I usually don’t tell people that I’m a boxing writer, because it sounds vainglorious to me and I hate to seem conceited.  Plus, that statement is a real conversation stopper.  So instead, when I tell people about my hobby, I say something like “I write about boxing,” or “I’m an amateur boxing writer.”  If I’m feeling really self-conscious, I’ll say “I write a blog about boxing in Minnesota,” as if minimizing the scope and extent of my efforts is a form of humility.  This time, though, because I was only mentioning boxing peripherally to get to another point, I just said “I’m a boxing writer.”

The reaction was typically and predictably congratulatory.  I get virtually the same response from almost everyone: “You are?  So cool!  [So-and-so acquaintance] would be so interested in that!”  And so I was typically and predictably embarrassed.

Cary Grant as a reporter

Cary Grant as a reporter

Of course, in a field as degraded as this one, there really is no place for humility.  It isn’t as if I’m demanding great glory by claiming to be a journalist in the field of combat sports.  Reporters, in general, are just ordinary people who have spent four years in college memorizing the 5 W’s and attempting to learn to tense their verbs without dangling their participles.  Boxing writers, in particular, struggle to demonstrate mastery of any of the above skills.

In the past, virtually every sportswriter and columnist had to write about boxing, because it was a major sport.  There was a time when boxing was second only to baseball in terms of popularity.  All sports scribes, regardless of their own level of interest in the sport, had to be conversant in baseball, boxing, horse racing, and college football.  One consequence of that state of affairs was that the quality of boxing coverage was good.  Today, however, the level of quality usually ranges from barely intelligible to nearly competent.  Of course there are exceptions, but there are probably fewer than a dozen boxing writers in the US who make a good living writing about the sport, and even some of these occasionally demonstrate a surprising level of deficiency.

I should note that here in the Upper Midwest we’ve been blessed with a number of writers who are interested in boxing – or boxing fans with a knack for writing, as the case may be.  Jesse Kelley, Jake Wegner, Todd Bechthold, Laura Zink, Judd Spicer, Ray Kilgore, Ramon Hough, Brett Mauren, Paul Strauss, Ryan Hamilton, Myron Medcalf, and others have made valuable contributions to the boxing culture of the area, so we’re in a better spot than boxing fans in most of the US.  (By the way, if I have failed to mention the name of a writer, webmaster, or blogger, and I probably have, it isn’t an intentional slight – there are just so many of us working that it’s difficult to keep us all straight.)  But in the big picture, boxing coverage at all levels and in most areas of the US is sparse and poor.

So on a philosophical level I know that there’s no need for me to be embarrassed or shy about claiming the mantle of boxing writer.  I ought to stake my claim and do my best – I certainly can’t do much more to discredit this unglamorous avocation than has already been done.  I quote the great theologian J.I. Packer, “as a declaration of commitment rather than a claim to competence,” and I am a boxing writer.

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