Critical boxing history and hero-worship

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by cross_trainer, Aug 15, 2022.

  1. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Liston was good, but no "Tire Iron" Jones Full Member

    Jun 30, 2005
    When historians write history, they do so critically, even skeptically. They look for bias, errors, and underlying motives in the sources they examine. They don't take statements at face value. They're quite willing to decide, upon reflection, that a source probably lied. Or was just wrong.

    I wonder whether boxing makes this critical attitude more difficult than some other subjects. Here on Classic, we have an attitude of enormous respect -- sometimes hero-worship, sometimes less than that -- for boxers. Some of us have met famous boxers, or been trained by them. Others grew up watching them. We're willing to "stand up for" fighters when we think they're being attacked; we sometimes take up the challenge as if we are defending their honor.

    This attitude might make critical history difficult, in the same way that a religious cleric might have trouble writing a critical history of his church, a member of the military might find it more difficult to write such an account of his regiment, or a partisan political strategist might have trouble writing a critical recent history of his own political party.

    This isn't to say it's an absolute bar, of course, but it's something that might be worth discussing a bit.

    How much (if at all) do you think our attitude of respect and filial piety to past boxers affects our ability to figure out what happened in the past?

    Feel free to explain your answers.
  2. Barrf

    Barrf Active Member Full Member

    Sep 19, 2021
    I try to be fair, but I know I have an element of hero worship for the guys I grew up watching. Fairly normal I think.
  3. salsanchezfan

    salsanchezfan Boxing Junkie Full Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    We've all heard some rendition of the old saying "you're too close to this to see it clearly enough." It's that.

    It's odd how some fans feel the need to try to make their heroes some impregnable fortress, and defend them against any and all slights. As if to admit anything less than perfection in them is somehow breaking an oath or something.

    It's okay to be fallible. Guess what, your heroes were. All of them. I think there is real merit to the notion that the younger generation has been trained by everything they absorb in their daily world to tear down such conceptions, to go out of their way to explode accepted existing bases of knowledge and tear them apart, just for the sake of tearing it apart. I do think it's generational. The older set..........well......they need heroes more it seems.
  4. Fogger

    Fogger Well-Known Member Full Member

    Aug 9, 2021
    Since Boxrec came around I am much better about using less personal feeling and more facts to form my opinions. Before Boxrec I only knew what I remembered or thought I remembered. Boxrec let me know that flyweight champion Berkrerk Chartvanchai was not the great fighter I thought he was as well as showing me that I had grossly underestimated the career of Winky Wright. I am trying to eliminate my opinions which are not backed by the facts.

    All of that being said, I have my biases based on educated opinion and not strictly fact. If a historian were to ask me about Michael Nunn I am sure he would get a positive opinion that does not quite match the hard cold facts.
  5. populistpugilist

    populistpugilist New Member Full Member

    May 18, 2017
    I've never been able to find it in any of his writings, but I've seen attributed to Pascal the edict that the "first moral obligation is to think clearly." As a matter of morality I've never quite agreed with it, but I do return to it a lot.

    In numerous corners of the world, and pronouncedly in the realm of people like us putting forth rankings of boxers throughout history, two opposite lenses predominate: (1) "one view can be no more accurate than another because it's all subjective" and (2) "I have the skeleton key to a completely accurate and objective assessment."

    Both are nonsense, of course.

    As even Heidegger insists, our subjectivity is bounded. That a journeyman welterweight with an 11-132 record is as good as Ray Robinson is an opinion that no one would consider to be valid because "it's all subjective." If anything will limit subjectivity in a big hurry it's absurdity.

    On the other hand those who think they've got the world on a string tend to think that's the case with all things, and it shows. Confronted with alternatives to their certainty they can be pretty ruthless, and eventually their certainty shows itself as an absurdity all its own. As Nietzsche wrote in the Genealogy of Morals, "Only that which has no history is definable" (or words to that effect). Even the coldest facts can only change the opinions of people who are interested in having their opinions changed by facts. Some people aren't interested. You know the type.

    Are they biased? Sure, that's part of it. But I suspect the MacGuffin is existential terror at the prospect of not being able to mentally master all of reality past and present. Somebody scared like that can put up a tough front, and they most certainly will worship idols they can bow down before and rally around and make sacrifices to. Idols and scapegoats are talismans of security for the scared. You know that type, too.

    If we're not quite so scared of ambiguity then we have to admit certain fantasy fights may not be purely subjective but are indeed so hopelessly complicated by biases, over- or underweighing of variables, difficulty in determining significant comparators, and, particularly in the case of older fighters, a simple lack of data. I'll bet you could rattle off a dozen examples in the time it takes to bat a fly off your nose.

    As with most things, between the patently absurd and the stubbornly inadjudicable stands a workshop for fiddling with the tools for figuring out which is which and then trying to use them on all things in the middle.
  6. salsanchezfan

    salsanchezfan Boxing Junkie Full Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    Pugguy and populistpugilist like this.
  7. thistle

    thistle Boxing Addict Full Member

    Dec 21, 2016
    some Books are Fact Based and built on repeating and voicing Contemparorary Reports, a Researcher can't be any more 'Objective' than that...

    while other books are based on recollections, interveiws and secondhand accounts, which can be fine, but need to be backed by the Documentation.

    the Contemporary Reports are the only true way to validate a fighters career...
  8. FastLeft

    FastLeft Well-Known Member Full Member

    Apr 23, 2022
    is a lot of hype in boxing. as a matter of business
    & there is a lot of excitement genuine for the sport

    this effect it. the historical assessment

    the whole champion level sport is build on hype & persons looking at boxing to find excitements. fans & persons inside the sport operations

    & often counter to this is the ' ' cynicism" explanations. also these become exaggeration too & myth. everything is explained as scam & fraud & fix . can be bit overblowed. conspiracy rabbits holes.

    so yes. this will result in many distortions views of historical boxing
  9. FastLeft

    FastLeft Well-Known Member Full Member

    Apr 23, 2022
    is ok to hero worship
    but some do here clear hero worship on few boxer
    & take opposites view on other boxer

    is okay to be critical skeptic
    but some do here clear critic of some boxer
    & take opposite view on other boxer

    this is when it is unhealthy the bias
    Entaowed likes this.
  10. Entaowed

    Entaowed Boxing Addict Full Member

    Dec 16, 2012
    This is a Higher Order of nuanced insights into the intellectual complexities of human feeling.
    To be more of a crude blunt tool of observation, people & men in particular need to use idols & villians to work out Ego issues, more likely propping it up than progressing, & project onto others their fears, ideals, psychological needs & self-soothe while immersing ourselves with the comforts & distractions of the mythical to provide, ironically, deeper meaning.

    You have been here for 5 years but are very judicious in what & how much you post.
    If you care to share something about yourself in general & vis a vis boxing I am sure many others besides me are interested.
    populistpugilist likes this.
  11. Journeyman92

    Journeyman92 Resident Gadfly Full Member

    Sep 22, 2021
    I think personally that the vast majority of fans and “historians” lol, read boxing history like a novel and not as it is. Liston for example sounds a lot cooler in fiction and so you have the absurd hero worship. Just my take.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2022
    Seamus, cross_trainer and Tockah like this.
  12. Vic The Gambler

    Vic The Gambler Member Full Member

    Jun 14, 2022
    Kirkland Laing was a hero of mine because I knew him personally as a kid when he was a young boxer. I’d never hear a word said against him…I used to react with anger whenever I read or heard criticisms of him…and as the years went by and Kirk started to waste his god given gifts, there were many, many verbal attacks on him as a person and as a boxer.
    But as I grew up I realised that if Kirk could handle all the bad press, so could I.

    With boxers I admired from afar two of them stand out for me as boxers I put on a pedestal…Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson. I have since realised it was because they came along at the time I was a youngster with an impressionable young mind, ripe for hero worshipping. I was furious and heartbroken in equal measure when Holmes lost twice to Michael Spinks. And as for when Douglas KO’d Tyson, I was a wreck! I went to war against people who mocked Iron Mike after that defeat. I made excuse after excuse for him…I took his loss personally as if he was my big brother!
    And when both Holmes and Tyson fought in 1988, the war going on in my mind was terrible. It was as if my brother was fighting my dad and I just wanted them to stop! Boy…I was a basket case back then.

    Anyway as an adult my hero worshipping days have all but gone…though I still flinch a little bit when I hear criticisms of my old idols. But now I have accepted that they were all human with flaws and frailties as fighters and as men. It makes debating much easier when you have an open mind with no biases (well not too many) as opposed to fighting someone’s corner simply because they are your favourites.
  13. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    I think some healthy scepticism has spread when it comes to some Jeffries stories and lately also concerning Marciano. But maybe Tyson needs some healthy revisionism still. The whole "he was 190 lbs muscle as a 12-year old"...
  14. Fergy

    Fergy Walking Dead Full Member

    Jan 8, 2017
    People on here worship Primo and Ingo..
    God bless em.
  15. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Liston was good, but no "Tire Iron" Jones Full Member

    Jun 30, 2005
    There are quite a few boxers who could still use skepticism, and I think it varies from person to person who they are.
    Bokaj likes this.