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Prince of Punks
The Negation of Honor and the Death of Sportsmanship

In the lobby of restaurant I saw our most famous mainstream boxing photo, of Muhammad Ali standing over the fallen Sonny Liston, taunting him. In so doing Ali negates his own accomplishment, for by declaring the man he defeated to be less than a man, to be inferior and of no consequence is to take away the legitimacy of one’s own action. In this act, standing over a smaller, older man and taunting an example of the kind of man most feared by the predominantly white audience, Ali acts as the jesting slave. What is more, his light skin and semi-European facial features rendered him into an avatar for the emasculated post-European society who came to worship him.

Ali Stands over Liston, Taunting

Ali, in this case, and with the declaration that the smaller, darker Joe Frazier was “a gorilla” a subhuman, degraded his sport from masculine ritual to circus beast fighting, assuaging the fears of sissy whites and at the same time making man’s most brutal ritual into an unredeemable pursuit that no decent man would engage in, further emasculating Anglo-American manhood.

By way of contrast, let’s view the most famous and favorite boxing image of boxers:

Marciano versus Walcott

Both champions, the older black man and younger white man remain on their feet, with Walcott heroically weathering more than one such blow before going down and doing so coming forward. There is a photo in this series of Walcott falling from the blow and Marciano watching in amazed relief that his foe is headed to the canvas, but this is the least favorite photo of this series. Boxing men do not want to see Joe’s fall, but the Rock’s magnificent punch. Ironically, Joe would referee Ali-versus Liston, at once the man who lived on as a respected former king of his kind, cursed to officiate over the death of the heroic element of his sport.

After the rise of Ali, boxers would increasingly be managed to avoid a single loss, as the money being made from people not of the boxing class as gate and pay per view receipts, would quickly dry up for a man who lacked a godlike perfection in terms of his record. The need for an undefeated champion who takes minimal risks to buoy the flaccid hearts of the non-boxing herd, has barred true champions from most boxing weight classes. Most telling is the fact, that where in early modern boxing, every boxer was called a champion when he entered the ring, only one of the fighters now deserves this honor—making of postmodern boxing a cruel duel of anti-heroic negation, a contest not to be erased from spectator valuation.

This past week I saw a re-broadcast of a fight between Stipe Miocic, a Cleveland man of Croatian origin, who was the reigning UFC heavyweight champion, fighting before his hometown crowd. His opponent was the ever dangerous but fading Alistair Overeem, who nearly KO’d the champion and then succumbed himself. The Marciano like champion proved to be morally halfway between Ali and Marciano, at least refraining from taunting and belittling his fallen foe. But the crowd was utterly irrational, receiving his victory in hysterical jubilation and then booing the man whose quality is supposed to define the quality of his conqueror, even as he thanked them for their hospitality.

Despite Stipe Miocic’s overtures of honor toward his fallen foe, the economics of his sport—the dynamic of the money-making spectacle—demand his courting of the honor-negating partisanship of his celebrity worshiping fans, harkens back to Ali’s clowning, just as his courtesy to his opponent is easily traced back to Marciano, who, in retirement, even gave awards on TV to his former opponents. It should be noted here that Ali did not invent the clownish mechanics of honor negation, but rather copied these antics from a show wrestler named Gorgeous George, an intentional parody of traditional manhood.

For some years, MMA took up the cause of honor surviving in spectacle, but has since degenerated into a celebrity circus of manufactured animosity between fighters neeingd to stoke the proxy hate and avatar worship of the sissy crowd.

The Punishing Art

Add Comment
BobJanuary 24, 2018 8:59 PM UTC

Good article. I always hated Ali's mouthiness.

By the way, you can shrink those very bloated links using a URL-shortener, eg.:
responds:January 24, 2018 10:04 PM UTC

Thank you!
PRJanuary 22, 2018 9:56 PM UTC

Muay Thai in Thailand is pretty much the only place honor exists between victor and the defeated. I"ve seen winners carry fighters who succumbed to leg kicks over to their corners and the victor drinks from the loser's water bottle. Walter "Sleeper" Michalowski was the commentator for once set of bouts and he stated that part of the reason he chose to fight Muay Thai was the sportsmanship and honor.
responds:January 23, 2018 12:12 AM UTC

Maybe that explains the higher level of honor among top kick-boxers compared to boxers and MMA fighters.