Blood, sweat & fears

After training in boxing for over two years, Queen’s student Dylan Glancy fought for the first time on Feb. 1. Here, he argues that boxing is the worst sport in the world — and that everyone should try it.

It’s Tuesday evening and my fight is on Saturday.

As I make my daily drive across town to the boxing gym through yet another snowstorm, my mind, as it always seems to lately, goes through my combinations.

Jab-jab-cross-roll-hook-hook. My muscles jerk in unison.

The small part of my mind left concentrating on the road is frustrated with me. The last two weeks have been filled with an exhaustive cycle of aggression, hunger and tiredness, in that order, repeating every four hours. All attempts to put focus into school have been futile.

Ten workouts per week and a strict diet have left me a lean, hostile shell of myself. The 25 pounds I’ve lost puts me three pounds under my 178-pound weight class. I know this because I weigh myself three times a day; I’m constantly anxious about my weight.

Even stranger than my sudden weight loss is my uncharacteristically aggressive behaviour. Never before have I walked around campus thinking about knocking out random passersby.

Even my music tastes have changed, from Lupe Fiasco and Shad to the harsh stylings of Immortal Technique and Mos Def.

The primitive killer instinct that teachers and parents have taught me to keep inside all my life will be let out on Saturday. That will be the first time as an adult that I will hit another person as hard as I can.

After training in boxing for over two years, I know those hits will be damaging.

***

As I pull up to the gym, I think to myself that, with the fight in four days, this will likely be a light session. I’m dead wrong. I walk in and hear the two words no boxer ever wants to hear: working defence.

After delaying for 45 minutes, I finally get called over to the floor, where a friend is ready to pummel me for six three-minute rounds. All I can do is protect myself and move around, not throwing even a single punch.

After my coach yells at me for all my bad habits, I leave the training session with bruises on my arms, a bruised and bloody nose, a cut on my eyebrow and sore ribs and abs.

Three hours after my departure, I return home to find my housemates going out for a drink. I’m in no mood to join them and can’t drink this week, anyway.

Instead, I lie in bed, unable to sleep, thinking about how much it will hurt to get punched by someone my own weight.

I hate this sport.

***

It’s Thursday, now, and I’m doing 40 hard minutes of cardio. I’ve developed uneven muscle growth from training mostly in orthodox stance, with my left foot forward. The resulting lower back pain and shin splints prevent me from running, so I get on a stationary bike.

Five minutes into my workout, I look up at the TV, where the worst possible show is playing: the 50 greatest televised knockouts.

It’s surprising that combat sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts are even allowed to continue in a society like Canada’s. The potential long-term effects of repetitive brain trauma include dementia pugilistica (the charmingly named “punch drunk syndrome”), Parkinson’s disease and depression.

The short-term effects can be even more devastating. Twenty-three-year-old professional Mexican featherweight Oscar Gonzalez fought in Mexico City on the same day as my bout.

He was knocked out in the 10th round and died of his injuries days later.

The thought of being knocked out or knocking someone else out makes me ill. It keeps me up at night. There’s no reason that we should cheer when it happens; there’s no reason it should be televised again and again. This is a horrendously dangerous sport.

***

On Saturday night, my mom drives me to the fight at a Canadian Legion Hall in Etobicoke. I show up two hours early to register and weigh in, warm up and work with my coach.

I have to tell my mom to go home because she’s getting hysterical and asking questions like “which of these scary looking people are you fighting?” She’s right, though: the boxing crowd isn’t the upper-middle class collegiate ilk I’ve been exposed to. Many are the type of toothless, rough guys that seem to appear in Toronto only for monster truck events at the Rogers Centre.

You can tell the experienced fighters from the newer ones by their cold, empty stares — the consequence of felling grown men with their strikes.

The guy I’m fighting comes in overweight, so this has to be an exhibition fight — a glorified sparring match in front of the crowd without a winner. The pressure and trepidation are lifted.

Boxing is a chess game with the brutality of war. The average spectator sees violence and savagery, but every boxer knows a well thought out strategy will generally triumph over brute force.

That element of strategy is what keeps me from giving it up. Boxing put me in the best shape of my life, and I would recommend fighting once to anyone.

Would I do it again? I doubt it. The risks far outweigh the benefits.

Then again, as Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”.

Dylan Glancy is a fifth-year chemistry student.

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