Quitters of the Squared Altar: Debilitating Element Grows, Threatens Box Nation
Lora (right) wasn't getting the better of it against Thurman, no, but he didn't drape himself in Gatti glory by soldiering on when things looked bleak. Instead, he begged out of the contest. This is not a healthy trend, the writer declares. (Hogan Photos)
As I watched the conclusion to the Orlando Lora-Keith Thurman fight on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark,” I was reminded of the actor Tom Hank’s line in “A League of Their Own.”
“Are you crying? There’s no crying in BASE-BAAAAALL!”
I was beside myself. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I watched Lora stand up after being dropped to the canvas, walk over to his corner, and simply quit.
“Are you quitting? There’s no quitting in BOX-IIIIING!”
Tradition. Violence. Sacrifice. Concepts that separate the recreational boxer from the professional ranks.
Well, they should anyways.
Without fail, the ensuing days after yet another episode of Victor Ortiz quitting in the squared altar, and therefore denying the boxing Gods their just and due sacrifice, a nation divides and the polarizing force is compassion. Perhaps fueled with the melancholy memories of Deuk-Koo Kim, along with his two-thousand peers who have fallen to the same fate, pugilistic internet posters of compassion run to the defense of boxers who quit in the ring, by accusing antagonizing boxing fans as being merciless, blood-thirsty animals, with no respect for life, and absent of human regard.
Meanwhile, the defenders of the Pugilistic Puritanical Nation - those diehard conservatives who expect fighters to die trying - are outraged. No longer calling for blood spilled from the altar - they demand heads chopped off. Losing by decision or knockout is honorable, but quitting in the squared altar takes a darker turn. For the sacrificial lamb has pulled a Roberto Duran, and bleated, “Baaaaaa. No maaaaaas.” And then simply walked away.
Their anger is justified, for since when does the lamb call the shots?
Does clay give instructions to the potter?
Boxing is a violent sport. And, as defined by the rules, ends in decision or knockout. Any middle ground leeway, i.e., the technical knockout, is left up to the discretion of the referee, fight physician, and the boxer’s hand-picked cornermen. Win, or lose, in either of these ways, and a fighter stands the chance of growing rich off the sport. Yet, there is a growing element of fighters who feel just as comfortable with quitting in the middle of a fight, as they do with becoming rich from it.
Q: Know what happens when you raise a snake?
A: It grows up to bite ya.
Box flocks cannot afford to turn a blind eye upon this growing phenom, lest this element insidiously grow to the point of being socially acceptable. And by the flock’s complete disregard for Lora’s quitting to Thurman, it seems that it’s already happening. By sitting idly, and nonchalantly giving out passes to Orlando Lora, Victor Ortiz, and their fraternal deserter brethren, box flocks are prepping its 150 year-old nation for self-destruction.
Quitting in the squared altar because one senses imminent doom not only denies box legions their due sacrifice, but it tears at the very fabric of what boxing is. No other moment in a fight is more important than when we learn how a fighter will respond to a brain shattering, body decapitating, knockdown blow.
It is the dénouement of a fight’s storyline.
It is the time period, where Amir Khan is demoted from superstar Brit, to division stalwart.
It is the time period, where Paulie Malignaggi is promoted from pillow fisted pugilist, to a warrior who happens to have more fight than might.
It is the time period, where fans say they’d rather see two non belt holding warriors, in the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, fight one hundred times rather than see Devon Alexander, the former WBC title holder, fight again.
And clairvoyantly, it is the time period, where box flocks will realize we prematurely drank the “Adrian Broner Kool-Aid,” without ever having actually seen him tested in war. (Yeah, I said it.)
Whereas “24/7” built the fight, promoters hyped the fight, and fighters talked the fight, all is done in vain if the knockdown doesn’t happen and both fighter and fan cannot truly measure their grit. Yet, if and when that climactic moment of truth comes, to flight and not fight, or worse yet, surrender (as did Lora to Thurman and Ortiz to Maidana), is to disregard boxing’s tradition and to declare oneself unworthy of the title, “warrior.”
In a story’s timeline, to go from climax to conclusion, a reader or moviegoer is left with an empty feeling inside that he is often incapable of aptly describing. He is unsettled, angry, dissatisfied. These same feelings encapsulate what ringside box flocks feel like after paying $200 to see Ortiz fight Maidana, and then watching him quit.
On the other hand, if a boxer gets up from a knockdown blow, against all odds, and fights back for his life with every ounce of will and might left in his body, he transcends the invisible boundary lines from pugilist to warrior. And these are the all too uncommon moments box flocks live for.
The time period between a fighter’s sense of imminent doom and the fight’s actual conclusion - doom or glory - is at the core of what boxing fans come to see.
It is comparable to baseball’s ninth inning rally.
It is akin to the final three minutes of basketball - given a nine point disparity.
It is analogous to football’s final drive - with the offensive team trailing by four.
To deny fans either the sacrifice provided in the knockout, or the cathartic dénouement process that happens in brawling to the end post knockdown, is without a doubt a complete disregard for the sport itself, and a disrespect to the fans who put the prize in fight.
So, forget what you heard from some pugilistic internet poster of compassion - violence moves our souls, and tradition demands compliance. For those sensitive fans who fail to understand the tradition of boxing, and to the current and future members of the professional fighting ranks, let it be shouted from every mountain top:
THERE’S NO QUITTING IN BOXING!