Something strange has happened in my favourite sport, something unprecedented in its long history.
Sport and race are of great interest, but it is forbidden to discuss them. At every Olympic Games we all see the same thing and must pretend not to notice. The sprinting events on the track are dominated by big, muscular black men originating from West Africa; the swimming events by whites; middle and long distance running by slight black men from North, East and Southern Africa; and weightlifting by men from Eastern Europe and the Middle East with massive shoulders and arms. In the USA, where blacks are 12% of the population, 74% of the players in the National Basketball Association are black. The only explanation for these differences is genetic: no matter how good his training facilities, the best white man will not beat the best black man in track sprints, and the best black man will not beat the best white man in the pool.
If we say “blacks are not as good as whites” at some sport, the woke white thought controllers will accuse us of being racists who think blacks are physically inferior to whites. If we say “blacks are better than whites” at some other sport, they will accuse us of being racists who think blacks are just physical animals and intellectually inferior to whites. The very people who want to “celebrate diversity” do not want to admit the glorious diversity of black and white sporting abilities.
My favourite sport is boxing. I wasn’t much good at it but not as useless as I was at most other sports. In the early 20th Century, boxing was plagued with racism, but not from the boxers themselves. There is nothing like two men punching each other in the face for ten rounds to break down any racial animosity between them. But there was horrible racism from the white public, the boxing authorities, the politicians and the commentators, including the writer Jack London, who wrote White Fang and The Iron Heel. The worst such racism occurred when the brilliant black boxer, Jack Johnson, became heavyweight champion of the world in 1908.
Johnson managed to slip through the existing colour bar in boxing. He went to Australia, took on, and thrashed, the current world heavyweight champion, Tommy Burns, a white man. The white racists, who believed the heavyweight championship represented the epitome of racial manhood, were horrified. Johnson made things worse by gloating at the racists. He dated and married only white women and made sure everybody knew it. This upset some white men and upset some black women even more.
He was a superb boxer, very clever, with perhaps the best defence ever among heavyweights. Then came the era of the Great White Hope, a desperate search for a white boxer who could beat him. No active white boxer could, so they persuaded the powerful ex-champion, Jim Jeffries, to come out of retirement. There was enormous publicity, stinking of racism, for the event, which happened before a huge crowd in Reno, Navada, in 1910. At the ringside was Jack London, a fine writer, a working-class hero, a strong socialist and a raving racist (not an unusual combination), leading the prayers for the white man to win and restore white honour. Johnson outclassed Jeffries, winning easily in 15 rounds. There were race riots around the country as a result, but white boxers admitted that Johnson had won fairly. Jeffries said afterwards, “I could never have whipped Johnson at my best. … I couldn’t have reached him in 1,000 years.”
Today I believe there is no racism in boxing, either from the boxers or from the public and politicians. The great Joe Louis helped to end it when he became heavyweight champion in 1937. But I do believe there are racial differences between the talents of black and white boxers, which seemed to me clear until about five years ago. The differences are by no means as obvious as between black and white runners and swimmers but there is a tendency. The best blacks are clever boxers, moving gracefully, with speed and finesse. The best whites are fighters with big punches and thick skulls. The best black middleweight was Sugar Ray Robinson (won the world championship in 1951), the best white Harry Greb (won it in 1923). Robinson was a master boxer, always perfectly balanced, moving beautifully, punching swiftly and accurately, with a superb defence. Greb was a ferocious slugger, a streetfighter with gloves on, with no defence at all, but hitting nonstop from all angles, blindingly fast. On his extraordinary record, he might be the greatest fighter of all time. Google their images, and you will see that Robinson looked like a matinee idol throughout his long boxing career, his face suave, handsome and unmarked. Greb looked like the thug he was, with a battered face and a flattened nose.
In the heavyweights, the contrast is between Muhammad Ali (won championship 1964) and Rocky Marciano (1952). Ali was the ultimate black heavyweight, dancing gracefully, bewildering opponents with his speed, punching very accurately if not very hard, always perfectly balanced, and with a wonderful defence (in his early and best years at any rate). Ali was correct when he described his boxing style in verse: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.” Marciano was in his time the ultimate white heavyweight, brutally strong, very aggressive, with a terrible punch, but wildly inaccurate, with a poor defence, badly balanced, often stumbling over himself as he lurched forward to hit people with his short arms. Again look at images of their faces. Ali was right when he said how pretty he was. Marciano’s face is battered and smudged.
There have been some good white boxers, such as Gene Tunney, but none moved as fluidly as Robinson and Ali. There have been good black sluggers, such as Joe Frazier and George Foremen, but most had some flair to add to their power. Another thing you notice when you look at black and white boxers, is that the blacks usually have “sculpted” physiques, with clear muscle definition, the sort of bodies a personal trainer promises you, whereas often the whites look a bit soft and shapeless.
Now, out of Manchester of all places, has come a new phenomenon in boxing. Tyson Fury is a white giant, like nothing I have ever seen before. He is six foot nine. (Jack Johnson, “The Galveston Giant”, was six foot two, Ali six foot three.) His fighting weight is 125 kg. (He weighed 450 g at birth, which was three months premature.) He has long, slender, knock-kneed legs, a massive, soft, shapeless torso and very long, flabby-looking arms with a reach of seven foot one. When he is in his boxing shorts, you see a lot of fat (which he boasts about) and no muscle definition. His waist looks wider than his chest. He is bald and bearded. When I first saw him box, he looked like a clumsy amateur, who would never go far. He proceeded to win fight after fight. It began to dawn on me that he was actually a very clever boxer indeed.
He shuffles and hops around the ring, feinting and ducking, slipping and swaying, taunting and smiling at his opponent. He looks as if he is prodding rather than punching but obviously it doesn’t feel like that to the men he hits, who fall down. Eventually, in 2015, he took on the formidable Ukrainian World Heavyweight Champion, Wladimir Klitschko, who had had a long run of successful defences. (However, our man, Corrie Sanders, had pulverised him in two rounds before he became champion.) Fury was given little chance but proceeded to jab, jerk, clown, feint, duck and skip around Klitschko, make him look stupid, and gain a convincing points victory.
After that, after reaching his life’s ambition, he fell into exactly the fate he had predicted for himself. He sank into suicidal depression. He took to alcohol, drugs and junk food. His weight went up to 400 lbs (280 kg). He tried to kill himself. Then, through prayer and help from his wife, he pulled through, prayed hard, trained fanatically, regained his boxing form and won sensational victories against the best heavyweights around.
Muhammad Ali and Tyson Fury have remarkable differences and similarities. In the boxing ring, Ali (in his early days) was poetry in motion; Fury is anything but. Ali’s finely chiseled body was what most men dream about; Fury’s is a big, soft lump. But both as boxers are very clever in and out of the ring, both are gifted showmen, and both good psychologists. Ali had a sub-normal IQ and was at first refused entry into the US Military because of it (politics changed this later) but he was very intelligent in the ring, outwitting his opponents, reading every fight accurately, changing strategy exactly when needed. Fury, whose IQ I don’t know, is the same. Ali could out-psyche most of his opponents, so some were beaten before they stepped into the ring. Fury does the same. Ali had loud, boastful and entertaining press interviews. Fury has the same. Fury, in other words, confuses my theory above about the differences between white and black boxers. He seems to have found a way to use his giant clumsiness to produce the boxing skills that black men do with elegance and poise.
Five years ago I should have said that Ali was the greatest heavyweight ever. Now I don’t know. I don’t think Ali could have beaten Fury, who is six inches taller. Maybe I’ll cop out and say that Ali was the greatest heavyweight but Fury would have beaten him. A feeble judgement.
Fury had his last fight (or so he says) last Saturday, winning easily with a sixth-round knock-out, looking better than ever. He was superbly arrogant and amusing in the press conference afterwards. (Google “Fury post-fight conference”.) Naked from the waist up, with rolls of fat flowing over his belt, he explained loudly how marvellous he was, and how humble. He was grateful to God, his trainer and his wife. He had a Rolls Royce and a mansion but he didn’t really need either and would be content with the simple life. “Mooney” meant nothing to him. In his thick Lancashire accent, he said that the meaning of life was to worship Jesus, love your wife, be modest and good, and to climb into the boxing ring and “poonch the mootha foocker’s face in”.
“Excuse the language”, he added as an afterthought.
Fury hasn’t got a racist bone in his huge body. He just enjoys punching people’s faces in, whatever their race or colour. He respects all his opponents and is interested in their differing styles and abilities. How much better race relations would be in the sporting world if everybody adopted his genial, tolerant attitude!
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR
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