'Glory Is a Thoroughly Illiberal Concept'

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Gauthem Nagesh is boxing. Eventually:


A well-known journalist and fight fan once said privately that glory is a thoroughly illiberal concept, meaning the more evolved among us should be able to overcome our fixation on winning and heroism. But then in the next breath he confessed that he could not get enough of it. I suppose it was that same baser part of my nature that first drove me to cover the fights, and then to the gym myself. 

But once there my goal of working back into shape and learning the technical merits of the sport was not enough. What is the point of learning to drive if you are never planning to hit the open road? And so we discussed sparring, and if perhaps a year would be long enough to reach that point. A year? I'll have you there a couple months, Rodriguez promised. And so we started preparing in earnest, for something more perilous than the heavy bag or a slap upside the head with the pads. 

But a decade of inactivity and an ill-advised late lunch from the neighborhood taqueria soon voiced their objections. Dejection. Failure. Shame. But, unlike many times before, the determination to continue. And so we were back this week, first Monday then this evening. Back on the pads, back on the rope, roadwork on the weekend with the dog and the heavy bag as often as possible. 

Because most fights are small and in front of no witnesses. Often there is no opponent, only our own limits that we must always be willing to challenge, or risk watching our talent languish like a prospect left on the shelf.

I've always wished I had boxed, and I have this fantasy of one day trying it out. I also have a fantasy of actually learning to play basketball. I respect the latter, but I still have designs on the former. I'd pay cash money to acquire a decent jumper and post-up game.


As always, please do not feel called upon if all you have to offer us is yet another "I don't see the point of boxing" comment. I think we can manage without it today. It will be hard. But we shall try.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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