|ON THE ROPES...|
What's your ruling on the Tyson bite?
July 15, 1997
Other questions asked in this forum:
How have the characters of fighters changed over the years? Why wasn't Tyson kicked out of boxing for his rape conviction? Why is boxing's fate linked to Mike Tyson? What is beautiful and intriguing about boxing?
June 30, 1997:
Paul Solman examines the Tyson bite and the effect it will have on public support for boxing.
The NewsHour's sport coverage.
Excerpts from Joyce Carol Oates on Mike Tyson.
Mike Tyson's record.
Evander Holyfield's record.
A question from David Shapiro of Newport News, RI:
What is the historical link between the lower/working classes and boxing? Has boxing always been a Las Vegas phenomenon? My dad has pictures and magazines of tough looking New York fighters. What sort of era was that?
Joyce Carol Oates responds:
Boxing has always sprung from the ghetto, for who but impoverished young men would want to fight one another for money? Boxing in America traces the rise of immigrant succession--Irish, Italian, even for a brief while Jewish, Middle European, more recently Hispanic, Asian-American; throughout, from the early 1900's, African Americans were fighting, or trying to fight, their white rivals. (Dempsey, for instance, refused to fight any black man.)
Boxing was always a neighborhood phenomenon until the 1950's when television commercialized it, in the short run rejuvenating the sport but in the long run contributing to its deterioration. (Multi-million-dollar fights are temptations to "fix" in various subtle ways. Tyson, like Liston, simply quit instead of fighting; having been paid $30 million by contract for simply starting to fight, it's possible he felt he hadn't any real need to continue, only to be beaten.)
Professor Gorn responds:
Boxers have always been mainly working class or lower class men. In the early English prize ring, dating to the late eighteenth century, poor Irish and English working men were staked by wealthy aristocrats to train for battles. While there were exceptions, most boxers came from obscure backgrounds. The ring was a place where these men could gain fame and possibly money.
While there are exceptions--boxing at college in the late nineteenth through twentieth century, and in the army by the First World War--the professional prize ring always depended on men from a succession of men from poor immigrant and racial groups. And for all the enormous purses for major bouts today, and the staging in gaudy Las Vegas settings, most boxers still come from poor backgrounds, they stay poor throughout their careers, and they return to poverty (and often disability) when their time in the ring ends.