I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve watched a fight match on TV and only a single time I’ve seen one up close and personal.
First the TV. Most of the fights I’ve watched were less than spectacular except for the Ali vs Sonny Liston fight back in the 60s. There was so much hype centering around how bad Ali would be beat by Liston, that if you were a breathing human being (even if you’d never watched a fight before), this match had a macabre way of drawing you in. So, like thousands of other Americans, I tuned in that night. I even popped a bowl of popcorn, believing I would be stuck in front of the TV for a while.
About five minutes in, Liston went down–for the count! I hadn’t even put a dent in the popcorn. It was a stunner of a fight. I just sat in front of the TV staring at it, as if there could be some mistake. But no, Ali had taken down the giant and it had been spectacular to watch.
That fight didn’t transform me into a fight fan, but back in the 70s, the Blue Horizon Boxing Club was a popular local venue where Philadelphians went to see up-and-coming young boxers fight. My sister (who was a big boxing fan) had been begging me for weeks to accompany her to a boxing match down at the Horizon. I finally agreed.
The crowded lobby, before the doors opened to admit the fans, was like a raucous party. By the time we entered the boxing arena, we were friends with several of the regulars who made sure we were close to the action in the ring, second row seats to be precise. In those days, Blue Horizon spectators could practically sit in the ring with the fighters. It wasn’t a huge place like it is today.
Anyway, the fights began. Sweat mixed with blood was sprayed on the people seated close to the ring. As I mentioned, my sister and I were in a second row seat.
My sister loved, loved, loved it. I was nauseated throughout, but the guys who felt sure they had introduced us to the greatest sport in Philly, if not in the world, were so excited for us that I dared not go to the restroom to throw-up my dinner.
Worst night of my life? No, mostly because those Blue Horizon boxing fans were so enthusiastic about their sport and thank goodness we met them, because I didn’t have to accompany my sister to the Horizon ever again. She had a new group of friends who met her there for several more matches while I sat comfortably at home reading a book or watching Charlie’s Angels.