Appalled and thrilled is what I wrote for its alliteration but that was pure showmanship, shimmy shuffle and shoulder roll, not true to the rapt attention I had trying to pin the technical terms - jab and cross, hook and uppercut - onto the bodies of two men who glided across the roped off ring trying to land blows.
Watching the fight, I watched myself watch the fight, noticing how in spite of myself raw sounds gurgled up from my throat. Was it to help exhort Bad Chad Dawson, New Haven’s finest, rip into his older opponent? Or in appreciation of the way he would slip punches like a speedboat navigating a cove? Perhaps it was a muscle memory of the only time I stepped into the ring, with a buddy, to playfully grapple, until I got hit with a roundhouse in the ear, which clicked some primal button I could not unblink, and charged with animal aggression I never suspected I possessed, I dropped my good friend to his knees? Or maybe finally it was being colonized by the crowd, in synchronicity with the growls and curses that made me yell out in spite of myself.
I could have been in Baghdad 7,000 years ago, where an archaeologist discovered a Mesopotamian stone tablet engraved with two boxers preparing to fight, else in 18th century London eating meat pies and drinking ales while watching a bare knuckle prize fight. Somehow each feint and parry, each exchange of fists, encapsulated an essential idea about brotherhood and brutality that I could not put into the right words. All I know is that when the final bell sounded, cauliflower ear and nerve-cell damage in the periphery, the ring overrun with promoters, corner men, men in tuxedos and blue latex gloves, cameras on cranes, the ring girl in her low-cut dress, I was fixated on the two fighters with their gloved hands raised in the air. I was galvanized yet not quite satisfied.
I wanted more.
Ravi Shankar Ph.D. is a creative writing professor, translator, Pushcart Prize-winning poet and author of 15 books. He teaches creative writing at Tufts University and his memoir “Correctional” was published in 2022.