The Sweet Science

28 Jan

Going to a professional boxing match these days is like wearing a fur coat. A lot of people say, “That’s just disgusting!” even though they don’t really know what it is they are condemning. What they “know” is what they are told by the media. Sure, on the surface, boxing is just two people beating the hell out of each other for a specified period of time. (Please notice that I said people and not men. The number of women boxers is growing daily!) But like any sport, there is so much more going on than what the average spectator sees. Over the past eleven years I have come to appreciate boxing as something other than hand-to-hand combat.

First let me say that I am not a boxer, nor do I play one on TV. However, I am close friends with a professional boxing trainer (Ron) and a boxing promoter (his son-in-law, Tony). They are passionate about their sport. When they are not training or competing, they are talking about it or watching it. As a rule, boxers are not overly aggressive psychopaths. In fact, most of the fighters I know are intelligent, friendly, and genuinely nice people who just happen to like to square off with someone under the rules of the game.

Ron has trained some top-notch fighters, Caleb “Golden” Truax and Matt “The Predator” Vanda to name two. Both have fought nationally televised fights. As a former fighter with more than 100 wins, Ron knows the “sweet science” of boxing. I enjoy listening to him talk about his fighters and how they are trained. The first thing that you realize when you talk to Ron is that he cares about his fighters. He loves the fact that they love the sport and he goes out of his way to help them succeed. Ron started training fighters in his garage,Slowly, he built up a dedicated group of fighters and started a full-fledged gym. He reminds me of coaches I used to have. They were teachers/professors who loved sport.

By listening to Ron “The Professor”, I have learned to watch boxing in a different way. The technique of throwing the different types of punches is precise to get the most power, speed, and accuracy. Fighters learn to use angles to find cracks in their opponents defense. My favorite is the footwork. Each of these techniques is difficult to learn and perfect. Adding them together so that they are useful is crazy hard. Then, as Ron likes to say, it gets interesting when you add in the fact that someone else is trying to knock your head off while you are using these techniques. Talk about difficult!

More often than not, I watch a fighter’s feet. If they have good footwork, they will have power and speed. That’s science talking, not me. I am not talking about dancing around the ring.  I’m talking about the short shuffle steps that keep the fighter’s feet under him and provides leverage for the jab. The side step that opens up a straight right hand or hook to the body. Good footwork means good balance. As Mr. Miagi says, “If balance good, boxing good. If balance bad, may as well pack up and go home.” Okay, I took some liberties with that one, but it’s still true.

My wife and I recently had the honor of sitting ringside for the Minnesota Middleweight Boxing Championship thanks to the bout’s promoter, Tony and his lovely wife. The fight featured Caleb Truax (20-1-1, 12 KO’s) and Matt Vanda (44-14, 24 KO’s). (Ron is currently training Caleb as Matt left Ron several years back.) Matt had the edge on experience, but Caleb is a technician. It turned out to be one of the best fights I’ve ever seen. Being very familiar with both fighters made it that much more fun. Watching each of them think throughout the fight, trying different tactics, trying to picking each other’s defenses apart. It was a war that both fighters wanted to win in the worst way. Caleb was the reigning champion wanting to retain his title and Matt wanting to go out on top. He had announced that this would be his final profession fight. At the end of ten, exhausting rounds, Caleb won by a decision of the judges.

Promoter Tony G is in the jeans with one of his partner's waiting for the main event.

Promoter Tony G is in the jeans with one of his partner’s waiting for the main event.

Ron (on far right) and Caleb (on left) before the fight

Ron (on far right) and Caleb (on left) before the fight

On the back of the tee shirts for Ron’s gym is a simple saying. “Respect, it is earned in the gym and kept in the ring.” As a non-boxer I will say this. I have the greatest respect for those who choose to participate in this sport. Technically and physically, it is as demanding as any sport I know of. I have always tried to live by the saying, “Don’t criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” I’ve seen enough to now I am too old to jump into this game competitively, but I will continue to watch and enjoy those you are young enough and dedicated enough to join this amazing group of individuals.

What I’m trying to say is that whoever started calling the sport of boxing the sweet science, truly understood it.


Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Musings and Odd Thoughts


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12 responses to “The Sweet Science

  1. ltownsdin

    January 28, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    You’ve opened my mind a little bit. 🙂 Good post!

  2. Dennis Langley

    January 28, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Excellent. An open mind is a healthy mind. 🙂 Thank you.

  3. annewoodman

    January 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I know a little more about boxing than I did before (nothing), Dennis. Thanks. I don’t think I looked down on it as much as just didn’t think about it at all. I hope you enjoy your time studying something new… Who knows? You might get a story idea out of it!

    • Dennis Langley

      January 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      Having access to true insiders has been educational and you may be right, I may have to write a story involving the boxing community.

  4. 4amWriter

    January 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I am definitely the person who rolls her eyes in disgust at boxing because I don’t understand it. I really appreciate what you wrote here, Dennis, because it reminds me that anything, anything at all, can be interesting if we give it a chance.

    • Dennis Langley

      January 30, 2013 at 8:20 am

      That’s okay. I was never a big fan and my wife was like you before we met our friends. Now she really enjoys it. I think the turning point was when Ron put some gloves on her and had her hit the pads. He may have created a monster. 😉

  5. Christopher Patterson

    January 29, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    I used to love boxing, and watched it all the time. Now UFC has taken a lot of the fans away, but not me, I still enjoy it. However, waiting for it’s comeback has been tiring and I think I know why, it is not accessible enough. The sport has become the “sweet science of business”, all about the dollar. I’m glad you enjoyed the sport side of it at what seems to be a more organic forum.

    • Dennis Langley

      January 30, 2013 at 8:25 am

      It’s interesting that you mentioned the accessibility of it. That is one of the areas Tony has been concentrating on, Making it more accessible to the public through technology. However, even a 50″ big screen does not take the place of live events.

  6. Tony Grygelko

    January 31, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Great work as always Dennis! Always fun to see you at the fights and get support from one of my favorite authors!

    • Dennis Langley

      February 1, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Thanks, Tony. Right back at you. You always put on great show.

  7. Carla Riley

    February 1, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Dennis….great blog! I too attended the Truax vs Vanda fight, and it really was an amazing experience. I fell in love with the sport of boxing years ago. I order all the big fights on pay per view and watch all the matches I can on cable, but there is nothing like attending a live fight. Many of my girlfriends, who I invited to the fight, declined because they were disgusted at the thought of watching a live fight. They thought it would be too violent. Your view on it is exactly correct. It takes much discipline and training to have success in the sport. I’m trying to get more women interested so they can see the SPORT of boxing is something other than two people trying to beat each other to death.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 1, 2013 at 8:18 am

      Thanks for the comments, Carla. There is something special about watching live sporting events of any kind. You feel the electricity of the crowd and the athletes.

      On Sunday evening, ask your friends what is more violent, watching two 160 pound men exchanges punches or watching a 285 pound man running at full speed collide with a 320 pound man running at full speed in the opposite direction. Having been involved with the later scenario, I can tell you the violence is no less real.

      Thanks again for stopping by.


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