Boxing is more of a liberating art than a sport

Boxing was originally the object of literary transcription: from Jack London (Ring game) via Ernest Hemingway (fifty thousand dollars) and Norman Mailer (The fight of the century) to Joyce Carol Oates (Boxing), many novelists have translated its artistic and tragic character. From Plato to Alexis Philonenko, philosophy also wanted to understand the meaning of battle.boxing history). Today, it is the turn of history and sociology to capture and put into perspective this sport with its many and ancestral experiences.

The work of historian Jean-Manuel Rubino With closed fists shows how ancient the art of boxing is thanks to the perfect appropriation of ancient sources. Extracts from Homer and Virgil are aptly and helpfully used and quoted. Furthermore, he makes extensive use of iconographic documents (terracotta, painter, mosaic, etc.) to offer a thematic and ultimately relatively timeless analysis of boxing’s great moments.

In antiquity, the noble art was often called “fighting”, a term that was not pejorative. Except in Sparta, boxing remained a male-only sport. The author shows that the training allowed the fighters to gain the flexibility needed to train for competition. Then they wore leather, and the gloves so dear to pugilists were always strengthened to inflict more damage.

Almost all shots are allowed

The iconography allows us to see what an athlete’s training can be: even if the diets and training methods are accompanied by the almost total training evoked by Martin Scorsese, bodies change to achieve modern perfection as the sessions progress. angry bullnot quite the same anymore.

Jean-Manuel Roubineau also notes that since ancient times deception has been abundant and frequent. The fight was already established: for example, bites were prohibited in fights where all (other) blows were allowed. The effects on the warriors were permanent, and the trauma and irreversible physical damage forced the author to even classify them as warriors. “broken jaws”.

Finally, the historian returns to the inmates of the ring and recounts their exploits. For them, defeat means symbolic death, and victory brings honor and glory, albeit temporarily.

With closed fists

Jean-Manuel Rubineau


416 pages

30 euros

Released on September 28, 2022

“Featherweight” when women clench their fists

For centuries, boxing has long been considered a man’s sport. Great story by Mick Kitson, Light, evokes a change in discipline and the arrival of female boxers. She recounts the story of her great-grandmother Annie Perry after she became the adopted daughter, assistant and servant of boxer William “Bill” Perry in the early 20th century.e century

The author reminds that in Victorian England, boxing was a class issue, the art of pugilism arose primarily from popular circles, to some extent on the fringes of society. In addition to these social aspects, the novel addresses another dimension: the depiction of women’s boxing. And it shows that from the beginning of the 20th centurye In the 19th century, the struggle for freedom also included sports diversity.


Mick Kitson

Métailié editions

360 pages


Released on August 26, 2022

“Journey to the land of boxers”, in the den of pugilists

Finally, let’s talk about the work of Pierre Bourdieu’s student, then colleague, Loic Wacquant. Answers. For reflective anthropology In 1992. A few years ago, at the beginning of his university career in the United States, the sociologist participated in an amateur and professional boxing club, the Woodlawn Boys Club. He then examines social and racial segregation in Chicago. As an anthropologist, he plunged into the den of pugilists and presented a very beautiful book: Body and soul – Ethnographic notebooks of an apprentice boxer.

Twenty years later, he returns to the subject with a remarkable body of photographs and text dedicated to this space of tears, suffering, pain and joy that make up boxing: A trip to the land of boxers. It is about giving meaning to struggle, about social transcendence that disrupts the symbolic order of the world in a universe of misery.

We find in these boxers the characteristics that echo from ancient times, such as body care, the art of movement and working on oneself. He also devotes a remarkable chapter to the gymnasium, its codes, organization and space. In the end, the measure of sacrifice is the same as it is today, but the tragedy has simply changed form.

Boxing has filled this dimension of entertainment for centuries. But the actors have changed: this sport, born in more dominant spheres, has been linked since the 19th centurye dominated the hopes of the century.

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