Boxing and the Movies

Boxing has produced more top-class fiction and films than any other sport, and I defy anyone to differ

In films, baseball comes second, while soccer provides only one good offering – OK, two

There I was in Provence a week or two ago, not sitting in the sun and not drinking rosé (incidentally, I don’t believe the allegation recently peddled in the press that sales of rosé in France are now exceeding those of white wine; that cannot be), but thoroughly enjoying reading a lengthy and erudite essay by Mark Lawson in the Guardian on the subject of sport in fiction. I eagerly turned the page to read on, but there was no more. Not possible, I thought. Where was boxing? I read the feature again. There was no mention of it. The sport that I had proclaimed – no, proved – in this very column, to have provided more top-class fiction than any other, had been ignored, zeroed, as if it had never existed. I refer to my own writings only to mention that not one of the many readers who reacted to my piece, either personally or on the blog, contested my conclusion. Most drew my attention to other novels and short stories with a sporting centre – including boxing books I had omitted through ignorance. None suggested that any other sport attracted better writing than boxing, nor did Lawson’s learned list suggest the literary pre-eminence of any other sport.

I don’t intend to repeat my full argument. In the unlikely event that you do not remember every detail of what I wrote on January 3 2007, the article is on the net. In addition to the books and writers I noted – among them, Leonard Gardner’s Fat City, Budd Schulberg’s The Harder They Fall, FX Toole’s Rope Burns (which contains the short story Million Dollar Baby), Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Conan Doyle, Damon Runyon, Dashiell Hammett and Ring Lardner – you can add WC Heinz’s The Professional (1958), a huge influence on Elmore Leonard and regarded by Hemingway as the best book about a fighter he had ever read.

Coincidentally, before the Guardian feature appeared, I had been reading with admiration Boxing: a Cultural History, by Kasia Boddy, a serious yet entertaining study, packed with obscure facts and accompanied by a huge selection of marvellous photos and illustrations.

I can now make another claim, and I defy anyone to say otherwise. There are far more quality films with boxing at their core than any other sport. Baseball comes second, I’m pretty sure. Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, The Natural and Bull Durham come to mind. Athletics has Chariots of Fire and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Soccer provides only one good offering, The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty (well, OK, I’ll grant you Bend It Like Beckham); rugby league has This Sporting Life; cricket has the excellent if long (nearly four hours) Lagaan, and the less impressive The Final Test, worth noting only because Len Hutton and Denis Compton play themselves – badly. But boxing has Fat City (directed by John Huston), Requiem for a Heavyweight, Champion (starring Kirk Douglas), The Harder They Fall (Humphrey Bogart’s last role), Million Dollar Baby (Oscars galore), Raging Bull (an Oscar for Robert De Niro), The Great White Hope, Body and Soul, and I haven’t even needed to mention Rocky and its best film Oscar.

· I have been astonished and annoyed by how easily most of the media here were taken in by wild information bandied around concerning the number of viewers watching the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony live on television. A few days before the event, some publicity person, presumably Chinese, hit on a number: 4 billion viewers. And almost every newspaper, television network and journalist seemed to accept it as gospel, and spread it around. A minute’s thought would have told them that such a viewing figure – nearly two-thirds of the world’s population – was, by a long way, impossible. Think of the masses who wouldn’t be watching, because of poverty, or because they are too young, or at work or asleep, or – do not underestimate this – because they were just not interested. The BBC’s broadcast was watched by around five million – less than a twelfth of our population – and the global estimate has been revised to 1 billion, which I suppose is possible. But that’s been scantily reported, and I bet that in years to come, Beijing’s opening extravaganza will still be reported as having attracted 4 billion viewers. Does it matter? Not in itself, but it is all to do with being able to trust the media, and that’s important.

· I do not know why the chef Rick Stein was on the Today programme arguing that cooking ought to be regarded as an art, but I think the answer to this debate is easy. The highest forms of cuisine are creative, imaginative, beautiful, appeal to several of the senses and can touch spirituality. It’s not permanent, but then neither is a dance or a theatre performance; it relies on ingredients, but then so does a sculptor rely on his marble or wood. Eating, and therefore cooking, is a necessity, whereas creating or receiving other forms of art is voluntary.

So what? I can see no logical argument for great cooking to be denied the status of art, with the added advantage that it will become eligible for the Turner prize, hitherto more famous for works of art associated with orifices far from the mouth

Развешенные повсюду "Ефективність постачальницько-збутової діяльності сільськогосподарських підприємств"гирлянды из цветов жасмина, бугенвиллей и "Желудочно-кишечные болезни молодняка крупного рогатого скота"роз напоминали висячие сады "Ефективність функціонування особистих селянських господарств в ринкових умовах"Семирамиды.

В их взглядах и "Животноводство"позах чувствовалась жестокая решимость.

Однако она "Животноводство Алтайского края"обещала приложить все силы и "Животноводство Белоруссии"вернуться с трофеями в полночь.

Этого-то "Животноводство в сельском хозяйстве"он мне сказать пока и не "Животноводство в период капитализма"может.

Он и спустился, и я видел, "Животноводство и птицеводство, их кормовая база"что он отправился на восток.

Этого более, "Живые изгороди и полевые межи в сельском хозяйстве"чем достаточно, сказала она.

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