Prepare for the Truth
Why Boxing Can Tell Us More About Who We Are Than Any Other Human Activity on the Planet
A book of reflections by world-renowned dancer and choreographer Bill Coleman documents a decade of the Montreal boxing scene.
Despite their differences, boxing and dance have long been partners. When Jack Dempsey and his best friend headed to New York, one was going to pursue boxing, the other dancing. Michael Flatley of Riverdance was a well-respected Golden Gloves champion, and James Cagney could do both exquisitely. Sugar Ray Robinson took a year off and danced, and we all know about Muhammad Ali’s fondness for the art.
These are both apprenticeships forged through grueling physical discipline. Yet what a glorious journey – the daily strife of overcoming what seems, at times, not only sluggish and unwilling, but unable … the human body.
But the lessons demonstrated by these events and these lives extend far beyond the ring. Prepare for the truth! It hits somewhere between the heart and the head, and asks us to look inward.
[From the manuscript:] My connections to the sweet science are faint at best. Born to an Irish father who boxed briefly while in the British Merchant Navy during WWII, I grew up watching Ali, Henry Cooper, Jim Buchanan, Bob Foster. I made my living as a dancer, eventually choreographing and running a modern dance company. But the connections between dancing and boxing extend well beyond the footwork. Dance training and boxing training – both about the same age – have survived over the centuries unchanged.
After the fight is the most fascinating time of all – unlike any other large public events, theatrical or sporting, I’ve attended. It’s as if the rigour that kept the fight in the ring and the spectators separated according to social standing evaporates. Fighter, staff, and friends, along with fans, ringside VIPs, broadcasters, promoters, first-tier seats and stadium ticketholders all mill and circle. Security seems to evaporate and, as if unaware, crowds pour out of the stands.
There is almost a family atmosphere. Fans exchange comments and insights with the likes of media legends like HBO’s Larry Merchant, while fighters and spectators shake hands. In these moments, you can rub shoulders and enjoy the unpretentious ambience of “the boxing world.” You can see the victor’s and victim’s composure up close, and observe the transition from “the big fight” back to the daily grind. And if you stay long enough after the slick leather jackets have oozed out of the stadium, you can see the ring come down like a circus tent in the night, the arena returning to its sterile self and waiting for the next rare, elusive night of fighting.
We must progress with a full human soul, and we must constantly live with violence, between us and within. Boxing perhaps serves the darkest of purposes, but perhaps it is also only through a full embrace of everything human that we can get anywhere as a race. Sure as hell someone will start a fight on Mars, and if a new Eden is formed by higher communal consciousness, our brutal selves should be invited and made to feel right at home – they will accompany us anyway, whether we like it or not.” – Bill Coleman