Tuesday 25 June 2019

Have a nice fight

Poncing around in a ring does not make you look hard.

Publishing is not the most physical of pursuits. Sure, there are long hours and plenty of stress, but it's not an occupation that's going to put you in harm's way too often. All my life, I'd never once been seriously challenged to a fight and, to be honest, that's a fact I've been grateful for, as I do not have an especially strong build. So imagine my surprise to find, in the last month or so, my coming close to, not one, but two fights, neither of which I went looking for.

The first incident revolved around a misunderstanding over a woman, whom I had accompanied to a nightclub, where we bumped into her ex. He took objection to my talking to her and decided to state his case in no uncertain terms. I would probably have done likewise in his position, but perhaps in a strongly-worded letter to his parents. I certainly wouldn't have attacked him on the street at 5am and ripped his shirt off completely in the process, as was my fate.

But then again, some of us are born to pick fights, and others are not. I could easily have done so at the Galway Races last week, when I got hassled beyond belief by a well-known British hairdresser who decided that I was gay (there's a first...) and thought I would welcome his pawing advances in a crowded hospitality tent. Where many in my position would simply have punched him, I fought him off with a barrage of withering sarcasm which ultimately had the same effect as a fist fight, without either of us being thrown out in mid champagne-quaff.

So, it was with some contempt that I read the line-up for RTé's latest reality TV show, Lords of the Ring, where ten celebrities will be taught how to box, all in the name of charity. One will probably, without irony, be representing a charity for physically abused women or children. These ten specimens of manhood will have entered in the belief that boxing is the mark of a man. It's no coincidence that what they share, other than a large dose of randomness, is that many are short, rotund, and believe that poncing around in a ring for ten minutes is going to make them 'look hard'.

While the amateur incarnations of many professional skills we see on display -- singing, dancing, cooking -- are embarrassing, but certainly not harmful, boxing's contribution to popular culture has been the desire to pick a fight, to 'sort things out like a man'. And the vast majority of these encounters are provoked, not by righteous indignation or a matter of honour -- no, it's usually a combination of booze, drugs and seething resentment brought on by an unfulfilling, miserable existence.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that, far from being the men of steel that they imagine, most casual fighters are big girls' blouses. I was in the gym a month ago, watching a man in his 30s work up a sweat with a punchbag. In a crowded locker room later, I observed him walk out of the shower, over to the mirror, and start shaving. Nothing strange there, except having finished with his chin, he continued downwards, and was brazenly shaving his chest without any degree of self-consciousness. So when you read Joe O'Shea or Paul Martin's account of why they entered Lords of the Ring, ignore their wordy, self-serving bollox. They did it so they could justify shaving their chests. The way real men do ...

Michael O'Doherty is the publisher of the VIP magazine group

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