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The Ritual of Violence: Violence Is Theatre & We Are Slaves To It

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Were you and I to start capturing small animals, and giving them to a housecat for them to torture, we would surely be brought before government officials for questioning in the Zodiac Murders. However, strap on a pair of gloves and get a license from the California State Athletic Commission will send Jack Reiss to watch over you and another person punch each other in the head for 36 minutes. There are ways to witness violence.

On Saturday night, the ritual of violence was set for two such events. Jorge Linares was going to fight Mercito Gesta, which would be followed by a bout between Argentine destroyer Lucas Matthysse and unknown Thai fighter Tewa Kiram. Both fights had potential to sate the appetite for violence; Linares is a good fighter – perhaps close to great – but he has a funny problem with his skin. When hit the right way, it comes apart and he starts to bleed. This has been his undoing on at least one occasion.

Matthysse is one of the hardest hitters in the sport, and if he wins it is because he hurt whoever was in front of him. The potential for violence seemed limitless at the time.

The HBO broadcast began by telling us that this was to be an international affair. Each fighter hailed from a different country, and this broadcast of the fights was to be a celebration of that diversity. Really, it was just another way to frame the violence in more nationalistic terms, but it is academic now.

Linares and Gesta were up first. Gesta is from the Philippines, and much of his career has been marred by comparisons to Manny Pacquiao. These comparisons are both lazy and unfair, as Gesta is nothing like Pacquiao, but he is from the Philippines and every Philippine boxer gets compared to him. No one said boxing writers were forward-thinking.

Linares on the other hand is Venezuelan, and has constantly flirted with becoming a world-class fighter. His family has mostly been moved out of their tumultuous home country – only Linares’ father remains. Venezuela is in a state of crisis, with infrastructure failing and very little in the way of social services. Jim Lampley did well to play this up before the fight.

The fight was interesting on paper. Linares had trouble with little experienced and straightforward Luke Campbell in his last fight, fluctuating between domination and the complete absence of concentration. Linares is very good in all the ways you would want a boxer to be good. He is no slugger, but he can punch, he is very fast, and he has a great sense of where he is in the ring. The problems for Linares include the faulty skin, and an apparent lack of focus when he starts succeeding in fights, but his talent is real. Against Campbell, he knocked him down and then very nearly lost the fight when he started coasting. This is why he has flirted with greatness, and not bedded it.

The plan for both men was simple. Gesta would have to get close and hurt Linares, who was the more polished boxer but is not a great inside fighter. Linares would need to maintain a healthy distance from Gesta, and use his speed to get his offense off in a hurry before slipping away to a safe distance.

The fight began with Linares doing something that was surely instruction from his Cuban trainer Ismael Salas, whose background is in the Cuban amateur program. Linares did next to nothing for the first two rounds.

This is something you generally see in talented fighters that want to breakdown an opponent. They stand there, letting their opponent work, and they figure out how to beat them. This takes somewhere between one and three rounds, depending on the quality of opposition. To my eyes, Linares took two rounds to figure it out and then the fight was over. To echo Eric Raskin’s thoughts, it was one of the most lopsided 116-112 fights I’ve ever scored. Linares was never in trouble, given that Gesta could apparently not hurt him.

He did cut him with what Liebling would have a called a short left hook, concise and brief. Linares was apparently unfazed, and his corner did an admirable job of fixing the problem. The cards were announced and Linares put on his crown, representative of his Ring Lineal Title. It was equal parts performative and silly.

The second fight, the main event, was next. Lucas Matthysse and his comic book hero power were favoured, but Tewa Kiram appeared determined not to rollover for him. Kiram came in at around 160 pounds. He is easily the thickest welterweight I’ve ever seen, which made me wonder why his reputation was that of a jabber.

I quickly learned that Kiram was not of the same ilk as his countryman Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who came to America to upset Roman Gonzalez last year. Kiram had a peculiar style that I can only describe as rudimentary. He jabs, steps back, jabs, steps back, throws a one-two, and jabs again. The punches carry with them all the force of an elderly woman’s sneeze.

Matthysse looked old. Normally, and as recently as last year, he would have been throwing lead right hands over Kiram’s jab from the first round onward. Instead, Matthysse spent the first half of the fight standing in a semi-crouch catching Kiram’s many jabs on his gloves and not throwing anything consequential back at him. As you can imagine, this made for a very bad fight to watch.

Matthysse eventually knocked Kiram out. It was peculiar because he achieved this with a pawing jab, knocking Kiram down twice with that punch. He had begun landing some straight rights on the Thai fighter, which perhaps made Kiram decide he would be better off taking a short nap instead of having his consciousness permanently erased. It was reminiscent of Zab Judah’s knockout of Kaizer Mabuza, except that surprise knockout was at least worthy of praise. That instance elicited shock and joy and awe. This merited only a sigh of relief.

The most interesting part of the fight came when Kiram’s corner had an herbal substance that was being used as some kind of smelling salt confiscated, as no one knew what the fuck it was. My best guess is that it was some kind of potion designed to keep Matthysse away from Kiram at all times.

Sometimes, the ritual does not always satisfy.

The good news is that there will be more. There will always be more violence for us to consume and analyze. This was a relatively mediocre night at the temple of the fights, but it will surely be redeemed. It always is.

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About Thomas Peter John Penney

Thomas Penney is a freelance writer. He writes about boxing for NY Fights, and whoever else will have him. Send tips to tpjp28@mun.ca.

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