The pull boxing has on a practioner is one of those things that can’t properly be explained by those not caught in the force field.
This is because boxers aren’t like you and me.
I explain as best I can to people quite often about “the pull,” usually in the context of a discussion with someone who doesn’t understand why people fight, why the sport exists in this supposedly enlightened age.
“Because fighters aren’t like you and me,” I explain. “They are warriors, of heart and soul. They want to do this, they almost NEED to do this.”
That desire doesn’t dissipate fully always with age. Ideally, arguably, there would exist that perfect balance where a person’s desire to compete would wane as their physical attributes decline. Doesn’t often happen that way…Folks get older but their wish to push themselves, and test themself, does not end. And very often, we see the end result being that guys soldier on too long. They need that brutal truth of what their limitations are to be forcefully delivered to them. This delivery of truth is brutal, as such truths often are and need to be.
But fighters aren’t like you and me..
I was pondering all this in the last week, when we saw Wladimir Klitschko and Juan Manuel Marquez and then Tim Bradley all tell the world that they are hanging up the gloves. Age 41…43..and 33, an age that used to be, before super supplementation and ultra mod conditioning methods, “old” for a boxer.
Fighter Kendall Holt didn’t reach the heights Wlad and JMM and Bradey did, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t wrestle with the same emotions those aforementioned men did when grappling with the decision, should I stay or should I go.
Check out this Instagram post in which the 36 year old New Jersey resident, who last fought in 2013, and in fact held the WBO 140 pound crown, touches on the degree of magnetism boxing exerts on many athletes.
I reached out to Holt to get a sense, maybe, of where he stands regarding boxing..is he in? Is he out?
“I’m standing right in the middle,” Holt told me.
“I have a foot in and a foot out, while sitting on the fence. I just bought all new sparring gear so I can get back in shape in the mean-time. I wasn't a popular figure in boxing so I don't get those gate keeper calls. Although, I was honored to get a direct call from Keith Thurman in January to come help him in camp in preparation for the Garcia fight that happened this past March. I didn't get picked to be an opponent when I fought for the WBO championship of the world the first time either. I fought my way from the bottom all the way to the top with no objections to opponents or purses. When I got ranked number two I had to fight Mike Arnaoutis, for the number one spot in the world because he had just lost a controversial decision to then world champion Ricardo Torres..so the WBO ordered the number one and the number two fighters to fight after Mike's camp lodged a formal protest of the decision, and the winner would become the mandatory challenger for the WBO crown.”
See that? It’s hard for an athlete who feels like they have unfinished business in that square ring. And like us regular folks, we sometimes tend to replay in our mind the ups and the downs in life.
“I have a foot out because I'm getting older and I haven't had a fight since my IBF loss to Lamont Peterson in 2013. They said I took a banned substance, then they said it was Peterson who did. My second sample was tested and I was vindicated. Next year it will be five years since my last fight so that makes me eligible for Hall of Fame votes. Even though I fought my way from the bottom to the top and I fought all guys ranked in the top five on my way to being ranked number one, I'm doubtful I'll be a first ballot,” he said, chuckling. “Maybe that'll cause me to shit or get off the pot.”
See that? How he’s on that fence…teetering in…tottering out.
“Boxing has a pull on me because I've always been a pretty decent fighter with skills,” said the man who popularized the saying, ‘I don’t lay down, I lay backs down!’
“I believe I am still a good fighter despite my age,” he continued. “Plus there's tons of money to be made in boxing. There were a few elements I didn't care for when I was knee-deep in the game and one of those elements was me doing interviews. Interviews weren't something I looked forward to all the time but now with the explosion of social media interviews get to a lot more fans. Had I done more interviews I would have probably developed a bigger fan base and more celebrity. Another element was making appearances. After training, and after the gym I didn't want to do much but ride motorcycles with the fellas and take my son to football practices and games. Some interviews were fun and some seemed routine. I'm a person who loathes routines. I dislike them so much that I take different routes to the gym from my house and it's only a five minute drive to Jersey Boy Boxing Club that's owned my Glen Tapia in Passaic, NJ. I understand the game a lot more and the purpose of each component of boxing. I guess that would be a form of the maturation process. I would appreciate interviews more today because, one, I'm thankful someone like yourself wants to talk to me and the other thing is, I have lots to say. I want to share my knowledge and experience with the younger generation. They're all so eager to fight and prove they're the biggest, baddest, and fastest fighters. They have no concept of timing nor do they have any understanding of the developmental process. They don't respect, understand, or appreciate the process. You have to respect the process or your career will be over faster than a Mike Tyson fight in the eighties!”
It feels that way. Holt debuted in 2001 and to him, it feels to him like it sped by, on fast forward. I think that feeling is more likely to be the default mode when one feels like one could have handled things better then, with what he knows now. Klitschko and Marquez and Bradley might feel, looking back, less conflicted. They won their crowns, made those stacks of green…But Holt is more so like the rest of the planet, in that he didn’t get to the top of Everest. He climbed mountains, though, and gets due credit from me, for what he brought to the table. Thing is, he feels like he still has things to bring to tables. And you won’t catch me busting his chops, or opining from my safe seat outside the arena. If Holt wants and needs to hop off the fence and lace them up, for one more run, I say go get ‘em. Because fighters, they aren’t like you and me.