Szpilka A Reformed Hooligan



Szpilka A Reformed Hooligan

I must consider that the repetitiousness of this message risks turning off one or two people, but whatever. The message that boxing is a net positive, that it is a safe-ish haven for the dented and semi demented, the over-aggressive and psychiatrically bruised, is a POV I periodically push.

Some might see it as self-serving, conscience-assuaging stuff. But I believe it.

For sure, I'd prefer a world where there are less risky paths to personal advancement and fulfillment than boxing…but that isn't the world I live in.

When Harvard-level educations are offered to all desiring souls, and vocational training to place those not inclined to be school-goers is there so people can be funneled into decent paying positions is there for all, then we can begin a conversation about the need for boxing as a elevator for advancement.

Not until then…

On Saturday night, a former bad guy, a guy who was two steps beyond “rascal,” will properly find a place to utilize traits, like an ability to punch people really effing hard.

Artur Szpilka, a Polish fella with a 20-1 (15 KOs) mark, used to be a knucklehead. Now, in fact, he might be a bit of a knucklehead outside the ring, I can't say I know him. But it reads to me like boxing has given this guy a reason for being.

“He was a bad boy, that's who he was,” said his trainer, the Texan Ronnie Shields, because Artur used to be in a gang that would rumble at soccer matches, for fun. The fun ended when Artur got popped and locked up. He has matured from that time but still holds on to elements of it, as when he comes to the ring wearing a red bandanna mask. Him and his fellow hooligans used to wear a similar mask to ward off being identified.

Today, the Pole is proud to serve as a role model, someone a hooligan who wants to wise up can pattern himself after. Proudly, he shares that others can know that they can follow his path, “This guy, he started like me. I can change my life.”

Szpilka talked about living an American Dream now, with, presumably, a climax to come when he wins Wilders' crown. Really, you mostly hear such American dreaming from persons born outside the country and I appreciate it. We here are often desensitized to the opportunities afforded to us, and lack an appreciation for some of the nations' selling points.

Me, I think Wilder is too long and strong for Szpilka. But one never knows until one knows…and I like the impetus pushing the Pole, so yes, I will look beyond the flags, and appreciate the storyline if Szpilka on Saturday “changes his life.”

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Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.