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Why, Glen Sharp, Do A Story On A 71-76-5 Fighter?

Michael Woods

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The life arc of Teddy “Red Top” Davis impacted author Glen Sharp, to the point the writer spent oodles of hours poring over old newspaper clips, scouring data-bases and generally going far and away above and beyond what an editor could expect from the purse being offered. 

Did you read the piece? If you didn’t, click here, and get into it. You will see, I think, that the West Sacramento, California resident did a deft and subtle job with the material.

This was not a Mike Tyson-style outing by the writer, he didn’t try to overwhelm the reader, with super aggressive offense. This wasn’t a Roy Jones sort of style employed by Sharp, either, he didn’t seek to impress the reader with dazzling footwork (wordsmithery), so that you might read the story and be marveling at the majestic virtuosity of the author. A Tyson or Jones type of writer would not have been able to craft something like Sharp did, because the focus didn’t drift from the topic and subjects.

What fighter comes to mind when you are asked to name someone who gets the job done without excess flash, obvious humility and because they have their fundamentals on lock-down? Name that guy, or gal…and that’s who you can compare the writer to when you read Glen’s latest effort for NY Fights. 

Glen’s Sept. 8 post stuck with me, and I wanted more. So, I will tell you what I did. I reached out to Glen, and asked him if he knew whether Rudolph Bishop died. If he didn’t, would he be OK with me taking a poke to see if I could figure that out?

Glen said sure, knock yourself out. And I poked around some, one night, then late the next night.

But despite doing archival hop-scotch, I didn’t find anything on Bishop’s death. I bet I will circle back and try again. 

But in that meantime, I still mulled. So I asked Glen if he’d be open to answering some questions from me.

I felt like Glen wanted NY Fights visitors to read the story and interpret as they saw fit, not as he demanded. That sort of treatment isn’t, if you’ve noticed, that prevalent in this era.

Hot takes proliferate. Subtlety is not encouraged, so craftsmen and women edge forward, offering more bombast, pushing the line further and further away from a middle ground, where a version of consensus might be found…because negativity and judgment stand out, and gain more attention than the alternatives.

I like to think a pushback will form, and more folks will recognize that we best be cognizant of the detrimental effects of the hot take syndrome. If not?

Then the percentage of people who think the online retailer Wayfair sells high-priced cabinets that cost so much because they have kidnapped children hidden inside them grows. 

If more of us don’t reckon with the diminishment of standards of interpreting “news” reportage, then the ranks of people who believe Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros are Satan-worshiping pedophiles who take aim at Donald Trump because Trump is seeking to crack a global pedo ring will mushroom. 

Thanks to Mr. Sharp, for taking that extra time, and answering my questions.

Q) I don’t want to take a stab at interpreting your motives and thought processing, but I’d like to share some of that with readers. The life arc of Red Top impacted you enough to move forward with this story. Are you able to share some on WHY you think that is the case? 

A) I am not that interested in watching every fight that’s available anymore, but I am interested in the people who comprise the boxing world, which is a unique place. Gyms are, or at least used to be, one of the more democratic places in life. Where else could a completely green kid straight out of the cornfields of Illinois be training with world class athletes? I was still learning how to throw a hook when I worked out on a heavy bag next to Stan Ward, who was a top-ten heavyweight. I was shadowboxing in the same ring as Pete Ranzany, who had just fought for the world championship. The world could learn a lot, sociologically speaking, by observing boxing gyms. 

 The earlier days hold particular interest for me, which is how I know I’m getting old. I would like to write about boxing connections from when I was coming up, in the central California area. With Teddy Davis, the six degrees of separation philosophy was invoked, because I was originally looking into West Sacramento lightweight contender Joey Lopes when I came across the news article about Davis. 

As I wrote in my story, I became interested about a humorous incident, but as I was investigating the details of what had happened, I saw this had larger repercussions. I wrote a little story about something that really could become the center of a book discussing a segment of American history. The deeper I looked, the more interesting it became. So, in the end, I might have written about a boxer, but what I wrote was not about boxing at all.

 Q) The “loser’s corner” arguably often has a more intriguing storyline to share than the winner’s corner, yes? But not everyone sees it that way…What percentage of the masses do YOU think agree with the theory that the better stories are found from the mouths of the guys with the won-loss records of a Teddy Davis?

 A) Again, this might reflect my age, but I think society today, for the most part, is interested in those who are successful at the moment, those who won the game or the fight, and don’t want to consider the tragic nature of life, which existentially is what loss represents. To me, the world is a tragic place, and I’m always looking for the tragic dimension of peoples’ lives. That dimension quickly became apparent when I began looking into Teddy Davis’s life.

Q) To me, this question is not just there to be asked to indulge idle curiosity….It speaks to who we the people are. I think most people are more ENTERTAINED by stories about winners and winning, yes? But do we learn more, or less, from focusing on the winning side? And has the ratio changed in your lifetime? Do you think people “over” focus on “winning” material, and don’t often enough seek out the bigger picture, which includes the people who didn’t win? 

A) The line of questions you are asking is the basis of whatever reasoning went into me becoming a writer. People are entertained by winning, and by winners, but you don’t learn anything from winning. You don’t gain wisdom. Wisdom comes through suffering, and suffering is a function of experiencing tragedy.

No psychologically healthy person wants to hurt, but the world wants us to know pain. As we make our way into the world, to make our mark in the world, the world will have its way. This is the fundamental basis of tragedy. It is understandable to turn away from this reality, to try hiding from the tragedies that await us, but that hiding stunts our growth in terms of wisdom and the development of our consciousness. 

This is why boxing, and boxers, are so beautiful. They walk directly into the fire. Boxing is tragic from multiple perspectives, a primary one being that the practice of the boxing arts destroys the artist. The tragedies can become more metaphorical and abstract after that, and expand beyond the ring itself, but the primary tragedy is literal and physical.

Boxers function as poets in this physical dimension. They stand before the tragic energy of life and say, “Here I am, do with me as you will.” What is ultimately so compelling about a boxing match is not the contest between two boxers, but the struggle of the boxers with themselves. That internal encounter is from where the tragedies arise. Aristotle wrote about the tragedies of his time being cathartic experiences for the public. Boxers perform that duty, in a sense, for a contemporary audience. 

Q) For me, these questions I pose to you tie in to who we are as a people. More specifically, we see that tens of millions of Americans still, apparently, side with a commander in chief who clearly lacks empathy. He has made clear that he looks down on people who, for example, were captured in battle. I may be reading into your choosing to dig down on the life and times of Davis too much…but am I off base here, that your choice of topic in this story was perhaps influenced considerably by the times we are living in?

 A) What you are asking about absolutely ties into the existential nature of humanity. Into what we are as human beings. I have spent the majority of my adult life developing the philosophy I am rattling on about here, and the current president has had no effect upon the way I look at life, or think about life. The times I have lived in certainly affected my thinking, but that time is the last half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st, and nothing more immediate than that.

I will say, though, that the current president’s fixation on the idea of “winning,” and of classifying people as either winners or losers, is representative of a natural human inclination to hide from the tragic dimension of life. But in that hiding, we choose to fall short of our potential. I would say this is a matter of society as a whole, and not any single politician. What the current president does, though, more than any other politician I have seen, is to celebrate the hiding from our tragic reality, to celebrate the falling short of our potential. He gives his followers permission to fall short, as though it is something to be proud of.

 You and I are thinking along the same lines, but what we see as lacking in us as people is not curable with a vote. It is not going to change regardless of who wins the election this fall. My interest in Teddy Davis’s life is a function of my interest in tragedy, which is something society only wants to look at from a distance.

I think contemporary society not only wants its tragedy at a distance, it wants it caged, like animals in a zoo. Being overly concerned with our psychological comfort and safety, it becomes more difficult for us to develop the humility that comes with being touched by tragedy. We are not a humble people, and Sophocles has warned us about the tragic dangers of lacking humility. 

 Q)  You do a fine job presenting material, and leaving it there, so the reader can draw their own conclusions. Bravo…But now I put you on the spot, and ask explicitly…After spending all that time digging in to the Davis and Bishop lives and times, I am thinking this research played out over several months….Did you come away having learned a lesson or lessons, about living, about life in a smaller city, about how one’s BoxRec won-loss tally doesn’t begin to even hint at what the owner of that record was all about?

A) I grew up in a fairly small midwestern town, so I have an idea of what life is like in Zanesville. I didn’t grow up on a Lee Street, though, so I have never had to struggle in life at that level. 

 Thank you for the compliment, but I didn’t have much choice in how I presented this material, because what I could find was so incomplete. This incompleteness is the beginning of the answer to your final question, though. You look at Teddy Davis’s record, 71 wins and 75 losses, or whatever it is, and you could easily dismiss Davis and say he wasn’t much of a boxer. 

But someone who understands boxing can look at that record, when and where the fights occurred, and piece together a more complete idea of the kind of fighter Davis was. A lot of those fights, he knew he wasn’t going to win going into them. Davis was involved with some shady people, his manager Salow for one, and you know there is more to the story than just the record.

That thought applies to Davis’s whole life, too, and to all of our lives. There is much more to the story of someone’s life than the facts that are known about that life. We can’t know all the facts, so we can’t know the whole story. 

There is a boatload more I would like to know about Teddy Davis, but that’s a want that is never going to be satisfied. Davis is dead, and everyone who knew him is probably dead, too. So, we are left with the kind of story I tried to write about him. 

 

–Sharp is an author. Hear his voice here (23:44 mark) from his hit on the Everlast “Talkbox” podcast. Read his book “Punching From the Shadows: Memoir of a Minor League Professional Boxer” after you click here to order it.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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