FOR every winner there is a loser, and for every loser there is a lesson. Within every lesson, meanwhile, there is a reminder that great fighters rise up from the debris and that much of boxing’s appeal is rooted in the compelling nature of its defeats. As Joyce Carol Oates put it, “Boxing is about failure far more than it is about success.”
A loss can happen quickly or it can be prolonged like torture. It can be incredibly painful or it can be so swift it reduces the experience to something as blissful as an impromptu mid-afternoon nap. It can be embarrassing. It can be empowering. It can expose limitations and it can expose torsos, stripping a boxer of what was once around their waist. It can be unexpected and it can be greeted by silence. It can, if you’re a journeyman accustomed to losing, be just another night’s work, not far off an art form.
There are numerous ways to lose in the boxing ring and the sight of a boxer losing is so commonplace we often only think of it as the ying to the winner’s yang. The cover image of the victor, wrapped in gold, stood in the middle of the ring posing for photographers before commenting on action replays, counterbalanced by an unseen image of the loser, for whom replays exist not on television but in their mind as nightmares, exiting the ring and solemnly traipsing backstage.