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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Ineffective Aggression

Aggression seems to be a defining characteristic of the modern United States. Today in America, you can get yelled at for wearing a mask in a crowded indoor venue, or you could receive a judgmental glare for not wearing a mask while attempting to enjoy some fresh air and solitude. The person yelling or glaring at you most likely cares not a whit for the scientific expertise of any notable independent virologists. And if, for some reason, a boxing judge scored your interaction, especially one from Texas, you would almost certainly receive nine points for the round regardless of any salient counterpoints you may have made.

Too often nuance is disregarded in favor of brute force these days. In the ring, merely throwing punches irrespective of whether your forays land can be enough to convince a judge you've made an articulate case to win the round. Loudmouths fill our screens and grab our attention far more than calculated examinations of policy or pugilism.

This is the context in which Yuri Foreman attempts his comeback. A former world champion and the greatest Jewish boxer of his his generation, Foreman is a ballet dancer in the ring, gracefully improvising in timely fashion. Instead of pliƩs, he punches. But he glides on his toes just the same.

The question is not whether, at 40, Yuri is too old to make noise in the 154 pound division. His skills, speed, and stamina remain intact. The question is whether the game has passed him by. He is James Baldwin, and boxing is Sean Hannity. Yuri's style requires a literary eye for the intricacies and subtleties that distinguish clean punching from ineffective aggression. Simply because an opponent is moving forward in a fight does not mean he isn't suffering for his ambition.

Foreman is 25-0 in fights that reach the final bell. Twenty four of those decisions came in 2015 or earlier. In his first fight in nearly four years, Foreman outboxed Jeremy Ramos over eight rounds. In an ominous omen, the Kentucky judges, channeling their Texas brethren, impossibly scored the bout a split decision. Two judges misunderstood their task and declared the comeback kid a winner by two measly points. The third astonishingly believed Ramos deserved a majority of the rounds.

I remember visiting a  friend of mine several years ago and trying to impress him with my musical taste. While sitting in the passenger seat of his car, I pretentiously popped in a Coltrane CD. After listening for a few minutes, my friend pressed the button to change the track. "I can't take any more of that horn," he declared. I'm no music expert, but my friend showed the same mindset it takes for a judge to score that fight for Ramos over Foreman last December.

Yuri's other job is a rabbi. A successful rabbi, of course, must be philosophical and thoughtful. They must listen and examine. When they speak, it is usually from a place of intense consideration. Most rabbis don't spew political catchphrases from the small end of a bullhorn. They wrestle with nuance. Yuri's rabbinical work and his form of boxing go hand-in-hand.

The beauty of Rabbi Foreman's  hit-and-don't-get-hit style of boxing is going the way of intelligent good-faith debate in the United States. In boxing, wild swings that end on elbows are given more credence than a well-timed jab that snaps in a scoring position. This shift will only serve to hurt the sport just as the lack of informed political conversation will weaken American democracy.

If we glorify ineffective aggression in boxing or political discourse, we begin to mistake fiction for fact. Whether it's determining if a punch landed or understanding the potency of covid-19 or determining exactly what happened on January 6 at the Capitol, some of us have lost the ability to do just that, separate fact from fiction. For the sake of Yuri Foreman's comeback, and the rest of us, let's hope more and more folks can tell the difference.

1 comment:

  1. ...I wish him well..not me getting hit,,but I think he should reconsider dropping to 147 at his age and after a career at 154. and becoming a vegan...Anyone who doesn't dig Trane doesn't dig boxing.