Friday, March 28, 2008

Dark Trade

I went to a professional boxing match the other week. It reminded me of the other side of the sport, the side I choose to ignore. Unlike Guatemala and Honduras, Costa Rica is the first country I've been to that allows professional ranks, and you can feel the difference. You can see how much of it is controlled by money and power, how the sport gets lost in the glamour and glitz. Just standing in line you can see the arrival of luxury car after luxury car, entourages of muscle-bound men chuckling at their lewd objectification of women, flocks of old rich foreigners interlocking fingers with young Costa Rican girls, basically everything gone wrong with the country come to fruition.

It is here I am reminded that most observers of the fistic trade are not watching for the sport, but because they placed a hefty wager on the betting line. It is here I realize that I've been babying the sport, believing that every aspect of it was somehow socially conscious, that is didn't bring something ugly out of us. Strangely enough, every fight ended in either a stoppage or disqualification. You should have seen the excitement in the crowd during the first knockout, hell even I felt my pulse rise at the sight of the blood on the canvas. We cheer for knockouts, we cheer for combat because it is a reflection of what we ourselves desire and our attraction to violence is manifested in that squared circle. Boxing is not violent, its the rest of us that are.

Somewhere along the line the sport loses something, turns hopes into work, dreamers into laborers, changes from a sport to a business and its not a business for the soft-hearted, not a place for people like me. A part of me died that night, a little of that naive enchantment that the sweet science was something pure, something that wasn't tainted in corruption, imbedded in sexism and virtually a trade of exploitation and violence. A little of the love wilted in the prescence of what the sport can change people into, what it can make us do, and at the realization that maybe the home I've always been able to find abroad was never really my home to begin with.

The rest of the night I kept shaking my head, telling myself that this wasn't the sport I fell in love with, that it was hiding somewhere underneath all the ugliness, but I can't believe my own lies. The sport is dirty and I can't deny that. I wanted to take a break from boxing after I went to that fight, but one of the only times I felt half-way decent was when I was working the heavy bag in Puerto Viejo. I am addicted to the sport. I need it. It is the only stable thing in my constantly shifting surroundings. There's no way I could go on without it, but coming back to it is strange, like returning to an unfaithful lover. Scents of betrayal still linger in the air; "its embrace weak with mistrust".

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