Deontay Wilder and his battle with truth and nostalgia

“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.” 
 Virginia Woolf

In a world of fake news, to which all facts become refutable, where opinion matters more than truth and being right is a state of mind rather than a resolved conclusion, it becomes ever harder to remain objective in our summation of fighters. Fighters like Deontay Wilder. These modern ills encourage closed thinking, nostalgia for times passed and the methods and ways that made them.

To crave that past is natural, to canonise those who loomed large within it likewise, but it is a flawed benchmark with which to measure those who swim in their wake. It is a story as prevalent in boxing as any other facet of life. The hurricane of content we are subjected to in the age of social media does tug at the anchor points of these beliefs but amid the din of those gales, we can all be guilty of becoming extremist in our view in order to be heard, clinging ever more tightly to the rigidity of our thinking.

In a world that moves fast there is a comfort and a certainty in being this intransigent. Like most things in life, whether between the sides of an argument between pre-school siblings or the left and right of the political debate, the truth, as far as any position possesses that virtuous moniker, is usually found in the middle, the compromise between the two perspectives.

It was with interest that I read Laurence Thompson piece on Deontay Wilder, and his apparent nemesis Tyson Fury, at FightCity. Much like the lemony zest of the wipe at the end of a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket, it proved a cleansing read and entirely more satisfying than the meal, of Wilder’s career, that preceded it. Being reminded of a historic perspective I’d held and let slip as I too bid to defect from the manifesto of the past – that it was better in the old days – in order to appreciate the time I’m now in, was a welcome reprieve.

I’d encourage boxing fans to click through to Laurence’s chlorination of the cheap meat Wilder actually is. To do so, is to be refreshed sufficiently to see the giant American for what he remains – an awkward athlete who can hurt you – but one without the tools or record to deserve even passing comparison with those punchers of yore with whom analysts and salesman have been all too eager to pair him with.

The stripping away of the fabrication of his pedigree shouldn’t detract from the intrigue and excitement associated with the Tyson Fury rematch. As I’ve written before, greatness is found in equality not in dominance. Without Frazier and Norton, Foreman, Lyle and others than the legend of Muhammad Ali could not be writ large. Without the requisite challenges and competition the records of Calzaghe, Klitschko and others in the modern age are subject to cynicism and scorn.

No matter where Fury, Wilder and Joshua settle in the pantheon of heavyweight greats when all is done and the last bell has rung, it remains a quest they can never really fulfil for themselves nor control. They can never lay a glove on those who came before them or those who will follow in their steps. Only the pursuit of supremacy, within their own triumvirate and time, is within their control and we should applaud Tyson and Deontay for their willingness to try.

And the entertainment their adventure will provide.

Please click through to the FightCity article which inspired my reflection.


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