Furious fighting

Sunday, 2 December, 2018

After years in the sporting wilderness, the heavyweight boxing division is back. It’s now got three talented, ambitious and title-hungry contenders: Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. The latter two met earlier this morning in the Staples Center in Los Angeles and served up a compelling drama in 12 rounds. Fury won the boxing, Wilder landed the two knockdowns and the judges, a shady lot whenever the WBC is involved, scored the bout a dubious split-decision draw. As a result, Wilder retains his heavyweight title. That’s boxing. Outside the ring.

Inside the ring, the commitment of the main actors entertained Mike Coppinger of Ring Magazine: “All 6 feet 9 inches, 256 pounds of Fury collided with the ring mat with just minutes left in the final round. He didn’t move. Not one inch. One. Two. Three. Still no signs of life. Then he pulled a trick right out of The Undertaker’s playbook, and at the count of six, jumped up like a jack-in-the box. How did Fury possibly survive two flush shots from the most dangerous puncher in the sport?”

A rematch is on the cards and it should be held in London as it’s guaranteed to fill whatever house will host it. The Staples Center has a capacity of 21,000 but Wilder struggled to fill it. The Wembley Arena can accommodate 90,000 spectators and a Joshua-Wilder bout or a Wilder-Fury rematch would sell out in jig time. Bring it on.

Tyson Fury

WordPress goes Gutenberg

Sunday, 5 August, 2018

WordPress, the free and open-source content management system which powers Rainy Day, is developing a completely new editing experience called Gutenberg. Brian Jackson of Kinsta addressed its complexity in a recent post titled Diving Into the New Gutenberg WordPress Editor (Pros and Cons). It’s quite technical in places and if you don’t want to dive into the details, go straight to the comments. Some of them are priceless, and many of them indicate that Gutenberg has a long way to go before it’s really ready to roll. WordPress needs to get this right is the message coming through.


Billy Crystal goes 15 Rounds with Muhammad Ali

Sunday, 5 June, 2016 0 Comments

Next Friday, in Louisville, Kentucky, Billy Crystal will go 15 Rounds with Muhammad Ali, one last time. It should be a memorable eulogy.

“Ali, gloves to his heads, elbows to his ribs, stood and swayed and was rattled and banged and shaken like a grasshopper at the top of a reed when the wind whips, and the ropes shook and swung like sheets in a storm, and Foreman would lunge with his right at Ali’s chin and Ali go flying back out of reach by a half-inch, and half out of the ring, and back in to push at Foreman’s elbow and hug his own ribs and sway, and sway just further, and lean back and come forward from the ropes and slide off a punch and fall back into the ropes with all the calm of a man swinging in the rigging. All the while, he used his eyes. They looked like stars, and he feinted Foreman out with his eyes, flashing white eyeballs of panic he did not feel which pulled Foreman through into the trick of lurching after him on a wrong move.” — Norman Mailer, The Fight (1975)

The art and aristry of Muhammad Ali

Saturday, 4 June, 2016 0 Comments

“I’m the greatest, I’m a bad man, and I’m pretty!” — Muhammad Ali

The April 1968 Esquire cover of Muhammad Ali posing as the martyr Saint Sebastian was one of the most iconic images of the Sixties, combining the provocative issues of race, religion and war. This is one of the greatest magazine covers ever because it illustrates the boxer’s persecution for his beliefs in a way that is visually elegant and economical.

Ali Esquire

Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. on 17 January 1942. He died yesterday, 3 June 2016. He was The Greatest Of All Time.

“Women should protect their beautiful faces”

Friday, 27 May, 2016 0 Comments

Named after James Brown’s funky saxophone player, Maceo Parker, Maceo Frost grew up in Stockholm with a street-dancing father and skateboarding mother. “He found film-making at 11 and grew up never having to wonder what to do in life. Today he travels the world directing films and loves making people share their deepest secrets with the camera.” Maceo Frost’s portrait of Namibia Flores Rodriguez is superb.

By the way, supporters of socialist ideals should note that not all Cuban boxers are cherished equally — Namibia Flores Rodriguez is the island’s only female boxer.

Drezner vs. Khanna: KO

Thursday, 12 May, 2016 0 Comments

 CONNECTOGRAPHY: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization “Parag Khanna may well be the most connected man alive,” writes Daniel Drezner in his New York Times review of CONNECTOGRAPHY: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization. That flattering description of the author is followed immediately by this sentence: “‘Connectography’ represents Khanna’s latest effort to arbitrage his personal networking skills into a theory of geopolitics.” With this kind of praise, we are in Alexander Pope territory, where a compliment is so subtle that it amounts to no compliment at all, or even entails condemnation. The tactic of damning with faint praise was articulated in Roman times by Favorinus, but the expression comes from Alexander Pope’s Epistle to Doctor Arbuthnot (1733): “Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, and, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer.”

Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, does not rely on indirect criticism, however, of Khanna’s new book. His critique is of the candid kind and some of his observations are scathing. Example:

What is particularly odd is that Khanna believes he is evincing a savvy worldview and yet offers a utopian vision of connectivity’s effect on people. He insists that the forces of connection will overwhelm the forces of division. In the book’s most blasé sentence, Khanna argues that “the virtues of tolerance and coexistence will come to the Middle East through a combination of ‘to each his own’ cartographic remapping and supply chain interdependence.” I would gently suggest that there will be a very long and very violent stretch between the current Middle East and Khanna’s placid vision — and that it’s the bumpy part that is salient right now.

Then, right at the end, Drezner closes in and lands a devastating KO: “I wish that Khanna were right about the power of connectivity. The world would be a better place. I fear, however, that he does not know what he is talking about.”

Tomorrow, here, we’ll have a seven-question interview with Parag Khanna.

But the fighter still remains

Saturday, 2 May, 2015 0 Comments

Tonight, Floyd Mayweather will fight Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas. It’s an event so big that everybody is talking about it because the two are widely recognized as the best boxers in the world, and it is rare to have two all-time greats fighting in the same weight division at the same time.

Boxing is not a romantic affair, but its sometimes beautiful brutality can be inspiring. To quote Brian D’Ambrosio, “Boxing is the most extreme metaphor of personal liability — you enter the ring alone and compete the same way.”

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving.”
But the fighter still remains

Beautiful, Beguiling Violence

Friday, 1 May, 2015 0 Comments

Here is John Schulian writing about the Hagler-Hearns fight that took place on 15 April 1985 and which The Ring called “the most electrifying eight minutes ever.” This is good:

“As Bo Derek, Joan Rivers and a lot of TV stars who don’t deserve to have their names in print gaped and gawked, the champion woke up memories of dingy arenas where the air is solid cigar smoke, human flesh is the only thing anybody has to sell, and the showers never work. It can be a miserable business, this fight racket, and maybe Hearns forgot that with the kind of money he and Hagler were making. The price tags on this one said $5.6 million for the champion and $5.4 million for the challenger, and you can get your head turned around by a payday like that.”

Manny Pacquiao, who may earn as much as $120 million tomorrow night, is easier to like than Floyd Mayweather Jr. Explosive in the ring, he’s humble outside it, where he donates considerable amounts of his winnings to fighting poverty. “The social welfare system in the Philippines is called Manny Pacquiao,” quips boxing promoter Bob Arum. Pac-Man’s rise from poverty to fame, winning titles at eight different weights (a record), has given him deity-like stature among Filipinos, who have accepted the quirks — a fondness for drink and affairs — that nearly ended his career and his marriage before he found Christianity. Already a congressman from Sarangani province, he might become president of the Philippines someday. What’s not to like?

Ego fighter

Thursday, 30 April, 2015 0 Comments

Norman Mailer raised the bar high for those who write about boxing with the opening lines of King of the Hill, his take on the “Fight of the Century” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971. Snippet:

King of the HIll“It is the great word of the 20th Century. If there is a single word our century has added to the potentiality of language, it is ego. Everything we have done in this century, from monumental feats to nightmares of human destruction, has been a function of that extraordinary state of the psyche which gives us authority to declare we are sure of ourselves when we are not.

Ego is driving a point through to a conclusion you are obliged to reach without knowing too much about the ground you cross between. You suffer for a larger point. Every good prizefighter must have a large ego, then, because he is trying to demolish a man he doesn’t know too much about, he is unfeeling — which is the ground floor of the ego; and he is full of techniques — which are the wings of ego. What separates the noble ego of prizefighters from the lesser ego of authors is that the fighter goes through experiences in the ring which are occasionally immense, incommunicable except to fighters who have been as good, or to women who have gone through every minute of an anguish-filled birth, experiences which are finally mysterious.”

Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. has the ego thing. “All roads lead to Floyd Mayweather,” he’s fond of saying. He has filmed himself surrounded by heaps of dollars, and he likes to have $10,000 in cash in his pocket as walking-around money: “You never know when you might need a Brioni shirt.” As a child, he saw family members destroyed by drugs and he learned early on to look after Number One. HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley called Mayweather “an often aggressively distasteful human being whose behaviors are a blight on the boxing landscape.” In the ring, though, he is one of the great defensive specialists in boxing history, as his 47-0 record shows.

Action Bronson raps on Mayweather vs. Pacquiao

Wednesday, 29 April, 2015 0 Comments

His father is an Albanian immigrant and his mother is a Jewish New Yorker. Before embarking on a career as a rapper, Arian Arslani worked as a chef and had his own online cooking show titled “Action in the Kitchen“. Then, he broke his leg. Cuisine’s loss was rap’s gain and Arian Arslan reinvented himself as Action Bronson. With Floyd Mayweather Jr vs. Manny Pacquiao dominating the news cycle, even rappers have an opinion.

Nabokov on Goddard, and Wilde, and Beckett

Tuesday, 28 April, 2015 0 Comments

Before the anticipation of Mayweather-Pacquiao there was the historical fact of Breitensträter vs. Paolino. The date was 1 December 1925 and the venue was the Sports Palace in Berlin. The fighters were the German Hans Breitensträter and the Basque Paolino Uzcudun. Ringside among the 15,000 spectators was the young Vladimir Nabokov. His account of the bout was published as “Breitensträter–Paolino” on 28 and 29 December in the Latvian émigré journal Slovo. It is filled with delightful observations. This bit on Goddard, and Wilde, and Beckett, the boxers, is especially good:

“I have had the luck to see Smith, and Bombardier Wells, and Goddard, and Wilde, and Beckett, and the miraculous Carpentier who beat Beckett. That fight, which paid the winner five thousand, and the runner-up three thousand pounds, lasted exactly fifty-six seconds, so that someone who had paid twenty pounds for their seat had only enough time to light a cigarette, and when he looked up at the ring, Beckett was already lying on the boards in the touching pose of a sleeping baby.”

When the Times Literary Supplement published the first English translation of Nabokov’s “Breitensträter–Paolino” three years ago, Thomas Karshan, one of the translators, noted, “In our translation we have tried to do justice to Nabokov’s dashes, staccato or metaphysical, his commas, apprehensive or explosive, and his inversions, abstract or gutsy, all so important in a piece devoted to testing how far art can go in formalizing even those parts of life that might seem most resistant — even boxing, even blood and pain. We have also tried to catch those moments, so far from the oracular pronouncements of the opening, in which Nabokov mimics the brusque street-talk of the boxing fan or commentator, mixing his voice with the voices of the crowd — a democratic ventriloquism unique in his work.”