Sports column: Character traits make boxers unique athletes
Twenty years ago, a promising young boxer named Limmie Young headlined a card at the Vicksburg Convention Center. He was the grandson of legendary heavyweight champion Joe Louis, and trading on his name to help make his way up the ranks.
Young had had a solid amateur career and was 7-0 as a professional when he went up against a guy named Shannon Miller in the main event.
Miller, a Mississippi native who went on to have 91 fights in a 22-year career that lasted until 2018, knocked out Young in less than two minutes. It was a one-sided fight that would have had a place on worldstarhiphop.com if the site had existed back then.
Afterward, Young was pacing backstage in a mix of embarrassment, anger and astonishment. As I, a first-year sports reporter, cautiously approached him for an interview, he abruptly stopped, looked at me, and loudly said, “My (butt) got knocked OUT!”
Twenty years later, it remains one of the most honest things I’ve ever heard an athlete say, and is Exhibit A as to why I enjoy boxing.
Boxers, as well as their combat sport cousins in mixed martial arts, are fascinating individuals. They make their livelihood trying to injure their opponent — something every other sport and society at large frowns upon — yet rarely make it personal. It’s their business. Once the final bell rings, they’ll shake hands and chat amicably until the result is announced.
Fighters take a very cerebral and analytical approach to their violent sport. If you ask a fighter what happened in a bout, there’s never a “lucky punch” involved in victory or defeat. They can break down the exact mistake that left them or an opponent open for a decisive blow.
This weekend, boxing returns to Vicksburg for the first time in several years when Lady Luck Casino hosts its “Night of Champions II” card. Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door, and the card will include about a half-dozen bouts featuring a mix of local Mississippi fighters and those rising to national prominence.
As you’re watching, try to look just beyond the spectacle of two men beating each other up and appreciate the skill and courage it takes to step into the ring. Notice the sportsmanship and the analytical approach to their craft.
There’s nothing else like it in all of sports.
Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org