The cliché fighter is either the arrogant, grandiose, self-absorbed champion or the underachieving, sad sack whose life is filled with bad breaks. He (or now, she, thanks to Million Dollar Baby) is filled with out-of-the-ring demons. These clichés paint too narrow a picture of what boxing is really about.
I love boxing. Besides being a writer, I also work in the fight game as a judge and I’m still a gym rat who regularly gets in the ring. Boxing is in my blood. I spend a good percentage of my discretionary time in boxing gyms and very few, if any, boxers fit the cliché descriptions.
In my new book, The Vegas Knockout, my protagonist, Duffy Dombrowski, is anything but the cliché. Here’s why:
Duffy is a social worker fighter. Ninety-nine percent of professionals box as a second job.
Duffy has more than one dimension just like the real-life fighters I know. Fighting is not who he is, it is what he does.
If he takes a shot in the face, he feels it, unlike LaMotta or Balboa.
Boxing lets him forget about his demons just for the moments he is in the ring, not exorcise them.
Duffy is thoughtful, insightful and often lonely both in and out of the ring.
Boxing is about facing what’s scary and keeping on when it isn’t easy. He doesn’t win every fight.
Most fighters never get to fight for a title, and Duffy certainly doesn’t, but getting the opportunity to spar with a contender is almost as good.
Many times the expectation is for Duffy to lose a fight without looking too bad. In the boxing world that’s known as a professional opponent. You can make a decent living just losing and looking good.
Boxing isn’t always easy. Sometimes a fighter needs to find other ways to get some wins in life. Maybe that’s why Duffy sticks his nose in other people’s business and puts himself in harm’s way. Maybe he’s just evening the score, or maybe that’s just the way he is.