Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Boxing Match

Ali Over Liston by Neil Leifer

Growing up, I vividly recall seeing pictures of Muhammad Ali and thinking that he was the "baddest" man alive, as was befitting the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of The World; That title had strength behind it. Every kid on the block imagined being a heavyweight boxing champ.  Even the small dudes.

Ali introduced me to the sport and I was hooked. 

I was also a big comic book fan and loved the exploits of all the classic superheroes and especially Superman. Again, every boy on the block wanted to be him.  Imagine my awe when the Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali oversized book was announced and primed for release!

I remember imagining the arrangements of such a fight.

How would Ali be able to take on Superman's strength?

Would Ali get granted super strength and would this be some super fight in a special arena that could take a mega brawl? 

How would Superman suddenly have the boxing skills needed?

Would Superman wear red trunks with blue trim and a yellow central piece on his waistband?  I was really thinking about this too much. 

When the book hit the streets, there was a full on promotional blitz and it was really a lot of fun.  Neil Adams drew the masterpiece of a banging collision of worlds. 

Though the little details were lost here and there and Superman was wearing a costume and cape in the fight (huh?), it blew my mind.

Art from Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

  (Spoiler Alert)

When it came to the fighters going at it, I liked the setup that led to Superman facing Ali but the fight only lasted two rounds (technically, the second round had to be a "super round" that lasted forever.  I know Superman isn't a boxer by any stretch of the imagination but I would have thought perhaps he could have lasted until the third!  Having your opponent train you, as Ali proclaims in the comic that Boxing is the "Sweet Science" and he is the "professor," well, would you teach your student, that you are about to square off with, how to fight? 

 It was a pretty brutal match with Ali handing Superman the beating of his life.  

I still go back to that comic as an example of some great artwork. The visuals left a mark on me.  As mentioned, Neal Adams did a stellar job and it was such a mash up of so many things I loved at the time.  The fueling of the imagination was complete and Neil set an artistic standard that really spoiled me until someone like John Byrne came around.

Back in the real world...

It also cemented my attraction to boxing.

I can say, the part that really resonated was the idea of getting in the ring and facing your opponent one-on-one.  You against another and fighting as an individual on your own two feet.  You have your team behind you but the crucial moment under the lights belongs to you and your ability to outwit and defeat your opponent with all that you have learned up to that point. 

The strategy, skill and courage that it took, that really connected with me.  

Boxing was still featured in the newspapers when I was a kid and it was always exciting to hear about the Golden Gloves and to watch as the best local fighters advanced through the different classes to the finals. I remember when one of the local newspapers would support the fights.  This was the event of the year when it came to amateur boxing in the city.  Those days may be long past but the memories still come roaring back when I head down memory lane.  It seems like yesterday sometimes.

The 80's were an awesome time for boxing memories in my mind.  Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard and so many more.  It was a great time to be a boxing fan with so many quality fighters out there.  Again,  a period of time when the classic fights of Alexis Arguello were burned into my brain.  His epic fights with Aaron "The Hawk" Pryor were viciously frightening in how they ended.

Wow.  I still remember them unfolding as I watched and teetered on the edge of my seat.  Those two men were warriors.

Boxing visuals still capture my imagination and inspire quite a few of my designs.  I decided to launch this blog that pays tribute to boxing in art all across the board. Whether it be movies, posters, adverts, books, paintings music - anything I come across online is perfect to talk about here.

For many, boxing seems old school as MMA fights seem to get all the attention now.  For me, I still appreciate fights that involve two opponents staying on their feet, moving around the ring and using the wits to engage each other in battle.  It can't ever be replaced even though all combat sports are a spectacle to watch. 

As a tribute to the sport that still captures my brain, this blog is officially launched. 

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