- Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 July 2015 15:33
- Published: Sunday, 12 July 2015 12:39
- Written by David Moxon
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The move from the institutionalised certainty of school into the increasingly uncertain world of work has become a problematic one for many young people in BaumanвАЩs world of liquid modernity. This is heightened for those working-class kids who are largely denied the traditional routes into adulthood of preceding generations. It is even more acute in a post-industrial northern English town struggling to reinvent itself in the face of over three decades of industrial decay. Like almost all young adults in their late teens and early twenties, Danny, at 19, remained living with his parents in their home on a former council estate. The estate had been constructed on the fringes of the town in the 1950s in order to provide new housing for those dwelling in cramped and bomb-damaged conditions in the inner city. It also provided employment for the wartime heroes who returned from the battlefield to the austere Britain of the late 1940's and '50s.
вАЬ'Flexibility' is the slogan of the day, and when applied to the labour market it augurs an end to the 'job as we know it', announcing instead the advent of work on short-term contracts, rolling contracts or no contracts, positions with no in-built security but with the 'until further notice' clause. Working life is saturated with uncertainty.вАЭ (Bauman 2000: 147)
IN THE BEGINNING
At first, Danny felt like one of the lucky ones. Having completed a work experience placement with a local tradesman, he was offered an apprenticeship upon leaving school. This saw him instantly employed, learning a trade on the job and attending college on day release. However, the college course was proving tough. Concerned that he would fail a key part of the course, Danny relayed his concerns to his boss. He was somewhat taken aback when his boss immediately said that they should go their separate ways.
That was literally the same day, and I thought bloody hell, I thought he might have given me a bit of leeway.
At a low point, facing up to a lack of funds and a need to be doing something during the long days, Danny and a fellow unemployed friend - his gym buddy - made the decision to change their gym of choice.
He says вАШwhy donвАЩt we join, instead of this crap, this rubbish gym, go and join a boxing gym... something to do, let off some steam, and you know itвАЩs cheaper, two quid a session, three quid a sessionвАЩ. I thought, well fair enough... we just joined because it was cheaper and thereвАЩs weights and free weights and everything that weвАЩre doing, but you can get it for three quid not thirty quid.
IN THE GYM
вАЬEdgework represents a sometimes spontaneous search for a dramatic self within a world of alienation [...]. Being on the edge, or over it - beyond reason and in passion - is momentarily to grasp a spiritual and romantic utopia.вАЭ (Collison 1996: 435)
It turned out that passing time and blowing off steam in a well-known local boxing gym had incidental advantages, for it served as an informal labour exchange of sorts. Before too long, Danny was gainfully employed once again. A fellow gym user asked both Danny and his gym buddy to join him working on the scaffolding of industrial buildings.This was tough work, involving being away from home Monday to Friday, earning around two hundred pounds per week, but Danny was not in a position to say no.
While working in another grim, post-industrial northern town, the scaffolder enquired as to DannyвАЩs boxing experience, and introduced him to the concept of вАШgradingsвАЩ. Gradings are bouts with fellow members of the gym that take place to ascertain the standard of each fighter. This then allows fair fights to be arranged with members of other gyms. Accompanied by his gym buddy, Danny went to take a look at how they worked.
So...we went down, and to be fair I was nervous. I were thinking, bloody hell, IвАЩm not used to these sort of places like, you know what I mean, watching kids belt ten bells out of each other. It sounds weird but... seeing a kid who wins, and heвАЩs buzzing, and you think, I wonder what that feels like, you know, and I just thought, I wouldnвАЩt mind having a go.
Well, my first one was shocking, I didnвАЩt know what I was doing, windmilling about... just not boxing at all. HeвАЩs saying... вАШmove your feetвАЩ, and IвАЩm thinking [the] last thing I want to do is listen to anybody, IвАЩll look after myself and thatвАЩs that! I got through it, and to be fair, he says it werenвАЩt pretty but you got through it, and you won it like. I was still shaking and allsorts after, I werenвАЩt really listening to what he was saying. But, as time went on, I started getting into it a little bit more, and me mate did and all. He had five or six, he might have two a week, you know. I know in one week he had two at least, and he won em both and he was getting a real buzz for it.
DannyвАЩs gym buddy was especially keen to take things further. In conversation with the scaffolder, he discussed his desire to fight without headgear. However, as amateurs this was not possible. Unless, the scaffolder told them, they went вАШunlicensedвАЩ. Such a bout would bring a financial reward too, and this made it an attractive prospect for Danny who was beginning to struggle under mounting pressures. The money from his new job was not going very far. His parents needed their board money, and his dad was paying his 'phone bill. His friends were in the process of arranging a holiday. But the loss of the stability that his previous employment had once provided was also playing on his mind.
I was a quiet kid doing me apprenticeship, getting through things... then I changed in the space of half a year to somebody who was a totally different person. I didnвАЩt notice it at the time. Mi mum used to say to me, вАШwhatвАЩs up with you, why are you so aggressive?вАЩ. TheyвАЩd ask me вАШhowвАЩs your day beenвАЩ and IвАЩd snap at em and say вАШwhatвАЩs with all the questions?вАЩ. [The] last thing you wanna do is talk about it. And it was easier to not say anything, grab mi bag full of gloves and boots and just go boxing and let off some steam. I just thought to meself, in the end, sod it, IвАЩll have a go with it.
The process of getting to the bare-knuckle bout was surprisingly simple. The scaffolder looked after all the arrangements, though it was not completely clear just what his links to the scene were.
I never asked, because he was one of them where... you felt like if you asked him something that he didnвАЩt want to answer, you felt really uncomfortable. I thought he was deep into it because, they [other gym members] always used to nod their head to him, but they never used to speak to him. There were a couple of older blokes, middle 30s, something like that, and theyвАЩd come over and theyвАЩd talk, in tвАЩlockers like, but theyвАЩd stop talking when you came in. TheyвАЩd walk out so it didnвАЩt look suspicious, but it were too suspicious. You knew something was going on.
DannyвАЩs bout was scheduled for a Tuesday night. As he was working away he didnвАЩt need to tell his parents. If they questioned where the money had come from on his return, he would simply tell them that heвАЩd вАШhad a good weekвАЩ. On the day of the bout nerves soon set in. Danny couldnвАЩt concentrate or eat, and he was sick twice before setting off from work with his gym buddy, who was also fighting, and the scaffolder, who was accompanying them. His pleas that he wanted to pull out were ignored, and they soon arrived at the venue, a large вАШestate pubвАЩ in yet another grey northern town that had fallen on hard times.
There were cars outside... and there were people sat outside, drinking, with kids, and we were like, вАШthis isnвАЩt rightвАЩ, do you know what I mean?
The lads were taken round the back of the pub and down into the cellar.
It was massive. IвАЩve never been under a pub, so I thought вАШwhere are we going here?вАЩ So I let them go first, and IвАЩll be honest I stood for a minute and I thought вАШshall I just leg it?вАЩ [laughs]. Do you know like, what am I gonna do? Oh, I honestly felt like bursting into tears, I felt like IвАЩve made a right bollock here. But anyway, I went downstairs...
IN THE вАШRINGвАЩ
вАЬThis was a life motivated by the individualвАЩs perception of a constant struggle with hostile others in a dog-eat-dog world, a вАШwar of all against allвАЩ in a Hobbesian state of natureвАЭ. (Hall, Winlow and Ancrum 2008: 192)
The beer barrels and crates in the cellar had been arranged two high, into a вАШringвАЩ of sorts. The floor was covered in sawdust, with spare bags stacked in the corner of the room. There was around a couple of hundred people in the cellar, вАШscreaming, shouting... bottles smashing against stuffвАЩ.
I looked across and there were loads of kids, bald heads, one with an eye missing... they were horrible, honestly, horrible, horrible people, and I thought some of these are here just to hurt, to seriously hurt people. And thereвАЩs blokes with big, big gold chains on and bracelets, and big long coats. Yeah, you donвАЩt think itвАЩs real, youвАЩre thinking somebodyвАЩs gonna start laughing or yell вАШcutвАЩ in a minute or something like that, you know.
The scaffolder told Danny he would be on in about half an hour. He went over to the table to find out who DannyвАЩs opponent was.
Anyway, he says youвАЩre fighting him over there. I looked at him and I thought to be fair... if I couldвАЩve picked one, itвАЩd have been him. He saw me clock eyes. It were a weird face he pulled but it was one of those... he basically thought itвАЩs either you or me sort of thing, do you know what I mean?
At this point it transpired that DannyвАЩs gym buddyвАЩs opponent had not turned up. Gym buddy still collected his money, however. Meanwhile, the scaffolder had left the two lads to fend for themselves whilst he renewed acquaintance with various characters.
The kid who brought us just fucked off with everyone else, so itвАЩs obvious heвАЩs done it before because he were shaking peopleвАЩs hands. I never really asked but I donвАЩt know if it were for how many lads you bring you get a cut. But anyway it got to like 10 or 15 minutes before and he said вАШyouвАЩve got to start getting readyвАЩ, so I got me bag, sat down in this horrible little corner, and this ladвАЩs looking over who checks you. I got tвАЩ gloves out and he says вАШput them awayвАЩ. So I says вАШwhat do you meanвАЩ, and he says вАШput your gloves awayвАЩ, so I says вАШwhy?вАЩ. And IвАЩd not clicked on, IвАЩd walked past fights and IвАЩd not clicked on... it were only your wraps that you wore, you didnвАЩt wear your gloves. So he says, вАШdonвАЩt get your boxing gear out otherwise theyвАЩll know you can handle yourself... your moneyвАЩll go down, theyвАЩll know [you have boxed before], or they might put you with somebody else and you might get a right beatingвАЩ.
Thus, Danny had to wear the trainers and tracksuit bottoms he had travelled in.
The fight prior to DannyвАЩs got stopped, the blood was swept up, the barrels moved aside, and in walked Danny. The вАШrefereeвАЩ, вАШa bloke in a jacketвАЩ, requested that there be no biting, eye gouging or scratching, but anything else was apparently permissible.
I asked a question. I says вАШwhat about on tвАЩfloorвАЩ, and he just went вАШget on with itвАЩ. That was his reply.
Then, after being spat on twice by somebody in the crowd, the time had come.
When you hear him say вАШ fight onвАЩ, you just hear uproar, and to be fair I donвАЩt know what he brought but there were a few on his side like, shouting, bawling. Anyway, nothing really happened for two, three minutes, a few punches got thrown, and then he hit me, a decent shot, it bust me lip, I could feel it straight away, you know when you taste blood in your mouth. I thought to meself, IвАЩm not having that, this is it, and I clinched him at first and I got hold of him, and everyone went ballistic. In boxing, youвАЩre allowed to hold, you know, well youвАЩre not allowed but you do, and I clinched him and I were uppercutting him and like obviously itвАЩs wrong cause I were holding his head, but he never said owt about it so I were like, [to referee] вАШyou never said owt about thatвАЩ. As IвАЩm talking to him heвАЩs come across and hit me again and heвАЩs put me down, and heвАЩs like knocked me down, good shot, on the blind side but he did me. My own fault. And he never come and did me on tвАЩfloor, so heвАЩs counting, and I get up, I were virtually in tears, and [gym buddyвАЩs] saying you can do him, you can do him, IвАЩm thinking I canвАЩt, I canвАЩt do him.
This kid, I donвАЩt know who he were, just a bloke, dregs of his pint, threw it in [the opponentвАЩs] face, a pint, like an inch of pint, so IвАЩm thinking, is he on my side now or what, like whatвАЩs happening, you know. [The opponent] kicked off and went to him... barrels fell over, [everyoneвАЩs] pushed barrels back on, and heвАЩs come over and heвАЩs like, IвАЩm just gonna have to take it out on you then.
We were dancing about again, and I thought oh fuck it, and just waded straight in and you know, IвАЩve not thrown many punches clean, you know, in boxing, but when you hit somebody virtually bare-fisted and youвАЩve knocked em out, you know, it doesnвАЩt even feel like youвАЩve hit em. And heвАЩd gone, but I were that scared and that worried, IвАЩd hit him about three times and heвАЩs gone, and then I carried on, and his head were just bouncing off me fists. And heвАЩd gone to his knees, and I were smashing him in the back of tвАЩhead, front of tвАЩhead. My adrenalin then, you couldвАЩve thrown anybody in and IвАЩd have had a fight with anybody. Do you know what I mean, it got to the stage where I thought sod it... I know it sounds stupid, I donвАЩt like fighting, but... when youвАЩre there and youвАЩre in it then your adrenalin is ridiculous. HeвАЩd gone, heвАЩd totally gone, and I had tears in my eyes, I were hitting him and in tвАЩend [gym buddy] came over, heвАЩs pulling me back. Ref had done nothing... until heвАЩd laid down... he were leant, referee, with a whisky. Leant with a whisky!
I wanted to pick him up, I tried picking him up. I had murky white wraps on, and they were just full of claret, me arms were full of claret. And I was shaking, and I wanted to pick him up and help him... I couldnвАЩt, he wouldnвАЩt let me. And then [the scaffolder] says... вАШyouвАЩve done it, youвАЩve done it, youвАЩve won, youвАЩve wonвАЩ. And I says, вАШI feel sick, get me stuff, can we go?вАЩ. And he says вАШyou canвАЩt, youвАЩve got to wait till itвАЩs over to get your moneyвАЩ.
I went outside, I couldnвАЩt stomach it. And all I wanted to do... IвАЩll be honest, phone me mum and dad, just to confess to what IвАЩd done and cry me eyes out. Cos I couldnвАЩt go home after, I had to go back to work.
Eventually a man (вАШhe looked like, er, that darts player, Bobby George...medallions... big coat onвАЩ) emerged from the cellar with DannyвАЩs money in an envelope.
He says вАШwell done, well done young unвАЩ. I shook his hand, I were shaking, and he says, вАШcalm down, itвАЩs over, itвАЩs overвАЩ, he says вАШyou never have to see us again if you donвАЩt wantвАЩ.
Danny was paid ¬£400 for the fight. As planned, he told his mum it was a bonus from work when he returned home at the end of the week. Danny enjoyed having the extra money for the short time it lasted, and he used it to put down a deposit on the holiday with his friends.
Meanwhile, back at work, the scaffolder was engaged on other duties and so saw little of Danny and his gym buddy. He seemed less than keen to talk on the occasions when they were in each othersвАЩ company. Neither did he seem to be around the gym any more, at least when Danny was there. Danny suspects that the scaffolder had bet on him to lose, and had suggested to others that they do the same.
[He seemed to] hang about... we never saw him get in tвАЩ ring, you never saw him spar, you just saw him stand at tвАЩ side... never bust a sweat. So it were a meeting point. And that stuff went off in a high-class gym. [After Danny's fight] he never went in tвАЩ gym, and I honestly thought, and I still do to this day, that I cost him a bit of money that day. It all comes down to my first grading when I went windmilling straight in, not a clue what I were doing... вАШGet him, see if I can get him to goвАЩ. I donвАЩt think he thought I were gonna win, therefore he might have lost some money, or lost somebody some money, do you know what I mean? TheyвАЩll say вАШweвАЩre sending two kids down who are not very good, probably get beat, put your money on thisвАЩ.
DannyвАЩs gym buddy, having missed out on the fighting, remained keen to find out just how it had felt. Indeed, he was keener than Danny realised. He got a number from one of the two вАШolder blokesвАЩ that Danny had seen hanging round the gym with the scaffolder. Danny wasnвАЩt really sure how it got arranged, but it did. He also wasnвАЩt really sure why he agreed to have another go, but he did.
His tour of the post-industrial North continued. Escorted this time by one of the older blokes, they found themselves in another town, in the floodlit drizzle, in what appeared to be an abandoned tyre yard that was handily elevated above street level for discretion, with people sat on stacks of tyres throwing fireworks.
I never asked questions, I just got on with it and didnвАЩt really want to speak to anybody. I thought once again, вАШwhy have I got myself into this, what am I doing?вАЩ.
And yet there was an excitement too, particularly about the prospect of going home with more cash in hand. However this was tempered somewhat when his gym buddy took вАШa hammeringвАЩ, losing his two front teeth as the result of a head butt.
This time DannyвАЩs opponent was an Irish man, small and stocky, probably in his 40's. вАШ[I] couldnвАЩt understand a word... he just reeked of ale, stale beer, tattoos on tвАЩneck, and I just thought, [sighs] you never would walk into a pub and pick a fight with him, or want to fight him.
Then, a stroke of luck.
It was my time so I goes in, and [the] same bloke who came out the first time, shook me hand and said вАШwell done young unвАЩ[the Bobby George-esque figure], [was the] first bloke I saw as I walked in. It were his event that last one, so I thought why does he come here, surely thereвАЩs territory or whatever. I were like took aback... he were right at tвАЩfront, and he winked... he nodded his head like, and I did tвАЩ same back, and he held his hand out, so as IвАЩm walking round, stretching off, [I] just tagged his hand, and then fucking thirty-odd people were cheering, like вАШgo on, fucking go onвАЩ, and IвАЩll be honest with you, itвАЩs just made the hairs on my neck stand up again. They were all fucking clapping me and thumbs up. I donвАЩt know what he did and then theyвАЩre all just cheering and sat on tyres and bouncing about, allsorts like. I mustвАЩve grown about a foot then, you know in my mind I thought I canвАЩt lose, IвАЩve got people here now who want to see me and help me to do well, whereas you turn up to these places on your own and you think nobody likes me here, nobodyвАЩs bothered if I get seriously hurt.
With the older bloke who brought them to the fight nowhere to be seen, once again DannyвАЩs question to the referee regarding the rules once somebody was on the floor was ignored; вАЬdidnвАЩt answer me, just turned away, thought IвАЩm never asking this again like, this question, [laughs]вАЭ. With the fight about to start Danny caught sight of his badly beaten gym buddy, and was unable to stop himself from crying. вАЬI just couldnвАЩt hold tвАЩ tears back... and then this Irish blokeвАЩs like, heвАЩs crying, IвАЩve got him, heвАЩs crying, heвАЩs cryingвАЭ. And so it began again.
Anyway, weвАЩre ready to go, and he threw a piece of rubber, and as IвАЩve moved it heвАЩs running to me and whacked me into tвАЩ tyres, so heвАЩs caning into me, but for some reason, I donвАЩt know why and I donвАЩt know the feeling, IвАЩve never had it ever since, but, it were a feeling of he couldnвАЩt hurt me. Day after, fucking hell, heвАЩd hurt me, but at that time, he were hitting me, I covered my face, he were hitting me in tвАЩ ribs, he were kneeing me, and he were kneeing me in tвАЩ legs... everything, couldnвАЩt hurt me.
I headbutted him. I thought, I canвАЩt get out here, and heвАЩs swinging, and heвАЩs left his head and I thought I can get out here, and I headbutted him and I bust his nose, like, everywhere. And that were it. I just went to town on him. I didnвАЩt know it were rounds, so after two minutes they pulled me away and I thought whatвАЩs going off here. Anyway, he went back, had a minute, cleaned himself up. I come back out and I was sick, I was sick bang next to where I were stood. I was like, вАШyouвАЩre gonna have to hang on, weвАЩll go again, but just hang on likeвАЩ. He said вАШIвАЩm not hanging onвАЩ. Luckily the bloke who were ref, he come in, and he says, вАШlook, you can hang on... about five minutesвАЩ. They were getting restless, they were, people were getting right mouthy, smashing bottles, everything, вАШwhatвАЩs happening, whatвАЩs happening?вАЩ.
Anyway, we came back together, and we went five two minute rounds. It come down to tвАЩ sixth. I were knackered, but I were young and I were fit at the time, he were bollocksed, and I mean proper, he were breathing like [sucks in air] and blood were coming out of his nose, and he were spitting out because he were like panting, and IвАЩm thinking weвАЩre just killing each other. I had a cut eyebrow, my nose were bleeding. That sixth round, it started drizzling, I were boiling, and it cooled me down, and I got me second wind. And then sixth, seventh and then eighth, it were done like, he couldnвАЩt go on... I thought if he gets his second wind here, IвАЩm halfway through mine!
Danny was handed only ¬£400 after the fight, not the promised ¬£600.
So I went over and I says вАШfour hundred? What do you mean four hundred?вАЩ And he says вАШitвАЩs four hundred, you canвАЩt go off like thatвАЩ, and I says вАШwhat do you meanвАЩ, he says вАШyou made us look fucking stupidвАЩ, so I says вАШI made you look stupid?вАЩ, and I says вАШI were the one being sickвАЩ, and he says вАШif you want another two hundred you can fight for another two hundredвАЩ, I says вАШno youвАЩre all right, keep your two hundredвАЩ. Anyway [the Bobby George-a-like], came over, shook my hand again, gave me two hundred pound in cash. He said вАШyou entertainedвАЩ, and I just thought, IвАЩm done, IвАЩm done, IвАЩve had enough of this.
This feeling was immediately buttressed by the older woman who was cleaning people up after their fights- вАШshe were nice, I donвАЩt know what she were doing thereвАЩ- who suggested to Danny that this wasnвАЩt really for him.
Whilst in the car waiting for the older bloke to return, the Bobby George-a-like came over.
He says вАШyouвАЩre good kids, you donвАЩt really belong here do you, itвАЩs not your type of placeвАЩ. We were like, вАШyeah well, if you get a buzz of it you get a buzz off itвАЩ. He says вАШI can tell youвАЩre lying to me now. You donвАЩt get a buzz off it, you get an adrenalin rushвАЩ, and he said basically everything I felt through them fights, he knew. He says вАШlook youвАЩre young kids, you donвАЩt wanna be coming here getting your face tarted up like thatвАЩ. Shook his hand, never seen him since.
I donвАЩt think that night, without him actually nodding his head, sticking his hand out... you know a bit of respecting me, and seeing thirty odd lads cheering you... I think I wouldвАЩve either been seriously hurt or knocked out, because I were at a right low point. And he were about six foot four, but to me, he looked about eight foot eight, he were just massive, and I thought IвАЩm listening to him, IвАЩve got to listen to him. He were talking sense, and he didnвАЩt have to come over and do owt, he didnвАЩt have to give me two hundred quid. HeвАЩd heard what were going off, so obviously heвАЩs gone away, sorted two hundred quid out, put it in elastic band and just said, вАШthereвАЩs two hundred quid thereвАЩ, and heвАЩs helped me out.
During the wait some of the other things that were occurring also became evident:
The things you saw, you wouldnвАЩt want to see, nightmares, but you looked outside and there were always kids getting a clip or a belt, or something like that, and we saw a kid get bundled into tвАЩ back of tвАЩ [a car]. I donвАЩt know [who it was], but he got fucking pushed into tвАЩ car, by a broom handle, like a snapped broom handle, and they just drove off, but they didnвАЩt drive off, they sped off... and they didnвАЩt need to speed off.
With both lads upset at being abandoned by the older bloke, nothing was said on an uncomfortable journey home as the two fighters nursed their wounds but consoled themselves with their cash. вАШNever spoke to him. Never. He never spoke on tвАЩ way home, never said a word on tвАЩ way homeвАЩ. Indeed, this would be the last they ever saw of him.
IN THE END...
вАЬThat older type of modern society once engaged its members primarily as producers and soldiers. [...] Consumers are first and foremost gatherers of sensations.вАЭ (Bauman 1999: 36)
The weekend after the fight gym buddyвАЩs girlfriend told DannyвАЩs girlfriend about the fights. She had presumably noticed the extensive damage to his face and asked what had been going on. This led to a row between Danny and his gym buddy. DannyвАЩs mum was also becoming concerned about the state of Danny too. With the wise words of the Bobby George-a-like ringing in his ears, he decided to hand his notice in at work as he knew he would likely be continually asked to fight if he stayed. He also stopped going to the gym, and had no further contact with the scaffolder or the older bloke. This effectively broke his connection with the scene, as throughout the entire episode, Danny had no contact whatsoever with anybody else regarding the fights, least of all those who actually ran the show.
Yeah, everythingвАЩs at armвАЩs length, so you donвАЩt know whatвАЩs above, above, above, do you know?
Danny did have to return to the gym on one last occasion in order to collect his boxing equipment that he had been storing there. He found that his locker, along with his gym buddyвАЩs, had been broken into and all his equipment stolen.
I just thought, IвАЩll stand to a hundred and fifty quid, IвАЩm not gonna argue about it... I walked in the place and I just wanted to walk straight back out.
Danny subsequently told his immediate family of his experiences although вАШnot so much in detailвАЩ; his dad, who he told more than the others, was вАШtaken abackвАЩ and asked вАШwhy didnвАЩt you just speak to us and tell us?вАЩ
Shortly after he left the scaffolding job Danny got a call about a surfacing job. This work took Danny around the world and marked a real turning point. Gym buddy worked briefly with him, but didnвАЩt enjoy being away from home for extended periods and soon left, and the two drifted out of regular contact. When the surfacing work began to dry up Danny found work shopfitting and is now going steady.
And IвАЩm as far away from it as I can be. Never got offered again, never got a phone call. I still go boxing and do a bit, but I box, I like training, donвАЩt wanna fight.
Bare-knuckle fighting is a traditional sport that in some respects has slipped under the radar in recent decades. Its historic split from boxing, over the course of many years of evolution, saw boxing eventually gain legitimacy during the 20th century whilst bare-knuckle fighting retreated to the margins. Yet it has never completely disappeared and as DannyвАЩs story shows, it not only survives but thrives among a certain demographic. It clearly also retains its links to the legitimate world of boxing as well as the criminal underworld. However, even boxing itself is increasingly coming under scrutiny. The boxing historian Anderson (2007) suggests reforms of a fundamental nature are desirable, such as the banning of blows to the head. The British Medical Association has repeatedly called for a ban on both amateur and professional boxing, as well as вАШmixed martial artsвАЩ competitions (British Medical Association 2007). Concerns have also been raised about the so-called вАШwhite-collar boxingвАЩ that has been in the news recently (Lowbridge 2014). Yet others, such as the All Party Parliamentary Group for Boxing (2015), point to the social benefits it can engender. One wonders what these and other commentators on boxing would make of DannyвАЩs experiences.
Despite the soul searching about boxing, there are signs that bare-knuckle fighting may be slowly creeping back into the mainstream, a move provoked at least in part by films such as Fight Club, released in 1999 and based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk (1996). Various вАШsanctioning bodiesвАЩ are springing up, such as the World Bareknuckle Boxing Association (formed in the US in 2011), and are attempting to revive and legitimise the sport. It is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility that it could flourish in late modern conditions; if nothing else, such conditions bring forth a ready supply of insecurely employed edgeworkers from outside of bare knuckleвАЩs usual constituency, who are already enthusiastically вАШgathering sensationsвАЩ in boxing gyms up and down the country.
As for Danny:
I donвАЩt need it, donвАЩt want to do it, IвАЩve seen sights that I donвАЩt ever want to see again. You know I wouldnвАЩt even want me worst enemy to do it because itвАЩs just, itвАЩs soul destroying at times.... thereвАЩs no need to ever go back that way. So, IвАЩll live and learn...
All Party Parliamentary Group for Boxing (2015) Boxing: The Right Hook (APPGFB/ funded by England Boxing)
Anderson, J. (2007) The Legality of Boxing: A Punch Drunk Love? Abingdon: Birkbeck Law Press.
Bauman, Z. (1999) вАШThe self in a consumer societyвАЩ, The Hedgehog Review, 1(1): 35-40.
Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
British Medical Association (2007) вАШBan ultimate fighting as well as boxing, says BMAвАЩ, BMA press release, 5 September 2007. [available at : http://web2.bma.org.uk/pressrel.nsf/wall/825FD9E6B88D70308025734C003CAD9E?OpenDocument]
Collison, M. (1996) вАШIn search of the high life: Drugs, crime, masculinities and consumptionвАЩ, British Journal of Criminology, 36(3): 428-44.
Lowbridge, C. (2014) вАШWhat is white collar boxing?вАЩ BBC News website, 24 June 2014 [available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-27996042]
Palahniuk, C (1996) Fight Club. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
David Moxon is an independent scholar and formerly Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University