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I actually enjoyed watching boxing, for a change

Greg Devine

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Two people boxing with headgear on

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It’s no secret that I love sport; I talk about it regularly on ITK. When it comes to which sports I choose to watch, I usually go for team sports, such as football or rugby. Last weekend, however, I ventured out of my comfort zone and watched testosterone-fuelled boxing.


Anthony Joshua is a household name in the UK. Even if, like me, you watch boxing on a casual basis, or not at all, you’ll still recognise his name. He recently faced a rematch against Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine. Did I know anything about this bloke? No, not at all, but that didn’t stop me enjoying the spectacle.


My friends and I decided to suit up and watch the bout from a sports bar within a casino. Drinks were incredibly expensive, and entry was itself a tenner, but this didn’t dampen our spirits. We felt like adults, and we arguably looked like it, for the first time in our lives. As a group of 20-year-olds we are no strangers to nights out, but this felt different—proper, almost. There’s something about wearing a suit and buying overpriced drinks that releases an unusual amount of dopamine.


I’m no boxing expert, but for the entirety of Joshua and Usyk’s main event I was completely hooked. Each jab filled me with excitement and each big punch raised the energy in the room even more. Surrounded by people with considerably more money than us, we really were ‘faking it ‘til we made it’.


Photo by Bogdan Yukhymchuk on Unsplash

Some people will say that masculinity today is being watered down. I’d argue that masculinity is simply adapting to 21st Century society. There were plenty of lads being lads whilst watching Joshua Vs. Usyk, but none of them was disrespectful. Nobody was trying to be a hard man. If anything, people were very friendly in a situation where many people might not expect it. My surprise may stem from my experiences of football culture, which, unfortunately, includes quite a lot of violence. Before I watched this boxing match, I’d have assumed a more violent sport would’ve promoted even greater examples of hooliganism, but it didn’t.


Some older people in the room bantered with us and asked if it was our first night out—this was all done in a fun, light-hearted manner. They commented on our suits…harmless ribbing that was taken in good spirit. I find this quite rare in Sheffield. Clubs can quite often be a ‘peacock’ exercise, where guys validate their egos by fighting or ‘pulling’. Our night at the sports bar was a welcome reprieve from this—people simply weren’t looking to demonstrate such behaviour. Maybe, being older, they’d already found validation, and my group of friends is already quite self-assured; we don’t need to seek any recognition. This may be why the night turned out to be an altogether enjoyable experience.


The fight itself was entertaining. Punches were thrown back and forth quickly, rather than the usual bore fest that can occur when fighters rely on strategy and try to figure each other out. Whether this was because it was a rematch is something a boxing pundit could probably tell you, I just found it enjoyable to watch. As the fight was high energy, the atmosphere in the room was equally as energetic. It felt like a more sophisticated version of being a spectator at the World Cup or the Euros. Everyone was glued to the screen, and whilst there was plenty of shouting, it was still courteous.


I’m not saying football should change, but I can’t deny how nice it was to watch sport in a such a setting.


Has the experience made me a boxing fan? No. I really enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t just the sport that made the evening as enjoyable as it was. It was the venue, the company around me, the drinks and the atmosphere. That said, whilst I wouldn’t consider myself a committed boxing fan, I would quite happily go back to that sports bar, suited and booted, to watch another bout.