Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Punchy book on boxing terms puts record straight

Bob Jones has many literary strings to his bow: novelist, newspaper columnist, political writer, business and management opinion and, of course, boxing writing.

Throughout all his works there is serious intent leavened with insight, humour and observation. But there can be few in the literary world who walk so easily through all the areas Jones manages.
He gets his message across in compelling style and there can be no doubt that his latest effort 'Fighting Talk – Boxing and the modern lexicon' is quite possibly the greatest example of his versatility.

It comprises a study, he would be horrified at the description of textbook, on the use of boxing terms in modern day life. In backgrounding the origins of expressions he also provides something of a history lesson of the finer points in boxing.

At the same time Jones also brings to light, firstly, the mis-use of words and expressions, and secondly the way they creep into accepted usage. Anyone who hears people talking about 'a change of tact' when users mean the more correct, and relevant, 'change of tack' will know what a frustration that can be.

Perhaps the most classic instance Jones highlights is the use of 'lightweight'. To describe someone as a 'lightweight' is generally to demonstrate their lack of gravitas or comprehension, yet the usage is sadly out of place.

As Jones says, some of the greatest boxers have been lightweights so that using the term lightweight to highlight mediocrity is 'an insult to the great featherweight and flyweight boxers who have contributed to boxing's heritage'.

Equally, Jones highlights the misuse of 'a line in the sand'. The term was a line drawn on the ground where boxers would face each other before starting a contest. Nowadays usage suggests to draw a line in the sand is an acceptable end point to events.

'Majority decision' is another oft mis-used term. As Jones points out, it is when two judges award a bout to one fighter while the third judge awarded it as a draw. This is opposed to the 'split decision' where two judges find for one contestant and the third for another.

An example of Jones providing historic perspective was in his dissection of the term 'punchdrunk'. Modern, non-boxing, usage suggests someone is punchdrunk after taking a volley of blows whether in political debate or business transactions.

But as Jones points out, the condition of punchdrunkness is medically known as dementia pugilistica and is a permanent condition. It leads to memory loss, poor balance, slurred speech and body tremors. It is the result of dehydration in weight-reducing, generally by lighter weights of boxers, but also by jockeys and is also suffered ball-heading football players. As part of his discussion on this subject he backgrounds the introduction of boxing gloves to the sport.

His study unearths other gems. Among them is the possible origin of the term 'fan'.

Jones' humour is unleashed on the devotees in sport who pause in their victory utterances to thank the top figure in their particular faith.

"A new millennium trend in boxing is for the cornermen to be ignored and instead credit given by a winning fighter to God, who apparently is a fight devotee, evidently not averse to divine intervention on behalf of his favourites. Assessed on such attributions, God is a particular fan of Latin American and black American fighters," Jones said.

All of the points discussed are backed with examples of usage from a plethora of journalistic sources from the modern age around the world

At the end of his book Jones also provides Aphorisms and Metaphors from other sports. They round out an immensely appealing book which is superbly presented by the publishers with an excellent index to speed up the possible search for terms.

As always the conclusion of a Jones book across all the areas mentioned at the outset leaves the reader disappointed that an educational, humorous and point-making treatise has ended. 'Fighting Talk' is right up there with the best of Jones' work.

1 comment:


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