Disparition de Mohamed Ali: Quelles solennités expiatoires, quels jeux sacrés nous faudra-t-il inventer ? (When dignity turns to tragedy: What better cautionary tale about what this supposed sport can do to a man ?)

AliYAliXStMuhammedAliOù est Dieu? cria-t-il, je vais vous le dire! Nous l’avons tué – vous et moi! Nous tous sommes ses meurtriers! Mais comment avons-nous fait cela? Comment avons-nous pu vider la mer? Qui nous a donné l’éponge pour effacer l’horizon tout entier? Dieu est mort! (…) Et c’est nous qui l’avons tué ! (…) Ce que le monde avait possédé jusqu’alors de plus sacré et de plus puissant a perdu son sang sous nos couteaux (…) Quelles solennités expiatoires, quels jeux sacrés nous faudra-t-il inventer? Nietzsche
La même force culturelle et spirituelle qui a joué un rôle si décisif dans la disparition du sacrifice humain est aujourd’hui en train de provoquer la disparition des rituels de sacrifice humain qui l’ont jadis remplacé. Tout cela semble être une bonne nouvelle, mais à condition que ceux qui comptaient sur ces ressources rituelles soient en mesure de les remplacer par des ressources religieuses durables d’un autre genre. Priver une société des ressources sacrificielles rudimentaires dont elle dépend sans lui proposer d’alternatives, c’est la plonger dans une crise qui la conduira presque certainement à la violence. Gil Bailie
On devine grâce aux rais de lumière la présence d’un velum tiré sur les gradins de l’amphithéâtre afin de protéger les spectateurs du soleil. Il est légitime, de ce fait, de se demander si nous n’assistons pas aux fameux jeux de midi, jeux les plus cruels, d’après les auteurs latins qui en ont été les témoins et qui avaient lieu à l’heure où le soleil, à son zénith, rendait nécessaire le déploiement du velum. Le goût du sensationnel de Gérome et des peintres pompiers en général, s’y prêterait assez bien. (…) Comme à son habitude, Gérome nous offre un tableau historique très bien documenté en ce qui concerne les types et équipements des gladiateurs, l’architecture et la disposition de l’amphithéâtre (velum, tribune impériale, vomitoria), les vêtements de l’époque, le nombre de Vestales et les prérogatives qui étaient les leurs, etc. Mais à cette recherche de réalisme se mêle un goût prononcé pour le sensationnel et le spectaculaire. Ainsi, le choix du récit de Prudence, dont il s’est largement inspiré pour représenter des Vestales en furie, n’est pas anodin. De plus, Gérome réécrit l’Histoire en inventant le geste du pouce baissé (Pollice verso) qui connaîtra par la suite la fortune que l’on sait. R. Delord
Les Anciens étaient unanimes à dire que l’origine des combats de gladiateurs se trouvait chez les Étrusques3, qui avaient pour coutume de faire des victimes expiatoires parmi les ennemis vaincus, en les faisant s’entre-tuer pour honorer les mânes d’un défunt illustre. Nicolas de Damas affirme que « les Romains ont reçu des Thyrénniens l’usage d’organiser des combats singuliers non seulement à l’occasion des fêtes mais aussi en guise de divertissement. ». Les spécialistes modernes n’interprètent plus cette phrase pour appuyer l’hypothèse de l’origine étrusque, qui n’est pas corroborée par l’archéologie : pour la plupart d’entre eux, suivant en cela l’archéologue Georges Villes5, c’est en Italie du sud, en Campanie et chez les Lucaniens, que ces combats sont nés. Les plus anciennes représentations de combats rituels en Italie ont été retrouvées en Campanie dans des tombes lucaniennes à Paestum, datées entre 380 et 320 av. J.-C.6. Le caractère funéraire de ces scènes ne fait aucun doute et les joutes de ces « prégladiateurs » sont représentées à côté d’autres jeux tels que des combats de boxe ou des courses de char. Elles ont lieu en présence d’un arbitre et on peut constater, sans autre précision, que le sang coule et qu’un des deux combattants s’est écroulé. Le mot latin munus (pluriel : munera) qui désigne le combat de gladiateurs signifie à l’origine « don » et s’inscrit parfaitement dans ce cadre funéraire. Quoi qu’il en soit, l’origine de la gladiature semble bien se trouver dans une forme adoucie de sacrifice humain accompagnant les funérailles d’un grand personnage, comme cela se passe dans le chant XXIII de l’Iliade, Homère y racontant qu’après l’incinération de Patrocle, Achille organise des jeux funéraires en son honneur qui comporte une hoplomachie (combat en armes), disputée par Diomède et Ajax. À Rome, les combats de gladiateurs (munera) perdirent progressivement le caractère funéraire et religieux et cette proto-gladiature devint ambivalente, comme les autres spectacles, le munus sacré devenant un jeu (ludus) profane. La désacralisation des munera conduisit à la professionnalisation de la gladiature : aux IIIe et IIe siècles av. J.-C., on vit ainsi apparaître une gladiature ethnique, où s’affrontent des prisonniers de guerre portant leurs armes nationales (d’abord des Samnites, puis des Gaulois et enfin des Thraces) puis, à partir de 73 (date de la guerre de Spartacus à partir de laquelle les autorités romaines réalisent qu’il est trop dangereux de composer une gladiature avec des esclaves hyper-entraînés) une gladiature technique, où s’affrontent des volontaires constituant de nouvelles catégories de gladiateurs (armaturæ) : secutor, rétiaire, mirmillon, etc. On exerça un contrôle rigoureux pour le munus annuel que donnaient les préteurs afin de limiter le montant des sommes engagées. Il fut interdit d’organiser un munus sans autorisation préalable du sénat, d’en donner plus de deux fois par an, ou de faire paraître plus de 120 gladiateurs au cours d’un même spectacle. Les combats de gladiateurs privés passèrent sous le contrôle exclusif de l’État. Seul l’empereur put dépasser les limites fixées. Ainsi Auguste engagea-t-il sous son règne environ 10 000 gladiateurs, soit dix fois le maximum autorisé. Dès la fin du règne d’Auguste, le spectacle de chasse mettant en scène des animaux sauvages (venatio) se trouva associé aux combats de gladiateurs de façon très étroite, et l’on assista désormais à des spectacles complets, appelés munera legitima ou justa (combats réguliers) qui comprenaient des chasses et des combats d’animaux le matin, un intermède à la mi-journée et des combats de gladiateurs l’après-midi : l’intermède de mi-journée, qui correspond au moment des repas, était le moment où des condamnés étaient forcés de combattre des fauves, dépourvus de toute arme ; certains condamnés devaient également s’entretuer. De midi aux heures les plus chaudes de la journée se déroulaient aussi les exécutions des condamnés à mort, le plus souvent accompagnées d’une mise en scène évoquant un mythe ; pour le mythe d’Icare par exemple, on collait au prisonnier des ailes avec de la cire et on le lâchait dans le vide depuis une construction prévue à cet effet. (…) L’onomastique latine traditionnelle (prénom, nom, surnom) sert rarement pour désigner les gladiateurs : ils sont nommés, le plus souvent, par un sobriquet familier à tous les amateurs de munera. Ces noms d’arène font référence aux divinités et aux héros de la mythologie — Hermès, Astyanax, Persée, Cupidon, Ajax, Patrocle, Bellérophon — ou mettent l’accent sur les qualités physiques du gladiateur, la force : Héracléa (« le Costaud »), Ursius (« Fort comme un ours »), la vivacité : Fulgur (« la Foudre »), Polydromos, Okus, Callidromos (« le Rapide »). D’autres évoquent la chance : Faustus (« Le Veinard »), Félix (« L’Heureux »), Victor ou Nicéphoros (« La Victoire »), ou le souvenir d’anciens gladiateurs vedettes, tel Columbus de Nîmes, qui portait le nom d’un héros de l’arène sous le règne de Caligula. D’autres, enfin, doivent leur sobriquet à leur prestance : Ametystus, Beryllus (« brillant », « d’un éclat précieux »), « Narcissos » ou « Callimorphos » (« Le Bien Bâti »). Le gladiateur surnommé Astyanax était un poursuivant (secutor). Il existe une mosaïque datant du IVe siècle qui le montre, entre autres scènes, combattant durant l’entraînement contre un rétiaire du nom de Kalendio. Le plus célèbre des gladiateurs, Spartacus, ne semble pas avoir porté de surnom : Spartacus est simplement la forme latinisée d’un nom thrace que l’on connaît sous plusieurs formes : Spartokos ou Spardokos. (…) Les gladiateurs les plus talentueux jouissaient d’une immense popularité : un thrace surnommé Suspirium Puellarum, « le soupir des jeunes filles » mettait en transe les femmes de Pompéi. Les nombreux graffitis qui mettent en scène les acteurs de l’arène témoignent aussi de cet engouement. Dans l’une de ses Satires, le poète Juvénal a raillé ces passions incontrôlées : Epia, une épouse de sénateur, abandonna son notable de mari pour suivre un aventurier, Sergiolus, un gladiateur charismatique, malgré son bras tailladé, son nez cassé et son œil poché et l’accompagna jusqu’en Égypte. Wikipedia
1er octobre 326 : Constantin Ier prend la première mesure contre la gladiature par l’édit de Béryte. Par cette mesure, qui n’était sans doute applicable que dans la partie orientale de l’Empire, l’empereur prescrit que des criminels condamnés à devenir gladiateurs soient désormais envoyés travailler dans les mines.
399 : Sous la pression chrétienne, fermeture des écoles de gladiateurs à Rome. Ce « sport-spectacle » romain est honni par les chrétiens qui ne parviennent toutefois pas à en interdire la pratique, surtout à Rome.
404 : L’empereur Honorius interdit les combats de gladiateurs à la suite d’une rixe dans le Colisée
418 : Derniers combats de gladiateurs à Rome, soit près d’un siècle après l’interdiction promulguée par l’empereur Constantin. Wikipedia
Il faut avoir le courage de vouloir le mal et pour cela il faut commencer par rompre avec le comportement grossièrement humanitaire qui fait partie de l’héritage chrétien. (..) Nous sommes avec ceux qui tuent. Breton
Deux exemples : le premier est élémentaire. Voilà des enfants désordonnés dans la cour de récréation. La maîtresse dit : venez, on va faire une ronde en chantant et on va tous s’asseoir. Elle prend son foulard et va le placer derrière un des enfants. Celui-ci doit se lever et courir après elle, qui doit venir prendre sa place. C’est le jeu de la  » chandelle « . Avec un quasi-objet, je marque l’un quelconque du collectif qui devient le bourreau et poursuit celui ou celle qui devient alors victime ; et la victime doit prendre la place du bourreau. Si elle ne le peut pas, si elle est rattrapée avant, alors elle va au centre objet des quolibets, clouée au pilori, et ne peut quitter sa place que si une autre la remplace. Ainsi, depuis le fonds des âges, dans les écoles, nous apprenons aux enfants le mécanisme sacrificiel, et on ne l’avait pas vu. La mémoire de nos rituels se perpétue, y compris dans les jeux les plus innocents de l’éducation. Ce jeu aurait dix mille ans ; on le trouve chez les Berbères et il date du néolithique. Autre exemple : le film la Règle du jeu de Jean Renoir (1939). Dans un jeu de lutte mimétique, valets et patrons se livrent à des jeux d’imitation, jusqu’à ce que la confusion s’en mêle dans le château où tous sont invités, avec des quiproquos, à des jeux de double ; et finalement un coup de feu part , l’un est mort, celui précisément qui était venu de l’extérieur, et cette disparition fait que le collectif va retrouver sa paix. Jean Lambert
Les arts ne sont jamais que la reproduction de cette crise-là, de ce dénouement-là, sous une forme plus ou moins voilée.Tout commence toujours par des affrontements symétriques finalement résolus dans des rondes victimaires. René Girard
Le lynchage collectif est l’aboutissement du mécanisme par lequel nous pensons nous débarrasser de la violence en l’expulsant vers l’extérieur. Dans les constructions juridiques des  » païens « , il est ritualisé. Si la Loi d’Israël se différencie de celle des  » païens « , c’est parce qu’elle doit mener à l’intériorisation de la conscience de la violence. À nos propres yeux, nous sommes toujours pacifiques et ce sont les autres qui sont violents. C’est toujours l’autre qui a commencé. Dénoncer les fautes de l’autre est une des formes de la rivalité mimétique qui me permet d’affirmer ma supériorité sur l’autre et de justifier ma violence contre lui. La loi des nations païennes est toujours finalement inefficace parce que la violence expulsée finit par revenir. Tout l’enseignement prophétique consiste à prêcher le renoncement individuel à la violence, seule garantie de son éradication. (…) Jésus s’appuie sur la Loi pour en transformer radicalement le sens. La femme adultère doit être lapidée : en cela la Loi d’Israël ne se distingue pas de celle des nations. La lapidation est à la fois une manière de reproduire et de contenir le processus de mise à mort de la victime dans des limites strictes. Rien n’est plus contagieux que la violence et il ne faut pas se tromper de victime. Parce qu’elle redoute les fausses dénonciations, la Loi, pour les rendre plus difficiles, oblige les délateurs, qui doivent être deux au minimum, à jeter eux-mêmes les deux premières pierres. Jésus s’appuie sur ce qu’il y a de plus humain dans la Loi, l’obligation faite aux deux premiers accusateurs de jeter les deux premières pierres ; il s’agit pour lui de transformer le mimétisme ritualisé pour une violence limitée en un mimétisme inverse. Si ceux qui doivent jeter  » la première pierre  » renoncent à leur geste, alors une réaction mimétique inverse s’enclenche, pour le pardon, pour l’amour. (…) Jésus sauve la femme accusée d’adultère. Mais il est périlleux de priver la violence mimétique de tout exutoire. Jésus sait bien qu’à dénoncer radicalement le mauvais mimétisme, il s’expose à devenir lui-même la cible des violences collectives. Nous voyons effectivement dans les Évangiles converger contre lui les ressentiments de ceux qu’ils privent de leur raison d’être, gardiens du Temple et de la Loi en particulier.  » Les chefs des prêtres et les Pharisiens rassemblèrent donc le Sanhédrin et dirent : « Que ferons-nous ? Cet homme multiplie les signes. Si nous le laissons agir, tous croiront en lui ».  » Le grand prêtre Caïphe leur révèle alors le mécanisme qui permet d’immoler Jésus et qui est au cœur de toute culture païenne :  » Ne comprenez-vous pas ? Il est de votre intérêt qu’un seul homme meure pour tout le peuple plutôt que la nation périsse  » (Jean XI, 47-50) (…) Livrée à elle-même, l’humanité ne peut pas sortir de la spirale infernale de la violence mimétique et des mythes qui en camouflent le dénouement sacrificiel. Pour rompre l’unanimité mimétique, il faut postuler une force supérieure à la contagion violente : l’Esprit de Dieu, que Jean appelle aussi le Paraclet, c’est-à-dire l’avocat de la défense des victimes. C’est aussi l’Esprit qui fait révéler aux persécuteurs la loi du meurtre réconciliateur dans toute sa nudité. (…) Ils utilisent une expression qui est l’équivalent de  » bouc émissaire  » mais qui fait mieux ressortir l’innocence foncière de celui contre qui tous se réconcilient : Jésus est désigné comme  » Agneau de Dieu « . Cela veut dire qu’il est la victime émissaire par excellence, celle dont le sacrifice, parce qu’il est identifié comme le meurtre arbitraire d’un innocent — et parce que la victime n’a jamais succombé à aucune rivalité mimétique — rend inutile, comme le dit l’Épître aux Hébreux, tous les sacrifices sanglants, ritualisés ou non, sur lesquels est fondée la cohésion des communautés humaines. La mort et la Résurrection du Christ substituent une communion de paix et d’amour à l’unité fondée sur la contrainte des communautés païennes. L’Eucharistie, commémoration régulière du  » sacrifice parfait  » remplace la répétition stérile des sacrifices sanglants. (…) En même temps, le devoir du chrétien est de dénoncer le péché là où il se trouve. Le communisme a pu s’effondrer sans violence parce que le monde libre et le monde communiste avaient accepté de ne plus remettre en cause les frontières existantes ; à l’intérieur de ces frontières, des millions de chrétiens ont combattu sans violence pour la vérité, pour que la lumière soit faite sur le mensonge et la violence des régimes qui asservissaient leurs pays. Encore une fois, face au danger de mimétisme universel de la violence, vous n’avez qu’une réponse possible : le christianisme. René Girard
La loi mosaïque prescrit la lapidation des condamnés à mort. J’interprète ce mode d’exécution, bien entendu, comme l’imitation rituelle d’un meurtre fondateur, c’est-à-dire d’une première lapidation qui, dans un passé lointain, a réconcilité la communauté. C’est parce que la communauté s’est réconciliée qu’elle a fait de cette violence unanime un modèle rituel, un modèle d’unanimité. Tout le monde doit jeter des pierres. C’est ainsi, de toute évidence, que la thèse mimétique doit expliquer l’existence d’une lapidation institutionnelle, telle qu’on la trouve beaucoup plus tard codifiée dans le Lévitique. La lapidation n’était requise que pour les épouses adultères, pas pour les époux. Au premier siècle de notre ère, cette prescription était contestée. Certains la jugeaient trop sévère. Jésus se trouve confronté à un dilemme redoutable. Il est soupçonné de mépriser la Loi. S’il dit non à la lapidation, le soupçon paraît confirmé. S’il dit oui, il trahit son propre enseignement, entièrement dirigé contre les contagions mimétiques, les emballements violents dont cette lapidation, si elle avait lieu, serait un exemple, au même titre que la Passion. A plusieurs reprises, Jésus est menacé de lapidation dans les scènes qui annoncent et préparent la Passion. Le révélateur et le dénonciateur du meutre fondateur ne peut manquer d’intervenir en faveur de toutes les victimes du processus qui finalement aura raison de lui. Si les hommes qui interpellent Jésus ne désiraient pas susciter la lapidation, ils ne placeraient pas la coupable « bien en vue », ils ne l’exhiberaient pas complaisamment. Ils veulent que rayonne sur la foule, sur les passants éventuels, la puissance du scandale qui émane de l’adultère. Ils veulent pousser jusqu’à son terme fatal l’emballement mimétique qu’ils ont déclenché. Pour préparer son intervention, pour la rendre décisive, Jésus a besoin d’un peu de recueillement, il a besoin de gagner du temps, et il écrit dans la poussière avec son doigt. On se demande toujours ce qu’il a pu écrire. Cette question me paraît oiseuse. Il faut la laisser aux entichés de langage et d’écriture. Il ne faut pas toujours recommencer le moyen âge. Ce n’est pas dans le dessein d’écrire que Jésus se penche, c’est parce qu’il s’est penché qu’il écrit. Il s’est penché pour ne pas regarder ceux qui le défient du regard. Si Jésus renvoyait ce regard, la foule se sentirait à son tour défiée, c’est son propre regard, son propre défi qu’elle croirait reconnaître dans les yeux de Jésus. L’affrontement mènerait tout droit à la violence, c’est-à-dire à la mort de la victime qu’il s’agit de sauver. Jésus évite jusqu’à l’ombre d’une provocation. Et enfin, il parle : « Que celui qui se croit sans péché lui jette la première pierre ! » Pourquoi la première pierre ? Parce qu’elle est seule décisive. Celui qui la jette n’a personne à imiter. Rien de plus facile que d’imiter un exemple déjà donné. Donner soi-même l’exemple est tout autre chose. La foule est mimétiquement mobilisée, mais il lui reste un dernier seuil à franchir, celui de la violence réelle. Si quelqu’un jetait la première pierre, aussitôt les pierres pleuvraient. En attirant l’attention sur la première pierre, la parole de Jésus renforce cet obstacle ultime à la lapidation. Il donne aux meilleurs de cette foule le temps d’entendre sa parole et de s’examiner eux-mêmes. S’il est réel, cet examen ne peut manquer de découvrir le rapport circulaire de la victime et du bourreau. Le scandale qu’incarne cette femme à leurs yeux, ces hommes le portent déjà en eux-mêmes, et c’est pour s’en débarrasser qu’ils le projettent sur elle, d’autant plus aisément, bien sûr, qu’elle est vraiment coupable. Pour lapider une victime de bon coeur, il faut se croire différent d’elle, et la convergence mimétique, je le rappelle, s’accompagne d’une illusion de divergence. C’est la convergence réelle combinée avec l’illusion de divergence qui déclenche ce que Jésus cherche à prévenir, le mécanisme du bouc émissaire. La foule précède l’individu. Ne devient vraiment individu que celui qui, se détachant de la foule, échappe à l’unanimité violente. Tous ne sont pas capables d’autant d’initiative. Ceux qui en sont capables se détachent les premiers et, ce faisant, empêchent la lapidation. (…) A côté des temps individuels, donc, il y a toujours un temps social dans notre texte, mais il singe désormais les temps individuels, c’est le temps des modes et des engouements politiques, intellectuels, etc. Le temps reste ponctué par des mécanismes mimétiques. Sortir de la foule le premier, renoncer le premier à jeter des pierres, c’est prendre le risque d’en recevoir. La décision en sens inverse aurait été plus facile, car elle se situait dans le droit fil d’un emballement mimétique déjà amorcé. La première pierre est moins mimétique que les suivantes, mais elle n’en est pas moins portée par la vague de mimétisme qui a engendré la foule. Et les premiers à décider contre la lapidation ? Faut-il penser que chez eux au moins il n’y a aucune imitation ? Certainement pas. Même là il y en a, puisque c’est Jésus qui suggère à ces hommes d’afir comme ils le font. La décision contre la violence resterait impossible, nous dit le christianisme, sans cet Esprit divin qui s’appelle le Paraclet, c’est-à-dire, en grec ordinaire, « l’avocat de la défense » : c’est bien ici le rôle de Jésus lui-même. Il laisse d’ailleurs entendre qu’il est lui-même le premier Paraclet, le premier défenseur des victimes. Et il l’est surtout par la Passion qui est ici, bien sûr, sous-entendue. La théorie mimétique insiste sur le suivisme universel, sur l’impuissance des hommes à ne pas imiter les exemples les plus faciles, les plus suivis, parce que c’est cela qui prédomine dans toute société. Il ne faut pas en conclure qu’elle nie la liberté individuelle. En situant la décision véritable dans son contexte vrai, celui des contagions mimétiques partout présentes, cette théorie donne à ce qui n’est pas mécanique, et qui pourtant ne diffère pas du tout dans sa forme de ce qui l’est, un relief que la libre décision n’a pas chez les penseurs qui ont toujours la liberté à la bouche et de ce fait même, croyant l’exalter, la dévaluent complètement. Si on glorifie le décisif sans voir ce qui le rend très difficile, on ne sort jamais de la métaphysique la plus creuse. Même le renoncement au mimétisme violent ne peut pas se répandre sans se transformer en mécanisme social, en mimétisme aveugle. Il y a une lapidation à l’envers symétrique de la lapidation à l’endroit non dénuée de violence, elle aussi. C’est ce que montrent bien les parodies de notre temps. Tous ceux qui auraient jeté des pierres s’il s’était trouvé quelqu’un pour jeter la première sont mimétiquement amenés à n’en pas jeter. Pour la plupart d’entre eux, la vraie raison de la non-violence n’est pas la dure réflexion sur soi, le renoncement à la violence : c’est le mimétisme, comme d’habitude. Il y a toujours emballement mimétique dans une direction ou dans une l’autre. En s’engouffrant dans la direction déjà choisie par les premiers, les « mimic men » se félicitent de leur esprit de décision et de liberté. Il ne faut pas se leurrer. Dans une société qui ne lapide plus les femmes adultères, beaucoup d’hommes n’ont pas vraiment changé. La violence est moindre, mieux dissimulée, mais structurellement identique à ce qu’elle a toujours été. Il n’y a pas sortie authentique du mimétisme, mais soumission mimétique à une culture qui prône cette sortie. Dans toute aventure sociale, quelle qu’en soit la nature, la part d’individualisme authentique est forcément minime mais pas inexistante. Il ne faut pas oublier surtout que le mimétisme qui épargne les victimes est infiniment supérieur objectivement, moralement, à celui qui les tue à coups de pierres. Il faut laisser les fausses équivalences à Nietzsche et aux esthétismes décadents. Le récit de la femme adultère nous fait voir que des comportements sociaux identiques dans leur forme et même jusqu’à un certain point dans leur fond, puisqu’ils sont tous mimétiques, peuvent néanmoins différer les uns des autres à l’infini. La part de mécanisme et de liberté qu’ils comportent est infiniment variable. Mais cette inépuisable diversité ne prouve rien en faveur du nihilisme cognitif ; elle ne prouve pas que les comportements sont incomparables et inconnaissables. Tout ce que nous avons besoin de connaître pour résister aux automatismes sociaux, aux contagions mimétiques galopantes, est accessible à la connaissance. » René Girard
‘Des lambeaux pleins de sang et des membres affreux Que des chiens dévorants se disputaient entre eux D’où parviennent jusqu’ici ces aboiements ?’ Reconnaissons-nous, de même, dans le récit de Théramène, les chevaux emportés qui traînent le cadavre d’Hippolyte sur la plage, écartelé ? Qui sont ces serpents qui sifflent sur vos têtes ? Merci, Monsieur, de nous avoir fait entendre, en ces abois, ces hennissements, ces hurlements d’animaux enragés, nos propres vociférations ; d’avoir dévoilé, en cette meute sanglante, en cet attelage emballé, en ce noeud de vipères, en ces bêtes acharnées, la violence abominable de nos sociétés ; d’avoir révélé, enfin, en ces corps déchiquetés, les victimes innocentes des lynchages que nous perpétrons. Tiré de Racine, ce bestiaire hominien eût pu s’échapper, furieux, de l’Antiquité grecque, où des femmes thraces dépècent Orphée, de la Renaissance anglaise ou de notre xviie siècle classique, où chaque tragédie porte en elle, imagée ou réelle, une trace immanquable de cette mise à mort. Les Imprécations de Camille, chez Corneille, réunissent contre Rome tous les peuples issus du fond de l’univers et dans Shakespeare, les sénateurs, assemblés, plantent leurs couteaux croisés dans le thorax de César. L’origine de la tragédie, que Nietzsche chercha sans la trouver, vous l’avez découverte ; elle gisait, tout offerte, en la racine hellénique du terme lui-même : tragos signifie, en effet, le bouc, ce bouc émissaire que des foules prêtes à la boucherie expulsent en le chargeant des péchés du monde, les leurs propres, et dont l’Agneau de Dieu inverse l’image. Merci d’avoir porté la lumière dans la boîte noire que nous cachons parmi nous. Nous. Nous, patriciens, au marais de la Chèvre, assemblés en cercles concentriques autour du roi de Rome ; nous, parmi les ténèbres d’un orage parcouru d’éclairs ; nous, découpant Romulus en morceaux, et, la clarté revenue, fuyant, honteux, chacun dissimulant, dans le pli de sa toge, un membre du roi de Rome dépecé ; nous, soldats romains, pressés autour de Tarpeia, jetant nos bracelets, nos boucliers sur le corps virginal de la vestale chaste ; nous, lapidateurs de la femme adultère ; nous, persécuteurs, lançant pierre après pierre sur le diacre Étienne, dont l’agonie voit les cieux ouverts… … nous, bannissant ou élisant tel candidat en inscrivant son nom sur des tessons de terre cuite, souvenir oublié de ces pierres de lapidation ; nous, désignant un chef par nos suffrages, sans nous remémorer que ce mot fractal signifie encore les mêmes fragments, jetés sur l’élu ; de ces pierres assassines, nous bâtissons nos villes, nos maisons, nos monuments, notre Coupole ; nous, désignant roi ou victime, parmi nos fureurs temporairement canalisées par ce suffrage même ; nous, vos confrères, qui, de nos suffrages, vous avons élu ; nous, sagement assis autour de vous, debout, discourant de notre Père Carré, mort. Grâce à vous, je vois pour la première fois le sens archaïquement sauvage de cette cérémonie, les cercles concentriques des sièges, fixés au sol, immobilisés, séparés ; j’entends le silence du public, apaisé de fascination, vous écoutant, vous, élu, debout ; je découvre aussi pour la première fois cette chapelle ronde autour du tombeau de Mazarin, tous deux faits des pierres d’une lapidation gelée, reproduisant, comme en modèle réduit, les pyramides d’Égypte, résultats elles aussi, elles sans doute parmi les premières, d’une lapidation longue, celle du corps de Pharaon, accablé couché sous ce monceau. Les institutions élèvent-elles nécropoles et métropoles à partir de ce supplice primitif ? La Coupole en dessine-t-elle encore le schéma oublié ? Michel Serres
Sugar Ray Robinson boxed as though he were playing a violin. Barney Nagler (sportswriter)
Central to his life, relationships, and career was deception. Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith
For nearly four years, the period that witnessed Clay’s rise from light-heavyweight Olympic gold to heavyweight title, the public had known him as a benign clown, the Little Richard of sports. He fought in an unorthodox and rococo style, hands held low as he pranced around opponents; Clay’s chief preoccupation seemed to be to avoid blemish to my pretty face. Eschewing the Joe Louis model for black athletes, of quiet humility before white audiences, Clay proclaimed himself The Greatest, spouted amateurish poetry, tagged his opponents with derisive nicknames, and predicted, often accurately, the round in which he would dispense with them. The sporting press had never seen anything like it. Yet even they overlooked the practical advantage the clown act derived from misdirection. Broadening the action beyond the ring lulled Clay’s opponents into complacency about his lethality inside it; focus on the Louisville Lip’s clowning obscured his speed of hand and foot, his gifts for spatial relations and evasion, his ability to take a punch. Only under such circumstances could members of the boxing press express surprise, when Liston and Clay finally met at ring center, that the challenger stood two inches taller than the champion. In political terms, however, the act was harmless. Whenever sportswriters pitched him questions about the civil-rights movement, Clay cannily recoiled from controversy, steering the conversation back to his greatness, his prettiness, the big red Cadillac he would drive when he became champion; in this he showed the same agility, the same circular backpedaling, he had displayed on the streets of Louisville and when sparring for real. (…) Clay was dyslexic and a slow reader, but his mind was fiercely instinctual and finely calibrated: He knew rhyming boasts would boost ticket sales but talk of the Black Muslims would flatten them. So Clay effectively hid his association with the Nation until he had secured the goal he had harbored since the age of twelve: the heavyweight championship. Only then did he put his loquacity to work on behalf of his religious fervor — starting, as history records, with his change of name to Muhammad Ali. (…)  the authors make no attempt to connect Ali’s immersion in the NOI — which persisted to the end of his boxing career, with Elijah’s son Herbert Muhammad as Ali’s omnipotent manager — to the boxer’s ultimate fate: fighting too long, taking too many blows to the head, and having his mouth and movement, once his hallmarks, cruelly stilled by Parkinson’s syndrome. Are we to assume that Ali was receiving sound advice from Herbert Muhammad when the ex-champ, bloated at 38 and coming off a two-year layoff, signed to fight Larry Holmes? Was Ali at that point being driven solely by his own boredom and ego, or by financial straits worsened by the untold sums he had been compelled to fork over to the NOI? Here is the ultimate evidence that Malcolm X failed to instill in Ali a capacity for judging the motivations of those around him. Ali’s doctors stress that his condition is one of motor function, not cognition. His brain functions as it always has; the Louisville Lip simply has no ability to verbalize his thoughts. Thus it is, sadly, as true today as in February 1964, when Malcolm X marveled at the singularity of his friend, that no one knows the quality of the mind Muhammad Ali has got in there. James Rosen
The master of the Ali Shuffle was about to enter the extreme danger zone. “Is there any question as to why he fell apart?” asked Pacheco. “Not if you were around looking at him. Not if you saw him every day talking slower, walking slower, moving slower, punching less. You could see him falling apart.” True to his word, Holmes attempted to take Ali out quickly, to spare him an ongoing bludgeoning. But the Ali who withstood all those trials by fire from Joe Frazier and Foreman refused to yield, so round after round Holmes looked imploringly to referee Richard Green, begging him with his eyes to stop the madness. Except that Green also remembered the Ali who could come back from the brink, and maybe believed there was enough time for him to do so again. It was left to trainer Angelo Dundee, who remained with Ali well past his expiration point as a great fighter, to step in, as Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, did before the 15th round of the “Thrilla in Manila.” He told Green it was his call as chief second to end it, and he was making that call. (…) The ghost of Ali faded further still until the night of Dec. 11, 1981, when he lost a unanimous, 10-round decision to Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas. Three years after that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Syndrome. Might Ali have avoided Parkinson’s had he retired after his conquest of Foreman? After the epic third battle with Frazier? Was there still time to save him from himself had he not been enticed to sign for the inevitable beatdown by Holmes? The Sweet science

Attention: un martyre peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où pleuvent les louanges de rigueur sur le plus grand boxeur de l’histoire …

Et au lendemain d’un nouveau weekend de Labor Day américain et son désormais rituel tribut en victimes de fusillades …

Pendant qu’en Europe se multiplient lors des manifestations publiques les accusations de viols collectifs …

Comment à la vue des dernières et terribles photos que nous en livre le  Sun ce matin …

Ne pas repenser à l’étrangement prophétique image de supplicié que nous en avait donné le magazine américain Esquire …

Et à la terrible responsabilité de tous ceux d’entre nous, promoteurs, journalistes et public, qui avons rendu possible pendant si longtemps …

Tant la poursuite du terrible supplice que les terribles stigmates dont témoignent lesdites photos ?

Mais surtout ne pas voir …

L’incroyable mystère …

Derrière les appellations ronflantes de « douce science » (d’où les célèbres sobriquets de nos Sugar Ray Robinson ou Sugar Ray Leonard) ou « noble art » …

De cette dernière survivance des sacrifices humains et funéraires puis de ces fameux jeux du cirque condamnés dès le IVe siècle par l’empereur chrétien Constantin avant d’être spécifiquement interdit pour son extrême brutalité par l’empereur César Auguste en 393 …

Et qui, après sa résurgence anglaise au XVIIe siècle, nécessite aujourd’hui pour sa pratique normale la présence légale d’un anesthésiste et de deux équipes de secouristes ?

Why Boxing is Called the Sweet Science

Depending on the viewer, boxing can be seen as a violent, barbaric sport or a beautiful and artistic display of athleticism. Many spectators are unable to see past boxing’s physical and aggressive nature, and they close their eyes to the boxers’ incredible abilities. An onlooker with an in-depth understanding of the sport, however, appreciates the sheer display of expertise displayed by two talented fighters. Indeed, boxing is violent, but it’s also a skillful craft that involves strategy and forethought – much like a chess match. This guide focuses on the phrase “Sweet Science” as it pertains to the sport of boxing.
The Origins

Pierce Egan was a British journalist and sportswriter in the early 1800s. He wrote about a variety of sports, but most of his articles concern bare-knuckle boxing and horse racing.

Egan is best known for his five volumes of boxing articles titled Boxiana. The first volume was published in 1813 and the series was completed in 1828. Within his articles, he often refers to boxing as the “Sweet Science of Bruising,” a phrase that acknowledges boxers as both methodical and tough. Boxiana experienced tremendous success in the early 19th century, for it combined luminous illustrations with knowledgeable writing concerning the most popular illegal sport of the time.

A Different Era

Although Egan’s articles were well-respected, the phrase “sweet science” generally fell out of use until the middle of the 20th century when author AJ Libeling brought it back. Libeling was a writer for the The New Yorker who wrote a collection of boxing articles from 1951 to 1955. He titled his collection The Sweet Science in homage to Pierce Egan, and he published the collection as a book in 1956. In 2002, Sports Illustrated magazine rated it “the greatest sports book of all time.”

Within The Sweet Science, Libeling covers popular boxers and bouts of the day, providing precise observations throughout. Some of the most successful fighters of the time included Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano, and Jake Lamotta.

Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard both received their nicknames from the phrase “sweet science.” Both fighters used technical, adroit strategies to outclass opponents. Ray Robinson’s trainer, George Gainford, gave Robinson the nickname when he was an amateur. Gainford said Robinson was “sweet as sugar.” The nickname stuck and was subsequently used to describe the other Ray (Leonard) when he arrived on the boxing scene.

Modern Usage

Boxing’s popularity has fallen in the last several decades, but the skills and heart displayed by the best in the world remain the same. The most successful boxers are tactical, yet tough. No other phrase depicts this image better than the term coined by Egan in the early 19th century, “The Sweet Science of Bruising.”

Voir aussi:

Presenting The Second Best Boxing Doc Of All Time
Bernard Fernandez
The Sweet science
October 24, 2009

Boxing movies are like movies in general: Some are very, very good –Raging Bull, Rocky, The Set-Up, the original Body and Soul and some are very, very bad – Honeyboy, Goldie and the Boxer and the no-semblance-to-the-1947-classic remake of Body and Soul, starring the clueless Leon Isaac Kennedy in place of the great John Garfield.

The same might be said of boxing documentaries, slices of real life that might not always match the reel-life entertainment value of feature films, but in a way are more compelling because the faces and voices belong to actual persons and not actors.

There have been some praiseworthy documentaries about fights and fighters in recent years. I thought 2007’s Triumph and Tragedy: The Ray Mancini Story  and 2005’s Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story were well-done. But the gold standard for such projects remains 1996’s When We Were Kings, which won an Academy Award as Best Documentary.

When We Were Kings dealt with the mesmerizing “Rumble in the Jungle” between a supposedly past-his-prime Muhammad Ali and the seemingly invincible heavyweight champion, George Foreman, which took place in the early morning hours of Oct. 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali, of course, shocked the world – again – and his charisma, cunning and ability to overcome even the most daunting odds were captured on film for the world to cherish and, we should all hope, always remember.

Now comes the counter-point to When We Were Kings, and, to my way of thinking, the second-best boxing documentary ever made. Muhammad and Larry, which premieres on ESPN at 8 p.m. EST next Tuesday, is a cautionary tale that should remind us, if we didn’t already know, that nothing lasts forever, particularly within the harsh confines of the prize ring.

Directed by Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan, Muhammad and Larry is the same sad tale we have seen time and again with legendary fighters who believed that the natural laws of diminishing returns did not apply to them, that the force of their will somehow trumped the erosion of their skill. It is easy to imagine a similar documentary about Sugar Ray Leonard’s brutal dual loss to Father Time and Terry Norris, of Joe Louis coming out of retirement for a payday to erase part of his tax debt to the IRS and being knocked unconscious by the young, strong Rocky Marciano. Perhaps some documentarian with vision, like Maysles and Kaplan, will preserve for posterity the final descent down boxing’s slippery slope for the loser of the early-2010 rematch of fortysomething icons Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.

But no other fighter before or since could routinely dial up miracles like Ali, who defied the odds so often that he came to believe in his own ability to make magic, like the card tricks he loved to perform before adoring audiences. The world came to believe, too, which is why millions convinced themselves that on Oct. 2, 1980, the old, fat man attempting to whip his body into fighting trim one more time somehow could turn back the calendar and rediscover lost glory.

Ali was so much more than a boxer then, as he is now. Twenty-nine years ago, though, he wasn’t so widely viewed as a tragic figure brought down by the ravaging effects of Parkinson’s Syndrome. He was an idea, an inspiration, a self-made creation who backed up his braggadocio with blinding combinations when he was young and sleek, with determination and heart as he aged and that marvelous physique softened. Regardless of which stage of his career he found himself in at any given moment, Ali never failed to hold the public in his thrall.

After Holmes – a one-time Ali sparring partner who understood the emotional tug his former boss had retained on fans who led with their hearts and not their eyes _ had so battered “The Greatest” that trainer Angelo Dundee would not let his man come out for the 11th round, Jerry Izenberg, the venerable sports columnist for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., sought some answer to why so many had dared to believe their hero again could again make possible what should have been impossible. He got the most telling response from a sextegenarian black wash-room attendant at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where the mismatch had taken place.

Izenberg asked the man why he had wagered his hard-earned money on Ali, even when common sense dictated that it was a losing proposition.

“He said, `Because (Ali) gave me my dignity,’” Izenberg recalled. “I never forgot that.”

Izenberg is one of several sports writers who were at ringside that fateful night 29 years ago, all of whom knew what was going to happen but were hoping it wouldn’t be quite as bad as it turned out to be. They reconvened, at the filmmakers’ request, for a sort of round-table discussion of what had gone down and recalled how Ali had taken off so much weight (30 pounds or so), how he was still pretty (he called himself “Dark Gable” because of the mustache he grew during training) and how he could still spout bad poetry as if he were Laurence Olivier reciting a scene from Hamlet.

“He ain’t nothing but a clown with my crown” and “His behind shall be mine in Round 9,” Ali chirped, recalling the days before his Feb. 25, 1964, first meeting with Sonny Liston when he predicted spectators would see “a total eclipse of the Sonny.”

But that Ali, still known as Cassius Clay then, was 21 and this Ali, with extraordinarily high mileage on his boxing odometer, was 37 and a ghost of what he had been. All anyone had to do was to look upon the man dispassionately and without favorable bias, which, of course, was difficult for his legion of true believers.

Ferdie Pacheco, who had recused himself from Ali’s inner circle after the Oct. 1, 1975, “Thrilla in Manila” rubber match with Joe Frazier because he did not want to see him take any more punishment, mused about Ali’s penchant for being roughly handled in sparring at his Deer Lake, Pa., training camp. Ali, who had not fought since his title-reclaiming Sept. 15, 1978, rematch with Leon Spinks, said it was because he needed to “toughen up,” to become reaccustomed to taking hard body shots.

“You don’t toughen up kidneys,” said Pacheco, who served as Ali’s personal physician for 15 years. “Kidneys don’t believe in toughening up because they’re delicate, delicate organs. That’s one of the reasons why (Ali) fell apart” on fight night.

The straight man in this tragi-comedy was Holmes, a good man and an excellent champion whose legacy is forever destined to be overshadowed because his rise coincided with Ali’s fall, and because his star power could never match that which Ali generated with such casual ease.

“For all his life, all he heard was he was a shadow of Ali,” Pacheco said, empathizing with the victor who nonetheless left the arena as something of a victim.

“Holmes deserved to be the next champion after Ali. But he’s not what you would call the successor to Muhammad Ali. He’s just the next guy around. He’s not the next great guy around; he’s just the next guy around.”

There are three reasons why retired fighters return to their brutal trade. They do so because they need another payday, or the adulation that only comes from being active, or because they don’t know how to do anything else.

A profligate spender and generous to a fault with those who pledged their fealty to him, Ali probably was in need of some fast cash. But although he probably still was the most famous individual on the planet, his ego required the sort of constant stroking that only another successful comeback could provide.

With millions of dollars to be made by both fighters, Ali and Holmes agreed to square off because it was financially prudent to do so. Not that Holmes didn’t have second thoughts, however. Like most everyone else, he held Ali in high regard and did not want to see him further damaged.

“I got nothing bad to say about him,” Holmes, an Ali sparring partner from 1971 to ’75, said during the lead-up to the big event. “After I knock him out, he’ll still be my friend.”

Whether Ali was as generous in his assessment of Holmes is a matter of conjecture. An opponent was to be beaten down, even in sparring. Friendship ended the moment someone stood in the other corner.

“He was always good to me,” Holmes said of Ali. “Those things you don’t forget. But I’m going to lay it out. Ali was a great guy. But when it comes down to Ali doing his thing, he wanted to be here (Holmes held his hand up high) and you down there. As long as you’re down there and he’s up here, you’re the greatest thing in the world to him.

“You get in that ring, you got your mother there, your brother there, your sister there, he gonna kick your ass. He ain’t gonna play with you.”

Holmes, no longer anyone’s apprentice, decided he could not play with Ali either. Sure, the “Easton Assassin” knew he was the better fighter then. But what if Ali somehow convinced himself he was impervious to the aging process? Better to go for the quick knockout, Holmes decided, rather than to allow Ali to sway the judges and the audience by hanging around and giving them a reason to believe another miracle was in the making.

Back in Deer Lake, Ali was busy psyching himself into the belief that it somehow was 10 or 15 years earlier and he again was the absolute master of his domain. Could he reach into his trick bag and pull out another rabbit? Become heavyweight champion of the world for an unprecedented fourth time? Well, why not? He was still Muhammad Ali, wasn’t he?

“He can’t move his head,” Ali told a group of sycophants as he watched a tape of the classic June 9, 1978, fight between Holmes and Ken Norton. “He don’t duck, he don’t weave, he don’t crouch. He’s a stand-up-straight fighter. I’ll have no trouble with him. I’ll eat him up.”

Perhaps Ali should have watched more updated tapes of himself instead. “Dark Gable” was shuffling, all right, but not as a part of any preconceived strategy. The master of the Ali Shuffle was about to enter the extreme danger zone.

“Is there any question as to why he fell apart?” asked Pacheco. “Not if you were around looking at him. Not if you saw him every day talking slower, walking slower, moving slower, punching less. You could see him falling apart.”

True to his word, Holmes attempted to take Ali out quickly, to spare him an ongoing bludgeoning. But the Ali who withstood all those trials by fire from Joe Frazier and Foreman refused to yield, so round after round Holmes looked imploringly to referee Richard Green, begging him with his eyes to stop the madness. Except that Green also remembered the Ali who could come back from the brink, and maybe believed there was enough time for him to do so again.

It was left to trainer Angelo Dundee, who remained with Ali well past his expiration point as a great fighter, to step in, as Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, did before the 15th round of the “Thrilla in Manila.” He told Green it was his call as chief second to end it, and he was making that call.

Victory was bittersweet for Holmes, who believes to this day he could have beaten Ali prime-on-prime. But public perception is a fickle thing, and there is no way his thrashing of a legend enabled him to take for himself a measure of that legend’s incredible popularity.

“A lady came up to me in Las Vegas and said, `I hate you,’” Holmes said. “I said `Why?’ And she said, `Because you beat up Muhammad Ali.’”

The ghost of Ali faded further still until the night of Dec. 11, 1981, when he lost a unanimous, 10-round decision to Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas. Three years after that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Syndrome.

Might Ali have avoided Parkinson’s had he retired after his conquest of Foreman? After the epic third battle with Frazier? Was there still time to save him from himself had he not been enticed to sign for the inevitable beatdown by Holmes?

So many questions, so few answers. All that remains is the memory of a man who boasted that he was “The Greatest” and, for a large chunk of his boxing life, was just that.

Voir également:

History of London Boxing
Gary Holland
BBC
05/12/2007

A guide to the early history of boxing from ancient times to the Roman equivalent.

Origins of Boxing

Boxing was originally nothing more than bare fist fighting between two willing and sometimes unwilling competitors. As a sport, fighting has been around for thousands of years where it first arose in parts of Africa and Egypt before spreading to parts of Southern Europe. The Ancient Greeks, who held the belief that fighting was a game played by the Gods on Olympus, made fighting a part of the Olympic Games in 688BC.

The Romans

The Romans had a keen interest in the sport and fighting soon became a common spectator sport. In order for the fighters to protect themselves against their opponents they wrapped leather thongs around their fists. Eventually harder leather was used and the thong soon became a weapon. The Romans even introduced metal studs to the thongs to make the cestus which then led to a more sinister weapon called the myrmex (‘limb piercer’).

The Roman form of boxing was often a fight until death to please the spectators who gathered at such events. Often slaves were used against one another in a circle marked on the floor. This is where the term ring came from.

In 393AD, during the Roman gladiator period, boxing was abolished due to excessive brutality. It was not until the late 17th century where boxing re-surfaced in London.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2007/11/13/boxing_london_revival_feature.shtml

History of London Boxing
A London Revival
The story of how London re-introduced boxing in the 17th Century.
Gary Holland
13/11/2007

A London newspaper, the Protestant Mercury, referred to a boxing match back in 1681 and the Royal Theatre in London often held scheduled fights in 1698. Boxing matches around this time were bareknuckle and also a mix of boxing and wrestling.

James Figg

It was not until James Figg became a boxer in 1719 that skill was brought into the game. Figg, an expert fencer, held the title until 1730 until he retired unbeaten. He would challenge all comers to bouts of boxing at his booth at Southwark Fair and he also set up a Boxing Academy, the first of its kind.

James Figg died in 1734 after nearly 300 fights. During this time boxing still had no rules or regulations and were often quite vicious affairs. Having said that, boxing did regain some status and respectability due to the fact that King George was an avid fan along with many noblemen. King George also set up a ring at Hyde Park, London in 1723.

John ‘Jack’ Broughton, known as the father of English boxing, was champion from 1729 until 1750 and was a pupil of James Figg.

Daniel Mendoza

Another London fighter, Daniel Mendoza, had a significant effect on the style of fighting. Mendoza, a small Jewish fighter from the East End, set up the Mendoza School after receiving severe punishment in his first win against a much larger, heavier opponent.

Footwork, sparring and counter punches helped changed boxing from the sluggish brutal bouts to the more sophisticated fight game. He held the title from 1791 to 1795.

Bob Fitzsimmons

The 1800s saw many English fighters claim the World Championship including Jem Belcher, Tom Cribb, James Burke and Jem Mace.

The Queensbury Rules

During this period the Queensbury Rules of 1867 were invented to include three minute rounds, no wrestling or hugging, a ten second count and gloves to be worn for the first time. The rules, introduced by the Marquis of Queensberry, John Sholto Douglas, and John G. Chambers are still used today.

By the end of the 1800s British Champions were starting to lose their hold on the sport and the American legend John L.Sullivan held the title for 10 years and invoked the popularity of the sport in America.

1899 saw the first and last British Heavyweight Champion, Bob Fitzsimmons, for nearly 100 years.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2007/11/13/boxing_jack_broughton_feature.shtml

History of London Boxing
The Father of English Boxing
The story of Jack Broughton – England’s Champion Prizefighter.
Gary Holland

John ‘Jack’ Broughton, known as the father of English boxing, was champion from 1729 until 1750 and was a pupil of James Figg.

Broughton made his first appearance at George Taylor’s booth at the Adam and Eve in Tottenham Court Road. He then went on to teach boxing at his arena known as Broughton’s Amphitheatre in Oxford Road near to Oxford Street.

The theatre was opened in March 1743 and in the same year Broughton introduced the first rules of boxing.

Broughton’s Rules introduced a 3-foot square in the centre of the ring, breaks when a fighter was knocked down and gloves used but only for practice.

The introduction of these rules happened after Broughton injured an opponent in the ring after which the man died. Broughton’s Rules were used until 1838 when the London Prize Ring Rules were developed by the Pugilistic Society.

He died in January 1789, aged 86, at Walcot Place in Lambeth. Many references have been made that state Broughton is buried at Lambeth Church.

However BBC London visited Westminster Abbey where he was a Yeoman of the Guard and found that he is buried in the West Cloister along with his wife Elizabeth.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2007/11/13/boxing_modern_history_feature.shtml

History of London Boxing
Boxing through the 1900s and a look at some of the top fighters of that era.
Gary Holland

John H Stracey

The early 1900s saw America dominate the sport but there were a handful of British fighters who made an impact on the boxing world.

London produced several world champions including George ‘Digger’ Stanley (World Bantamweight Champion 1910), Bill Ladbury (World Flyweight Champion 1913) and Teddy Baldock (World Bantamweight Champion 1927). In 1956 East London boxer Terry Spinks won the flyweight gold in Melbourne.

1960 was the year Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, had his first professional fight and became the world’s most famous boxer and sportsman. The United States held many of the boxing titles during the latter part of the 20th Century but several London fighters did claim world titles. They included;

Terry Downes, Middleweight  1961
John H. Stracey, Welterweight 1975-76
Charlie Magri, Flyweight 1983
Lloyd Honeyghan, Welterweight 1986
Terry Marsh, Light-Welterweight  1987
Duke McKenzie, Fly, Bantam & Super Bantamweight 1988-93
Nigel Benn, Middleweight 1990, 1992-96
Chris Eubank, Middleweight 1990-91, 1991-95
Frank Bruno, Heavyweight  1995-1996
Lennox Lewis, Heavyweight 1993-1994, 1997-2001, 2001-2004
David Haye, Cruiserweight 2007

One of the greatest English fighters of the early 1900s was Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis from London’s East End. Lewis, who was born Gershon Mendeloff, had his first fight at fourteen and went on to win the World Welterweight Championship in 1915 when he beat American Jack Britton – the first of twenty epic fights between them. ‘Kid’ Lewis had a total of 279 bouts and was the first Britain to make an impact in America. He also won many more British, European, Empire and World titles.

Henry Cooper

The 1900s were particularly bleak for the British Heavyweight division but one fighter came very close to making an impact on the American domination.

At Wembley Stadium on June 18 1963, toward the end of the fourth round, Henry Cooper hit Cassius Clay with one of the best left hooks seen at the famous stadium. Clay went down but managed to get up and back to his corner as the bell sounded for the end of the round. Clay was given extra time to recover after a split glove needed attention and he then went on to win in the fifth. The title rematch at Highbury in 1966 also saw Cooper retire with cuts in the sixth round.

Heavyweights

It took until 1993 for Britain to win a World Heavyweight title when London born Lennox Lewis won the WBC Heavyweight Championship where he defeated Tony Tucker in Las Vegas. Lewis was in fact awarded the belt before this fight but this was his first fight as Champion.

Lewis defended his title three times before losing it to Oliver McCall in September 1994. He regained heavyweight titles in 1997, 1998 and beat Evander Holyfield in 1999 after their first bout was controversially called a draw. He went on to beat Mike Tyson and is regarded as one of the best heavyweight boxers of his time.

Other British champions during the 20th Century were Frank Bruno (WBC champion, 1995-1996) who won the title from Oliver McCall in 1995 to fulfil his dream of becoming world champion, Henry Akinwande (WBO champion, 1996-1997) and Herbie Hide (WBO champion, 1994-1995, 1997-1999).
Safety

In 2000 the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) introduced new safety measures including a requirement to have an anaesthetist and two teams of paramedics at the ringside. The safety measures followed the Michael Watson and Chris Eubank fight in 1991 where the fight nearly cost Watson his life. Michael Watson won his court case after claiming the BBBC were liable for his injuries.

Voir enfin:

The Champ and Mr. X

James Rosen

National review

February 20, 2016

Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith (Basic, 392 pp., $28.99)

‘Not many people,” Malcolm X told the writer George Plimpton in 1964, “know the quality of the mind he’s got in there.” The fiery minister for the Nation of Islam (NOI), head of its Harlem mosque and the sect’s most prominent spokesman, was talking about Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., the strikingly pretty and unrelentingly loquacious 22-year-old boxer from Louisville who was soon to dethrone Sonny Liston, thuggish and frightful, an 8-to-1 betting favorite, as heavyweight champion of the world. For nearly four years, the period that witnessed Clay’s rise from light-heavyweight Olympic gold to heavyweight title, the public had known him as a benign clown, the Little Richard of sports. He fought in an unorthodox and rococo style, hands held low as he pranced around opponents; Clay’s chief preoccupation seemed to be to avoid blemish to my pretty face. Eschewing the Joe Louis model for black athletes, of quiet humility before white audiences, Clay proclaimed himself The Greatest, spouted amateurish poetry, tagged his opponents with derisive nicknames, and predicted, often accurately, the round in which he would dispense with them. The sporting press had never seen anything like it. Yet even they overlooked the practical advantage the clown act derived from misdirection. Broadening the action beyond the ring lulled Clay’s opponents into complacency about his lethality inside it; focus on the Louisville Lip’s clowning obscured his speed of hand and foot, his gifts for spatial relations and evasion, his ability to take a punch. Only under such circumstances could members of the boxing press express surprise, when Liston and Clay finally met at ring center, that the challenger stood two inches taller than the champion. In political terms, however, the act was harmless. Whenever sportswriters pitched him questions about the civil-rights movement, Clay cannily recoiled from controversy, steering the conversation back to his greatness, his prettiness, the big red Cadillac he would drive when he became champion; in this he showed the same agility, the same circular backpedaling, he had displayed on the streets of Louisville and when sparring for real. As Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith demonstrate in Blood Brothers, Clay’s use of misdirection advanced still another objective. Not until the last weeks before the Liston fight in February 1964, when Malcolm X — freshly excommunicated from the Nation of Islam by its vengeful leader, Elijah Muhammad — started showing up at Clay’s training camp, did the public, prodded by a newly aroused press, awaken to the boxer’s membership for the past two years in the NOI, the era’s most controversial religious sect. Clay was dyslexic and a slow reader, but his mind was fiercely instinctual and finely calibrated: He knew rhyming boasts would boost ticket sales but talk of the Black Muslims would flatten them. So Clay effectively hid his association with the Nation until he had secured the goal he had harbored since the age of twelve: the heavyweight championship. Only then did he put his loquacity to work on behalf of his religious fervor — starting, as history records, with his change of name to Muhammad Ali. “Central to his life, relationships, and career,” the authors write, “was deception.” Exhaustively researched and tautly written, Blood Brothers marks a milestone in the biographical literature of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, an invaluable addition to our understanding of America in the 1960s. In all it touches — the far-flung but interconnected worlds of race, religion, politics, sports, cities, organized crime, and the news media — this sober and detailed book, a dual biography that alternates between protagonists like a suspense novel, renders profound service. The authors unearth reams of new evidence, shine light on long-overlooked episodes, and hack away at the barnacles of mythology, thereby giving us the finest portrait yet of the doomed relationship that transformed Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali. History professors at Purdue and Georgia Tech, respectively, Roberts and Smith draw on an impressive array of sources: NOI telegrams contained in Malcolm X’s papers; FBI documents chronicling the Bureau’s surveillance of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm; Louisville police records and declassified State Department files; the private papers of Ali’s previous biographers, stored in locations as distant as the University of Oregon; the business correspondence of the Louisville Sponsoring Group, Clay’s original management firm; the archives of the NAACP, deposited at the Library of Congress; the contemporaneous reporting of mainstream newspapers and magazines, as well as black outlets, including the Amsterdam News and Muhammad Speaks; obscure TV and radio broadcasts; congressional-hearing transcripts and court affidavits; and a handful of original interviews. Flashing their power early on, the authors show in the introduction how the late Alex Haley, ghostwriter of the bestselling The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) and celebrated author of the 1976 novel Roots, a touchstone of American culture, misled Malcolm X — and subsequently the readers of the Autobiography — about an important matter. Tucked away in Haley’s papers at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture was evidence, in Haley’s own hand, that he withheld from Malcolm the fact that, while the new heavyweight champion intended to abide by Elijah Muhammad’s edict barring all NOI members from contact with the excommunicated Malcolm, Ali also told Haley that Malcolm was “still my brother, my friend.” Instead, Haley conveyed the opposite message, both to Malcolm and to subsequent readers, using a sterner quote from Ali that Haley represented as having come from his own interview with the champ, but that Haley had in fact lifted from a recent issue of Ebony. This misapprehension Malcolm took to his grave. Haley manipulated Malcolm’s broken relationship with Ali in order to present a more sensational historical account. He selected and excluded events according to whether they fit into his agenda. In some cases, he tampered with the facts. But the truth was more complex than Haley let on. This alone — the takedown of a major writer such as Haley — should guarantee Blood Brothers a wide audience, but there is much more that commends this transfixing book. Armed with near-total comprehension of the daily whereabouts and activities of their two protagonists for a period of years, the authors chronicle in greater detail than ever before how Cassius Clay, elder son of a placid Baptist mother and a volatile Methodist father, gravitated to the self-help separatism of the Black Muslims; and how Malcolm Little, the career criminal who vaulted from a state penitentiary to the lieutenancy of Elijah Muhammad’s empire, slowly came to realize the unlimited potential that Clay, as both a boxer and a leader of black youth, held as an international ambassador for the NOI. For Clay, the attraction germinated long before he met Malcolm: As early as October 1958, the FBI observed the 16-year-old Golden Gloves contender, on one of his earliest trips out of Louisville, conversing with NOI members outside their Atlanta mosque. The following year, a high-school teacher rebuked Clay for submitting an essay on the NOI, an early lesson in the need for him to conceal his affinity for the Black Muslims. Witnesses to the Malcolm–Clay bond recognized it as unmistakably fraternal. Malcolm played the sage older brother, solemnly instructing Clay in NOI doctrines that only validated the rants that the Clay brothers, Cassius and Rudy, had grown up hearing about the evils of the white man from their father, Cassius Clay Sr. And Clay was the exuberant junior partner, bringing smiles to the face of the tightly wound minister as his daughters bounced on the boxer’s lap. “In general,” Malcolm told Haley, “I taught [Clay] that 90 percent of success would depend upon how alert and knowledgeable he became to the true natures and motives of all the people who flocked around him.” By that measure, both men failed, for the arc of Ali’s whole career — his mismanaged finances, his susceptibility to those who encouraged him to fight long past when he should have stopped — testified to the champ’s woeful incapacity for discerning well-intentioned voices. As Ali’s longtime friend and photographer, Howard Bingham, told authorized biographer Thomas Hauser in Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (1991): “Ali still lets people take advantage of him and doesn’t always listen to the right people.” Paramount among those who advised Ali with jaundiced motives — indeed, controlled him — was Elijah Muhammad himself. Born to a sharecropper–turned–Baptist preacher in 1897, the seventh of 13 children, Elijah Poole left school in rural Georgia by the fourth grade. He migrated to Detroit in the 1920s and there came under the tutelage of NOI founder Wallace D. Fard, an ex-convict and door-to-door salesman whose home-brewed Islamic theology blended sensible prescriptions for clean living and black pride with sci-fi beliefs about spaceships and evil scientists raising armies of white devils on remote islands. When Fard disappeared — amid charges he had ordered a human sacrifice — Elijah Muhammad, as Fard had renamed Poole, assumed leadership of the NOI and proclaimed himself the one true Messenger of Allah. NOI membership nearly evaporated during the four years Muhammad spent in prison in the World War II era, following his conviction on charges of sedition and draft evasion, but by the mid 1950s some 50 NOI temples were operating in 22 states. Each contributed soldiers to the Fruit of Islam (FOI), the vanguard of security officers and enforcers who kept congregants in line by administering brutal beatings to renegade members. While the mainstream press portrayed the NOI as a hate group, citing its separatist rhetoric and vague talk of armed resistance, the reality was that it functioned more like a criminal syndicate, with revenues from temple dues, sales of Muhammad Speaks, and other compulsory enterprises keeping Elijah Muhammad in style while covering up his infidelities and punishing defectors. Sports were of little interest to the Messenger, simply another manifestation of whites’ exploitation of blacks. When he learned that Jeremiah X, minister for the Atlanta mosque and chief recruiter in the Deep South, was cultivating a relationship with Cassius and Rudy Clay, both boxers, Elijah Muhammad reprimanded Jeremiah, reminding him to make converts, “not fool around with fighters.” It so happened that the blossoming of the Malcolm X–Cassius Clay friendship, starting in early 1962, coincided with Clay’s swiftest period of ascent through the heavyweight ranks and with Elijah Muhammad’s rising displeasure with Malcolm’s penchant for publicity — which grew most acute after Malcolm, then the leader of Temple No. 7 in Harlem, greeted the assassination of President Kennedy with a statement describing it as “the chickens coming home to roost.” Elijah also learned that Malcolm had become aware of the Messenger’s extramarital affairs and the children that those liaisons had produced; Elijah suspended Malcolm from the NOI before he could further probe those scandals. The sum total of these triangulated dynamics was that Elijah Muhammad discovered the value in having Cassius Clay around at more or less the same time he recognized the need to banish Malcolm X. For a time, Malcolm and Clay ignored Muhammad’s edict forbidding their association and continued their daily rap sessions with reporters as Clay readied for Liston in Miami Beach. For Malcolm, it was a calculated gambit, an attempt at leveraging Clay’s celebrity to bolster his own standing within the NOI and perhaps to use the fighter as a human shield against FOI assassins. Here, as the Sixties came sharply into focus, Malcolm X — the shrewd tactician behind NOI’s expansion in the previous decade — miscalculated. In the authors’ words: “In a moment of weakness, he exploited his friendship with Clay, manipulating him and withholding the truth about his [own] future in the Nation. In a desperate attempt to prove his value to Elijah, he offered to deliver Clay to Chicago after the [Liston] fight, treating Cassius like some prize that could be bartered or traded. But Elijah did not have to buy Clay’s loyalty. He already owned it.” Indeed, after capturing the title — at a time when he knew Malcolm X had been marked for death — Ali coldly turned his back. “Muhammad taught Malcolm X everything he knows,” the champ said in March 1964. “So I couldn’t go with the child, I go with the daddy.” Ali “understood the choice he had to make,” write Roberts and Smith: “And as he had so often before, he chose the less dangerous path. . . . Ali was not innocent. He had joined the chorus of violent ringleaders who raged about punishing Malcolm. . . . Without throwing a punch or raising his hand, Ali managed to hound the man he had once called his brother.” “He’s just a boy,” Malcolm said of his ex-friend. “He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s being used.” Any chance at reconciliation ended, of course, with the assassination of Malcolm X — almost certainly on the orders, or in line with the wishes, of Elijah Muhammad — by a squad of FOI enforcers inside Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom in February 1965. In time — specifically, in April 1969, when Ali’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War had resulted in his being stripped of his title belt and license to box, and when, as the authors note, he “could not raise money or generate good publicity for the Nation” — he, too, fell prey to Elijah’s sanction and was suspended from the NOI. The nominal transgression was Ali’s statement to Howard Cosell, on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, that he would return to boxing if the money was right — a seeming contradiction of Ali’s original stand on religious principle. Unlike Malcolm X, however, Ali received an unspoken pardon and was permitted to rejoin NOI around the time his boxing career resumed. Journalists who covered Ali for extended periods, as well as others who knew him well — or as well as a figure of so many faces and guises could be known — have attested to the manifest fear of the Black Muslims that guided the fighter’s actions for years to come. One example: In Sound and Fury: Two Powerful Lives, One Fateful Friendship (2006), the brilliant and nuanced portrait of the Ali–Cosell relationship by Dave Kindred, the Louisville Courier-Journal sportswriter whose residency aboard the Ali bandwagon dated back to 1966, the fighter was quoted as whispering to the reporter in November 1974, shortly after recapturing the heavyweight crown from George Foreman: “I would have gotten out of [the NOI] a long time ago. But you saw what they did to Malcolm X. I ain’t gonna end up like Malcolm X.” This raises the chief problem with Blood Brothers, self-inflicted and wholly unnecessary in a book of such strength and value: namely, the pejorative claims its authors make vis-à-vis their predecessors on the subject of Malcolm and Ali, even as Roberts and Smith time and again acknowledge, in their main text and footnotes, their reliance on earlier writers and works. “Historians and biographers have misread the complicated relationship between them,” write Roberts and Smith. “Their respective biographers have neglected to show that Ali and Malcolm were much more important to each other than previously acknowledged.” Not really. Did Manning Marable, whose 608-page Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011) was hailed as the definitive biography, fail to grasp the centrality of Ali in Malcolm’s life, or the elusiveness of the boxer’s psyche, when he wrote, “Few men would play such an outsized role in Malcolm’s life as this enigmatic, irrepressible figure”? Nor does Blood Brothers’ depiction of Ali’s being “exploited” by the NOI, of Elijah Muhammad’s privately disparaging his boxing ability, of Ali’s fearing the brutality of the NOI after Malcolm’s murder, differ so markedly from the accounts of Dave Kindred, quoted in Blood Brothers on the point, or of Mark Kram, the late Sports Illustrated writer and author of Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier (2001): Clay rushed toward the Muslims like an orphan, while the sect saw no utility in him, no gain, despite Malcolm X’s interest. . . . The Muslim hierarchy barely knew who Clay was, while the troops in Miami filled his head with dogma and privately laughed at the idea of Clay beating Liston. . . . [Malcolm X’s] murder would jolt Ali, drive home a point that he had given no thought; the Muslims played for keeps. Roberts and Smith are hardly the first authors to overstate their analytic innovation; but Blood Brothers otherwise stands so tall as a testament to the value of real facts, of research and documentation, that the authors’ deviation from their own code, presumably for marketing purposes, appears all the more glaring. Also, their ending feels rushed. While Ali’s regrets about his treatment of Malcolm X, articulated in a book of “reflections” he co-authored with his daughter in 2003, are duly recorded here, the disposition of the paternity lawsuits filed against Elijah Muhammad before his death, in February 1975, so central to Elijah’s split with Malcolm X, goes unreported. Similarly, very little space is devoted to Ali’s conversion, following Elijah’s death, to Sunni Islam, and none at all to his conversion, three decades later, to Sufi Islam. And the authors make no attempt to connect Ali’s immersion in the NOI — which persisted to the end of his boxing career, with Elijah’s son Herbert Muhammad as Ali’s omnipotent manager — to the boxer’s ultimate fate: fighting too long, taking too many blows to the head, and having his mouth and movement, once his hallmarks, cruelly stilled by Parkinson’s syndrome. Are we to assume that Ali was receiving sound advice from Herbert Muhammad when the ex-champ, bloated at 38 and coming off a two-year layoff, signed to fight Larry Holmes? Was Ali at that point being driven solely by his own boredom and ego, or by financial straits worsened by the untold sums he had been compelled to fork over to the NOI? Here is the ultimate evidence that Malcolm X failed to instill in Ali a capacity for judging the motivations of those around him. Ali’s doctors stress that his condition is one of motor function, not cognition. His brain functions as it always has; the Louisville Lip simply has no ability to verbalize his thoughts. Thus it is, sadly, as true today as in February 1964, when Malcolm X marveled at the singularity of his friend, that no one knows the quality of the mind Muhammad Ali has got in there. – Mr. Rosen is the chief Washington correspondent of Fox News and the author of Cheney One on One: A Candid Conversation with America’s Most Controversial Statesman.

 

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