Pugilist We have all seen or heard about the films ‘Raging Bull’ and the ‘Rocky’ series which evokes the stereotypical images of ‘’rags to riches’ rise of the celluloid pugilists and their eventual fall from grace, only to rise again has been echoed in the real world of boxing at the highest levels. But, the world that these men live in is very different. So, why do they do it?
Pugilist is a study of a group of East London boxers based at the Peacock Gym in Canning Town. This two year projects documents the day to day life of these boxers feom their grueling training routines to their osten brutal and bloody battles in the ring. They all enter the ring with only one intention, to win! The ring separates the winners from the losers. That is what the ring is there for. The ropes that surround the ring were originally devised to keep the spectators away from the fighters when the first boxing matches were held in fields, now serve as restraints for the fighters. Containing them, forcing them to face each other until one wins and the other losers.
The fight takes on an almost ‘ritual’ feel a performance on a brightly lit stage where some of the player’s entrances panda to the desire to make money and to become famous often at their expense. The audience, watch from the darkness adding to the theatrical almost religious feel of the event.
For us the spectators, we usually only remember the victors, the losers are relegated to the back pages of our newspapers. Despite the public’s instant forgetfulness, these boxers who lose do not speak or even think of losing as we do. To them there is no concept that their defeat in the ring denotes failure on the part of the loser. Instead it is understood that defeat is going to be the obvious conclusion for one of the men that enters the ring.
For these men the pure act of competing, of putting their skills and abilities against another, transcends the dictionary definition of the verb to fail.
By entering the squared ring, both boxers lay claim to their individual right to win. However, defeat is part of the ‘unspoken’ contract between fighters, as one man’s defeat is necessary to allow another man to be triumphant.