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A Violent Season

Girlfight
Tom Sanford, Girlfight, 2005, ink on paper, 10 × 12". Courtesy of the artist.

The evening of Thursday, April 7, was the first balmy one of the year. In Times Square, men beat on plastic drums. The sound rose into the blue and pink sky and was magnified among the glass towers. Smells sweet, fresh, and foul awoke in the air. Hundreds came out to walk, loose-limbed, renewed, expectant.

Early spring sees obscene excrescences: curling green and puce nodes, crocuses poking psychotically through crusted snow. Then the first warm day brings a flowering; buds relax in fulfillment. I think of boxing, of the prizefight, which has been described as the fruit or flower of the boxer’s Spartan striving.

The New York Daily News Golden Gloves has taken place each of the past seventy-eight years in the period corresponding to the Christian seasons of Lent and Easter, when the faithful prepare by fasting to be redeemed in bloodshed. Early spring in the 1920s was also a slow sports season, so editor Paul Gallico decided to create some news by starting the Golden Gloves tournament. This year in the week before the Gloves finals, the pope passed. So did 34-year-old Becky Zerlentes, the first woman to be felled by an apparent deathblow in a sanctioned boxing event—she died in the hospital the day after her fight. The Times Sports section optimistically predicted that Zerlentes’s tragedy would draw needed regulatory rigor to amateur boxing. Zerlentes was white, a college professor, part of an upclassing of the sport; attention would be paid.

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