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cultural icons unleashed by the African American struggle for freedom. Each fighter embodied dif- ferent concepts of masculinity in an era when achieving full manhood was a major goal of the civil rights movement. Foreman was the hardworking, quiet young man grateful to American society, a juvenile delinquent who came in from the cold to express his gratitude to America for his rise. At the same time, Foreman’s appeal lay in his imposing brawn, while Ali appeared to em- body brains and, in his mind, religious enlightenment, along with the rebel- lious martyrdom of


until the Monday and Tuesday editions of USA Today.” Pete and I are older than that, and we recall some of the individuals who were tilling this fi eld before us. We are in a bold new Age of Enlightenment, but fans and writers are not unanimous in believing that we are in a new Age of Enjoy- ment. Stats contain and crystallize stories but are not stories in themselves. They are something of a fetish, an encapsulation of a thing once alive. A stat serves to recall and revivify the past and sometimes to trans- form the future. As fans, Pete and I both follow

continued and unending progress and improvement (in all sports, not just tennis) – the Enlightenment view, mentioned earlier, of the combined powers of reason and science to propel civilisation irreversibly forwards. The emphasis on scientific management, on continual ‘improvement’ – in players’ physical capabilities, in the advance of technology and in the continual search for innovation in every aspect of the game, from the design of courts to the shape of shoes – understandably contributes to the view that ‘things can only get better’. Players today are

ring, when you’re ready for it, is not a shortcut to enlightenment for everyone, or even a really truthful example of what real violence is and does . . . but it’s better than nothing. It’s a crack in the door, a peek through the keyhole. It’s a glimpse at the knowledge from an earlier era, as Ian McEwan wrote in Black Dogs: “out here the rules were exposed as mere convention, a flimsy social contract. Here, no institutions asserted human ascendancy. There was only the path which belonged to any creature that could walk it.” The ring belongs to any man who

to the next depending on how much they care to learn about what they’re watching, and— as both Cotto- Margarito and Margarito- Mosley abundantly demonstrated— the narratives can also change over time contingent on information that surfaces after the fact. The sport offers no truths, but only informed beliefs to subscribe to; each being valid to some extent, but each also PLASTER OF TORRANCE 101 flawed in its own ways. The Truth is there’s no purity in boxing; there are no absolutes to rely on. Enlightenment is to be found in the ring only on occasion and