Some fists no better than paws

by Ken Carpenter

As is so often the way, especially in my drivel, cavemen are the first to do most things. Fisticuffs is my choice to abuse this week, and I am totally sure that the first knockout in history occurred when a hairy fisted cave brute KO’d a want-to-be foe.

            Fists are the one weapon that are always close to hand, so to speak. A hard head is not kind to fists, but that rarely makes a difference when anger or self-defense modes kick in.

            The Egyptians had some sort of hand-to-hand bouts for entertainment around 4000 BC, with the combatants wearing strips of leather around their hands. Pretty civilized of them compared to the Greeks around 900 BC, for it was not to the death. They hated wasting manpower that could be used for pyramid building and wars, I guess.

            The Greeks made their warriors sit on flat stones facing each other, wearing the same type of leather thongs (not skimpy underwear!) on their fists, but their fights were to the death. They were also slow to die, so spikes were sewn into the thongs to speed things up.  It did so considerably, and also fueled the bloodlust of the crowd, pleasing everybody but the corpse. Slaves were a dime a dozen so it made no difference to the bloodthirsty Greeks.

            As they did in so many other things, the Romans followed suit. Had it been a flatulence battle to the death, they would have copied that too.

            The London Prize Ring Rules took over bare-knuckle pugilism around 1719, and they stipulated that a round lasted until one fighter was knocked down, and he then got a 30 second break between rounds. The fight would not be considered over until a fighter could not get up, or one of them threw in the towel.

            The longest fight, in Australia in 1855, lasted 6 hours and 15 minutes, when one boxer finally threw in the towel in the 17th round. While the time is impressive, it pales next to the last sanctioned bare-knuckle fight in 1889, after which the Marquess of Queensbury Rules added gloves and three-minute rounds with one-minute breaks.

The fight in 1889 involved famous fighter and drunkard John L. Sullivan, and the bout took 75 rounds to finish, in about two and a half hours. Just imagine 75 knockdowns in the Arizona heat. No wonder boxers were the Rock stars of the day.

Sullivan was reputed to have made over a million bucks in his career, blowing every cent of it. No wonder he was a drunk, you would need some kind of painkiller to maintain after 75 round fights.

A true Ironman, bare-knuckle fighter Jem Mace, had the longest pro boxing career in history, more than 35 years. He retired in his 60’s but fought an exhibition in 1909 at 79 years old.

My pugilistic talents could best be described as pathetic. In the 4th Grade I was made Captain of the Patrols, due more to my accomplished rumpkissing of the teachers than my skill at putting a stop to altercations and the like.

One day I went up to the toughest kid in the class and tried to throw my weight around to put an end to a small skirmish. A firm knee to the crotch affirmed what I wasn’t sure of at the time, but never forgot again. Do not throw your weight around when you are the smallest kid in your class.

The memory of the big circle of kids standing around me pointing as I lay on the ground holding myself is not pleasant, nor likely to be forgotten. A recent event brought it back to mind.

I got home from work, went through the gate and knelt down to let my four yapping dogs greet me. Andy, the only male, stood up on his back feet and tapped me on the chest.

To my great surprise and indignity I fell over backwards, hitting and sliding down the cyclone fence to the ground. After an eight count and a squeal from Joy, who missed all but the sight of me on the ground and thought I had a heart attack, I assessed the damage.

My nice shirt was a ripped up waste, I had a painful gouge on my shoulder blade and I was thoroughly disgusted.

Who would ever think a 12-pound dog would pack a punch like that?