These days less than before, we gather in a room, my grandpa closest to the TV, and watch as two people beat each other up. There is always food — someone makes pozole, someone brings a Little Caesars Hot-N-Ready. The chorus of collective winces rises and falls and at least one person in our home audience becomes a backseat referee. It’s blood sport, but it’s also a dance — a performance that unfolds before our eyes. In my family, ordering the big fight is tradition. Most of us are watching to see who wins, who is in better condition, who is being shady with their technique. But my attention has always fallen on the pageantry of it all, the campiness, the fashion. Boxing is one of the few sports where there is a structure and expectation for a kind of uniform, but the details are up to interpretation. Landing a lead uppercut is one thing, but pulling up to the ring wearing leopard trunks with olive-green Adidas boxing shoes and winning (see: “Prince” Naseem Hamed vs. Kevin Kelley, 1997) is another.
If you’re going to put on a performance, you need a costume. In boxing, the performance starts long before the first punch is thrown: with the ring walk. It’s the ultimate exercise in anticipation and aesthetics. It’s an opportunity for a boxer to show you who they are, where they come from and what they believe in based on the color and cut they choose for their custom-tailored trunks, based on what song they choose to walk out to. It gets dramatic, of course. See: Floyd