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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > August 2017 > When to throw in the towel

When to throw in the towel

Boxing’s glory days are over but writers are still addicted to the ultimate drama, says Kasia Boddy

The Bittersweet Science: Fifteen Writers in the Gym, in the Corner, and at the Ringside Edited by Carlo Rotella and Michael Ezra (University of Chicago Press, £14.50)

Forget the general election and all that’s followed— for some the most dramatic night of the year was 29th April. That was when an apparently unbreakable Ukrainian finally yielded to a personable young man from Watford. In other words, Britain’s Anthony Joshua fought off Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko to unite three heavyweight boxing titles. Joshua is 27 years old and before the fight had a carefully curated 18-0 record— every win by knockout; Klitschko, at 41, and with 68 professional fights behind him, was (rather charitably) said to be entering the “twilight of his career.”

Joshua’s victory, if not unexpected, was welcomed across the boxing world. “Congratulations,” tweeted fellow boxer Oscar de la Hoya, “you will be the saviour of the heavyweight division.” More than 90,000 people watched the bout at Wembley Stadium, the biggest British boxing crowd for 80 years, while up to 1.5m households paid £19.95 each for access to the fight on pay-per-view television—a new record, claimed Joshua’s manager. The largest, the biggest, the most. That is what heavyweight boxing is supposed to be all about.

It’s also, as medical organisations tirelessly argue, about the inevitable brain injuries that result from being hit with the equivalent of a 6kg bowling ball travelling at 32km/hour. Obscuring the economic and physical realities of the sport, however, is our relentless fascination with violence and drama, styles and celebrities.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s August issue: Adam Tooze, Helen Thompson, Ben Chu, Julian Baggini, Tom Clark and Hepzibah Anderson reveal the secret history of the banking crisis and its impact over the last decade. Tooze examines the secret history itself, suggesting the work done to repair the world’s finances could mean another crisis is just around the corner. Chu asks why more people at the top of the banks that failed haven’t faced more serious repercussions, and Anderson shows how post-crash Britain has retreated into cosiness. Elsewhere in the issue Alison Wolf asks whether universities are doing any good, and David Goldblatt explores how the decision to take football off free-to-view television in Argentina could backfire for the government. Also in this issue: Kasia Boddy asks why writers are still addicted to watching boxing despite falling viewing figures, Andrew Dickson profiles Tom Stoppard, Stephen Bush explains how Jeremy Corbyn learned to compromise and David Omand outlines the cyber-security challenges facing the UK and the wider world.