While this fight is a big deal in the world of boxing, it probably doesn’t count as a world historical event (though, of course, one never knows – far be it from this historian to predict the future.) Nevertheless, one need not be a fan of boxing to recognize its enduring (though perhaps now diminishing?) significance in American cultural and intellectual life. John Sullivan, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali – these were not just great fighters, but iconic (and sometimes ironic) cultural figures.
In other words, from a purely professional standpoint, I have a perfectly good excuse for an open-thread post on boxing. Moreover, it will come as a surprise to no one who regularly reads the USIH Facebook page that there are, in fact, quite a few U.S. intellectual historians who not only recognize the cultural significance of boxing but who also happen to be fans of the sport – which is also, I think, a perfectly good excuse for an open-thread post on boxing. And I am headed into championship rounds on a current chapter, which I need to finish before Tuesday – hence the open thread.
So I would like to ask my fellow historians (as well as my fellow boxing fans) to help me out here and crowdsource a reading list for “Boxing in U.S. Cultural and Intellectual History.” My list would start with Gail Bederman’s Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917. What would you add?
And if you want to add any remarks to the effect that boxing is not, in fact, an appropriate object of inquiry for an intellectual historian, or that it’s not an appropriate sport to follow or admire or be a fan of – well, put up your dukes, and let’s get down to it!