Pacman’s art

Today, world-class champion Manuel “Pacman” Pacquiao notched his nth win in his professional boxing career, easily edging out Shane Mosley in points. Millions of Filipinos and other Pacman fans across the globe are celebrating, as usual.

I sense an undertone of disappointment, however, with many boxing aficionados saying that his victory over Mosley was one of Pacquiao’s “most boring fights” in recent memory. In my case, there was no time wasted, no disappointment. That’s because I didn’t watch it at all, knowing I’d just get bored. But mine is a radically different reason: Boxing in general bores me.

Before I get floored by Pacman fans’ irate blows, let me first do the ritual apologetic bow. I’m apologizing in advance to all the millions of boxing fans out there. Yet let me tell you now: I find neither educational nor entertainment value in boxing, especially professional boxing. Let me repeat that, more bluntly and in bold font this time: I find all boxing fights boring, period. (And, while we’re on that subject, kindly add professional wrestling to the list.)

But let me make a quick correction: I see some entertainment value in boxing matches, namely, during the intro when the fighters’ respective national anthems are sung. (Interesting to see whether Charice belts it better than Kyla.) And also during the intermissions, when sexy models in skimpy wear parade around the ring carrying big cards announcing the next round. (Interesting to see at what point their short shorts will get the pugilists’ stiff attention.)

Apart from these two, the only aspect of boxing that excites me, to tell the truth, is watching the spectators. I enjoy watching them go gaga-crazy over each solid punch that TV commentators love to describe to their remote audiences in such excruciating detail. I admit to being a voyeur too, in that sense.

(The running commentaries of Joe Cantada, the late master craftsman of Philippine sports reportage, almost allowed you to see every droplet of sweat and saliva spray off the boxer as he staggers from the blow. Now, with high-tech digital cameras, directional mics, huge LCD screens, and instant replay on demand, all boxing voyeurs’ wettest dreams have come true, complete with loud grunts.)

My father, my many uncles (father’s brother and father’s cousins), and my coterie of first cousins were all crazy about boxing. Since I was a kid, I would curiously watch them as they watched TV, relished every punch and every quick parry, cheered and yelled, and even comically aped the boxers, throwing punches in the air like a kid playing a computer game with full body language. I was bored to death by the match itself. But I would find the audience behavior incredibly funny. I was clearly more thrilled at the antics of my father, my uncles and cousins, and the ringside audience shown on TV, rather than at the sweaty boxers themselves who grappled on the ring and smelled each other’s body odors.

However much I invoked all my internal testosterone reserves to please bubble up and prove myself a regular macho fellow, I couldn’t bring myself to be interested in the 10-round or 12-round ritual of two muscled men (and increasingly, women, not to mention lanky kids). I couldn’t bear to have any fun as they pummeled each other inside a roped platform, wincing and writhing each time they get socked real bad, and trying to stagger back to their feet when they get knocked down. Not to mention watching their glazed eyes and dazed faces, swollen and bloodied from cuts due to the constant beating, sitting there grim and despondent as  the camera focuses on them in between rounds. I don’t know about you, but it’s empathy I feel for them, nothing else.

To summarize then: In boxing, I see nothing else but a publicly-viewed mutual torture by two consenting adults, the civility of which revolves around the torture’s being ritualized and legalized by official regulation. Not to mention the prize money, of course.

Am I against any form of sports that entails a contest in fighting skills? Heck, no. I’m as much immersed in the subculture and actual craft of combat as the rest of the testosterone-soused macho community out there. And when I say combat, I mean both the lethal and real ones, as well as the ritualized ones that warriors have evolved through the ages to practice their craft outside of actual combat.

I’m particularly interested in Chinese and ancient Filipino martial arts. But in   contrast to boxing (and professional wrestling, for that matter), much of these fighting disciplines exercise a lot of care, precisely to avoid the protagonists from hurting each other. Instead, efforts are made to ensure that, as much as possible, every hit is merely symbolic, mere virtual tokens. Have you ever seen competitors engaged in combat arnis? They wear all sorts of protection similar to American football gear. They observe all kinds of precautionary rules, precisely to avoid really hurting the other guy. Every hit is assigned a score not based on the actual damage or hurt it imparts, but based on the way it was delivered, on the potential damage it could have done at most.

This point alone makes many Oriental martial arts a totally different class from that of prizefighting, or ancient gladiatorial fights – apart from the fact that they are often tightly interwoven into philosophies that actually discourage unneeded violence, and encourage peaceful settlement, physical healing, and spiritual meditation.

At the very least, these martial arts don’t induce every young and gullible Filipino kid to get a pair of gloves, to enlist his name in the next fiesta scorecard, and thus to launch himself into a lifetime of physical pummeling and eventual Parkinson’s disease, in exchange for tall trophies, oversized belts, and God willing, a million dollars to take home to Mama and later da wife and kids.

So am I about to launch a campaign for the government to ban professional boxing, here and abroad? Heck, no. (Although Sweden did ban boxing from 1970 to 2006.) If hundreds of millions of people worldwide are enthralled if not enriched by it, then who am I to moralize based on my own childish prejudices?

But there is porn, and there is porn.

There’s the porn that carnalizes the body, turns sex into a commodity, and generates lust across cyberspace and other media spaces, in order to substitute for lost passions and to fuel a million-dollar industry.

And then there’s the porn that brutalizes the body, turns violence into a commodity, and generates another kind of lust across cyberspace and other media spaces, in order to substitute for lost manhood and to fuel a million-dollar industry.

Honestly, I don’t know which is the bigger moral embarrassment. The fuckman’s art viewed in the privacy of one’s bedroom? Or Pacman’s art celebrated in LCD screens in plazas and public places across the land?

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