Fighting for America

By Thomas Hauser
On November 23rd, DiBella Entertainment will present "Fighting For America," featuring nine professional bouts at Roseland Ballroom in New York. James "The Hammer" Butler, Brian Adams, and Olympians Jermain Taylor, Clarence Vinson, and Brian Viloria will headline the card. One hundred percent of the gate receipts will be donated to the Twin Towers Fund established by the City of New York to assist the families of police, firefighters, and other government personnel who died in the September 11th tragedy.
The three Olympians will donate their purses in full to the fund. Tickets will be priced from $50 to $200 and may be purchased through TicketMaster by calling 212-317-7171. Thomas Hauser has been asked to write the feature story for the night's fight program. SecondsOut readers get to see it first.

September 11, 2001

By Thomas Hauser

I'm very down on the overall state of boxing. From top to bottom, the sport is a mess. The business is endemically rotten. People lie and misrepresent and cheat as much on twenty-thousand-dollar club-fight cards as they do on the multimillion-dollar pay-per-view shows. There's endless scheming and plotting to hurt other people. The negative energy is overwhelming. One of the few good things about it for me so far has been dealing with the fighters. A lot of people told me that being on the side of the business that I am now would teach me that the fighters are as bad as everyone else. But that hasn't been the case. So far, I've found most of the fighters to be very special decent individuals. There have been disappointments, but I love working with people like Bernard Hopkins and Naseem Hamed. I enjoy the mentoring aspect of my relationship with the Olympians. There are times when I'm proud to be a member of the boxing community, and November 23rd will be one of them. -- Lou DiBella.

Roseland, where tonight's fights are being held, stands a block from Broadway. For a long time, in New York's theater industry when someone died young, the question asked was, "Did he die of AIDS?" Now, for a horrible 10 weeks, when we hear of someone dying young, the question asked is, "Did he die at the World Trade Center?"

The human mind is capable of conjuring up evil that, for some of us, is literally unimaginable. Any individual can end another person's life and wreck havoc on the lives of the victim's loved ones. A small group of plotters, indeed a lone assassin, can cause incalculable harm.

Once something has happened, we can't change it. We can't undo what has been done.

Yet one day can change the world. It happened in 1914, when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, lighting the conflagration that became World War I. It happened at Pearl Harbor. And it happened again 10 weeks ago.

On September 11th, we all died a little. America was the target, but the entry point for the wound was New York.

We are aware of the twin towers more now in their absence than ever before. We're also uncomfortably aware of the fact that evil lurks just beneath the surface of our lives. There are places in the world where the type of violence we've just experienced is part of everyday life. But Americans have been largely immune to such cares. Most of us have had the luxury of going through life confident that the sudden ending, the tragic accident, the unspeakable horror, won't happen to us. To a friend; perhaps. To someone we know; probably, as a matter of statistical likelihood. But not to me.

Now the certainty we seek in our lives has been undermined, and in its place we have fear. The fear that someone wants to kill us; the fear that, just as terrorists were trained as pilots here in the United States, their brethren might be learning the nuances of lethal biology at universities and laboratories in America; the fear that this is the start of a long hard difficult time.

Many of us have been traumatized by the visual image of United Airlines Flight #175 hitting the south tower of the World Trade Center more than we understand. "People keep saying 'like a movie, like a book,' Stephen King wrote recently. "And I keep thinking, 'No, not at all like a movie or a book. This is what it really looks like when an actual plane filled with actual human beings and loaded with jet fuel hits a skyscraper. This is the truth."

That scene will stay with us forever. It is the signature image of horror in our times.

Now comes the response. Makeshift shrines to honor lives lost have sprung up outside fire stations across New York. People seem friendlier, warmer, and more polite. They smile and nod in acknowledgement to one another more now than before. They look at cops and firefighters with new appreciation and respect.

One of the ironies of our democratic society is that, in recent decades, only one segment of society has been called upon to do the hard dangerous dirty work. In World War II, people of all classes fought in the military. But since then, America's armed forces have been comprised largely of men and women who come from poverty and see the military as a form of upward mobility.

The World Trade Center attack struck at Americans of all classes. With terrorism, we are all soldiers. And on September 11th, we were reminded of who our real heroes are. Now, we say to the perpetrators of this horror as Winston Churchill once spoke to Adolph Hitler, "We will have no truce or parlay with you or the grisly gang who do your wicked will. You do your worst, and we will do our best."

That brings us to tonight's fights. Everyone talks about how superstar athletes are heroes and role models. But most professional athletes, like the rest of us, do first and foremost for themselves.

The fighters on tonight's card are making a true sacrifice. Like cops and firefighters, boxers know what reality is. In our video-game culture, every time they enter the ring they put themselves on the line. They know that a single moment of violence can change everything. Yet many of the fighters here tonight are entering the ring for free, and their opponents are appearing for greatly reduced purses. That's part of the good in boxing.

I've often said that, if I went to war, I'd want professional fighters beside me. Professional fighters and trainers like Teddy Atlas and a young Eddie Futch. I still believe that to be true. Meanwhile, conventional wisdom dictates that a fighter isn't considered truly great until he has gotten up off the canvas to win.

New York will rise from the canvas and win.

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