Are Writers Who Box Better Boxing Writers?

That’s me in the blue up there, pushing my punches and falling off to the side. Like a handful of current boxing writers, I’ve tried my hand at the busted beak business. I did OK, won four out of my five amateur bouts and managed to avoid getting badly hurt.

Giving the sweet science a go seems almost to be in fashion for internet based writers; Maxboxing’s Gabe Montoya and Steve Kim train in various L.A. gyms, this site’s founder Tim Starks trains on and off in D.C., Ryan Bivins of Sweetboxing/Bad Left Hook has had amateur fights and plans on going pro and TSS’ Frank Lotierzo actually had a pro fight back in the day.

It stands to reason that having a familiarity with the physical side of the sport might help a writer. The idea has history, too –George Bernard Shaw was friends with Gene Tunney and once entered a boxing competition, while Norman Mailer went running with Muhammad Ali in Zaire. Though when he wrote about it, it seemed more like Muhammad Ali was going for a run with Norman Mailer.

So does being a writer who boxes make you a better boxing writer? Yeah, this is an incredibly introspective, navel gazing topic, but what are blogs for? I’m a stanky blogger and proud of it.

Stepping in the ring undoubtedly allows a writer to better describe the physical sensations of boxing. Hopefully a description I write of being punched in the guts will ring truer than one written by someone who’s fortunate enough never to have been punched in said guts.

Whether it gives you a better understanding of tactics and strategy is another thing. Like any physical discipline, learning a bit often makes you realise just how little you know. I probably would’ve made a better golf writer before I visited the local driving range and did more hooking than Nonito Donaire.

There’s also the matter of false confidence. Stepping into the ring to spar or have an amateur fight does not make you an expert on professional boxing, much like going to the driving range didn’t turn me into a golf expert. There’s an elemental similarity (guys getting hit in the face) but there’s a cavernous gulf in strategy, tactics, fitness and philosophy.

There are certainly advantages to having boxed, but I don’t think they’re game changers. If they were, the list of writers who box at the top would be identical to my list of favourite boxing writers (which isn’t to say that those guys aren’t great writers).

There are guys (and gals) out there who couldn’t throw a one-two, but can throw a mean sentence together. They still know their boxing. There’s nothing compulsory about lacing them up.

It should, however, be compulsory not to throw your weight around (on twitter or in real life) if you do box or train — which is why this piece begins with the rather unintimidating video of yours truly…

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.