Magazine article The Spectator

Lost Dignity

Magazine article The Spectator

Lost Dignity

Article excerpt

New York

As anyone who has ever been in a dentist's waiting-room knows, the New Yorker used to be a well-written, idiosyncratic, liberal but dull weekly, on which Tina Brown used her magic (unlimited moolah and unlimited arse-licking of brain-dead celebrities) to turn into a less well-written, predictable, Clinton-shilling, celebrity mag. After Tina went to Hollywood last year, one David Remnick took over and has generally followed her shining path to magazine stardom: attack Ken Starr and the Republicans, kiss the arse of Hollywood moguls and morons, and bash the Christian Right and the Christian religion at every opportunity.

Now I read that this same David Remnick has visited England hawking his opus on Muhammad Ali, and has, of course, been seen in the company of the unreadable Salman Rushdie and others of that particularly unpleasant ilk. Although I have never met Remnick, I do know something about boxing, and what I know is that Remnick doesn't know the first thing about the sweet science. The ridiculous sugarcoating of Ali is presented as some treasure-- chest of memories we will always cherish. Remnick, I presume, is a bookish type of chap who probably had his face pushed into the sand as a kid. He obviously hero-- worships Ali, a man whose exuberance and showmanship I have always thought of as loutishness and a lack of class.

Mind you, my friend Norman Mailer certainly doesn't agree, and Norman has forgotten more about boxing than Remnick will ever learn. Mailer adores Cassius Clay - his real name - and rates him among the greatest fighters ever, but I respectfully disagree. Dignity in the ring is now considered a conservative notion, which just goes to show how utterly corrupt the system has become. The rot was started by Clay and has reached its nadir with Tyson biting his opponent's ear off and knocking a man out well after the bell.

I first saw Clay fight during the Rome Olympics in 1960. And I thought my buddy Tony Madigan, fighting for Australia, had cleanly beaten him during the semi-final round. Madigan was a very good-looking young man, trying to make his way as an actor in New York during the late Fifties. He and I would spar daily at the New York Athletic Club, Tony taking it easy on me as he was a light-heavyweight and I a welterweight.

One day Ingemar Johansson - in New York for a return bout with Floyd Patterson, whom he had knocked out and taken the heavyweight crown from three months previously - came in to hit the light bag and do some shadow-boxing. …

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