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Twenty seven notes Gabriel Smith took at Bethnal Bust Up, York Hall, London, March 7th

  1. If boxing is a sport, then it is the most tragic of all sports because more than any human activity it consumes the very excellence it displays—its drama is this very consumption. Joyce Carol Oates said that.

  2. It is raining in the East End of London. We go to the petrol station on Cambridge Heath Road to buy cigarettes, chewing gum for later, ibuprofen for tomorrow. At the door to York Hall, the bouncer confiscates the chewing gum, ibuprofen. 

  3. We enter as heavyweight Harry Armstrong enters, too. It is his first professional fight, against Czech boxer Miloslav Pavek. Miloslav Pavek has fought eleven times professionally. He has lost ten of those fights.

  4. ‘Journeymen’ are boxers who are happy to step into the ring, over and over, knowing they are extremely likely to lose the fight. Why would anyone do that? 

  5. People would do that if it was the best or only way they could support themselves and their family financially. 

  6. Or maybe they just love to fight.

  7. A round, in boxing, on television, lasts for three minutes, or one hundred and eighty seconds. 

  8. Watching ringside, not on television, the violence stretches time itself, and a round can last a million seconds.

  9. Harry Armstrong wins on points over four rounds. Miloslav Pavek has now lost eleven of his twelve fights. He is a ‘good journeyman’.

  10. Writers like boxing because the two are analogous. Both boxers and writers spend the majority of their time alone, practicing their craft, and praying that when the lights go up their work will be judged to have been effective.

  11. Though writers are far less likely to get punched in the face, compared to boxers.

  12. That is not necessarily a good thing.

  13. Watching one’s own body bathed in light is a dangerous thing. Milan Kundera said that.

  14. Later, in the VIP bar, Harry Armstrong eats a prawn-mayonnaise sandwich from the complimentary VIP food spread.

  15. The most unbearable parts of my life are when I'm sober and I'm alone again, or when I have just finished writing something and I’m alone again.

  16. I cannot imagine how unbearable it must be to step out of the ring, and be alone again.

  17. Amar Kayani, who boxes beautifully, knocks down Teodor Boyadzhiev in the second, then knocks him out in the fourth.

  18. When Kayani catches Boyadzhiev, I expect to be shocked. Instead I scream for Boyadzhiev’s blood, like everyone else in there.

  19. Physical love is unthinkable without violence. Milan Kundera said that, too.

  20. Teodor Boyadzhiev, prior to tonight, has fought twenty one times, losing twenty. Now, he has lost twenty one fights. He is a ‘good journeyman’.

  21. When a boxer is ‘knocked out’ it does not mean that he has been knocked unconscious—a boxer can be counted out whilst fully conscious. It means, more poetically, that he has been counted out of time itself. 

  22. Joyce Carol Oates said that, too, but I’m paraphrasing.

  23. Jamie Smith, a cruiserweight, wins in one anticlimactic round. He steps out of the ring, which means that he is alone again.

  24. If I was a boxer, I would want to box for infinite rounds. 

  25. If you boxed for infinite rounds you would die, probably.

  26. We leave the hall. It is still raining. I light a cigarette. We go back to the petrol station on Cambridge Heath Road for chewing gum for later, ibuprofen for tomorrow. We will spend it horizontal, waiting to feel well again, counted out of time itself.

  27. But if we closed the door, the night could last forever. Lou Reed said that.



image: Greg Probert