The cast of "Golden Boy" are undergoing a short course this week on the subject of boxing, which is central to the play. A writer, a trainer, and a boxer are among those visiting the rehearsal room and giving the cast insights into the subculture of the sport. Steven Farhood, an award-winning journalist who has covered the sport for 34 years, in print and on television, was the first to enter the metaphorical ring. (As with equine terms in "War Horse," so with pugilistic words in "Golden Boy": this blog will try to follow a rule of Block That Metaphor.)
In his remarks and in his interplay with the actors' questions, Farhood covered an array of topics. Of special usefulness were the differences and similarities between the boxing world of 1937, when "Golden Boy" takes place, and the boxing world of today. "As it was 75 years ago," Farhood said, "boxing in 2012 is still a brutal business and a beautiful sport. It's as hard as ever to justify its brand of violence - the need for it, the place for it."
Unlike in 1937, Farhood continued, when boxing and baseball were the most popular sports in America, boxing is no longer a big sport for betting. "It is, though," Farhood said, "still about physical skills and technique. To become a champion you have to overcome all kinds of adversity."
Farhood said that in 1937 boxing was viewed more as a trade, a profession, than it is today. This was due in part to the frequency of fights, and the sheer number of fighters. "Today," he said, "top fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather may fight twice a year, and be paid $30 million per bout. A top fighter in 1937 might have fought more than 20 times."
Even with the enormous purses for the biggest stars, Farhood explained, "boxing remains a poor man's sport - a way up in the world." Today, he said, the remuneration for the fighter as well as for those around him - the promoter, the manager - comes largely from television revenues. "In 1937, you made money from selling tickets, whether the fight was at a neighborhood hall or at Madison Square Garden, which was the grandest stage."
Farhood gave the cast a great deal of information as to how the regulations governing the safety of boxers are more extensive today than they were in the 1937. "Fighters still die as a result of the ring," he admitted, "but there is much more knowledge about how the injuries sustained by boxers affect them in both the short-term and the long-term."
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.