We learned how to hit, how to defend myself, and how to see my formerly sedentary body as an ally instead of just a necessary backpack for my brain. I interviewed boxers, authors, coaches, and even attended Gleason’s Fantasy Boxing Camp. I learned that aggression was not a dirty word. I became a researcher, interviewer, and a bit of a historian. But never once did I imagine myself a true boxer. I laughingly called myself a “poseur.” It was the people who really got into the ring who deserved our admiration for their courage and determination.
Aus national women boxing champion Mischa Merz is 1 of those people, and her new book The Sweetest Thing: A Boxer’s Memoir (Seven Stories Press, 2011) is a highly readable chronicle of her immersion, at the age of forty-five, into real, gritty, fierce competition. From 2007 to 2009 she makes 6 trips to the US, meeting female boxing trailblazers, and immersing herself in training and fighting, going on to win the 2008 National Women’s Golden Gloves masters division, the Georgia Games championship, and the Ringside World Championship, and becoming a role model for women boxers around the world.
“My relationship with boxing has been like one you would have with another human being. I have loathed it and adored it. It has both invaded my dreams and turned my stomach…By the time I first walked up the steps of Gleason’s, the famous New York City gym that is the heart of the women’s boxing renaissance, boxing was part of the rhythm of my soul. The metronome of the skipping rope and the spank of leather mitts on a heavy bag ignited my engine.”
Merz writes in a conversational style that Lucia Rijker, in a blurb for the book, calls “journal-like,” which is a very apt description. There are no frills here. Much of the book consists of chunks of conversations with other female boxers and trainers, and descriptions of fighting styles and techniques. Merz’s straight-forward prose will appeal to boxing fans who want to get down and dirty, and read some unique, behind-the-scenes details and depictions of the scene at Gleason’s, for example. If you don’t ever get to visit or train at this historic gym in Brooklyn, you will at least get a compelling peek at the inner sanctum by reading Merz’s story. It was particularly fun for me, having met some of the leading ladies of her story (Alicia Ashley, Jackie Atkins, etc.) to learn more about them. The book also has some great photographs. This is a rare journey inside the packed gym locker of a true fighter’s brain, a journalist who can take you with her on a wild and brave ride. Fasten your seatbelts – Mischa Merz is a boxers to watch.
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By Syed Awais