Normally, I object to drawing metaphors between sports and
life. That’s because people who do so are usually comparing their
childish delusions about sports to those about life: “The winner wants
it more,” “You’ve gotta come through in the clutch,” “Hard work will
take you to the top” and so on. Boxing’s brutal honesty is a much truer
reflection of life. The weak are used as stepping-stones for the
strong. Talented, occasionally lazy fighters effortlessly pummel the
less gifted who expend incredible heart and will just to stay conscious
until the final bell. Skill and talent are often receive less reward
than showmanship and willingness to take a beating. Maybe it is the
dark complexities and realities of the sport that attract people like
Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oats and the author of this book, Carlo
I don’t mean to imply that Rotella draws aphoristic lessons
from his discussions of boxing. Rather, he digs into the psychological
and emotional elements of the sport and reveals something broader. For
example, Rotella talks about a career looser who is brought in by local
promoters as fodder for the home town hero. The underdog prevails,
which is interesting in itself, but this is not Angels in the Outfield.
The victory is sweet, but small and part of a greater pattern of
failure. This story gains greater relevance towards the end of the
book, when everything is cast in the shadow of aging and death. If this
book has a primary theme, it is one of struggle against the inevitable.
Rotella doesn’t mean to uplift or depress us in that struggle, but to
The best reason to read Cut Time could be the
strength of Rotella’s prose. He’s especially good at describing an ass
kicking. My favorite examples come within two pages and, if I’ve made
the book sound like a downer, they should correct that impression.
Butterbean’s blow to the kidneys made Chamberlain look like an actor mistakenly run through for real in a stage duel.
Holmes went down with a finality one does not often
see, not even in the movies, as sense and life went out of his body all
at once. It looked like he had been shot with a tranquilizer dart just
as he stepped on a landmine.
Rotella’sdescriptions of the people and events of boxing, as well as his own
life, are always engrossing and often amusing. This is certainly a
writer deserving of a much wider audience.