What insight into boxing does The Three Musketeers offer? Well, consider this scene from the Alexandre Dumas novel (as translated by Richard Pevear): D’Artagnan heads to a scheduled duel with Athos – the first of three duels arranged (but not held) with each of the musketeers – worrying that he will not benefit no matter what the outcome. He fears
that the result of the duel would be what is always the most regrettable result in an affair of this kind, when a young and vigorous man fights against a wounded and weakened adversary: vanquished, he doubles the triumphs of his antagonist; victorious, he is accused of treachery and easy audacity.
Affairs of this kind happen all the time in boxing, and boxers confronting well known but well worn opponents face the same dilemma. I witnessed Larry Donald’s unanimous-decision win over Evander Holyfield at Madison Square Garden in 2004, for example, and tended to agree with the New York State Athletic Commission’s decision afterward that Holyfield shouldn’t be fighting anymore. (He didn’t stop after that, of course.) Donald didn’t emerge looking like the next great champion by beating the former champion long after his prime, but if he had lost… What did Trevor Berbick prove by vanquishing Muhammad Ali in 1981? And what did Larry Holmes accomplish by beating Ali one year earlier?
Dumas may have been writing about swordfights, but when I read that passage I thought about prizefights and the pathos of the aging warrior.