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Archive for October, 2011

Back in August 2010, I predicted – correctly – that one of Christopher Hitchens’s Vanity Fair essays on his cancer would end up in The Best American Series. Editor Edwidge Danticat selected “Topic of Cancer” for the 2011 edition of the anthology, which, as usual, also features several other pieces on medical matters, such as Katy Butler on the perversity of a healthcare system that extends suffering in pursuit of profits, Victor LaValle on his life (or, more specifically, his sex life) before and after major weight loss, Bridget Potter recounting an abortion she had as a teenager in 1962, and Rachel Riederer describing recuperating after being run over by a bus.

Although Hitchens refers to his illness in the introduction to Arguably (and thanks his doctors in the acknowledgments), he did not include the Vanity Fair essays of illness in the collection. He reiterates his goal of wanting to “write posthumously,” and I can’t help suspecting he envisions the eventual appearance of at least one more volume, gathering his personal reflection on mortality, perhaps. I make no prediction this time, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

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It takes determination to excel in boxing, and David Davis has it. He had it as a small ten-year-old who wanted to learn how to box in order to defend himself against bigger kids who picked on him. He persuaded his reluctant mother to let him start working out at the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit and competing in amateur boxing tournaments. He displayed it again three years later when, in early October, he became the 85-pound champion at the 2011 PAL Nationals in Toledo, Ohio.

David envisions more accomplishments for himself. In the short term this means more tournaments, finishing up at Nichols Middle School and then high school (at Cass Tech, he thinks). In the long term, this means turning professional and eventually becoming a promoter.

His grades are “good but could be better,” David says. His trainer, Khali, asks him and the other kids he works with to show him their report cards. If his grades weren’t good enough, David told me, Khali would make him “do more push ups” and work with the tutors at the Downtown Boxing Gym.

In addition to his schoolwork, David undertakes research projects of his own. While he admires current-day boxers like Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Victor Ortiz, David is also a student of boxing history. He looks up fighters on the internet in order to learn their moves. He likes Mike Tyson because he was “strong, competitive and always came forward” and admires Muhammad Ali’s quickness. He sees posters of Ali every day at the gym, and has one on the wall at home. (Regarding the much sought-after Mayweather-Pacquiao match up, he “would pick Floyd to win but would want Manny to win.”)

David admits that he doesn’t especially like to train but goes to the gym Monday through Friday because that’s “part of the sport.” What he does like is hard fights, he says. He also likes that in boxing he doesn’t have to depend on teammates and only has to depend on himself. But he’s quick to praise Khali, his “great coach,” because he “doesn’t want to take all the credit.” Khali not only teaches him and makes sure he exercises; he also arranges for him to travel to different states, picks him up and gets him to where he needs to go.

2011 PAL Nationals Champ David Davis acknowledges one of his boxing heroes

Every sport is dangerous, David concedes. Yet he’s never been hurt in a fight, he claims, though he has been hurt (but “not bad”) in sparring. He believes (as Ali did) that football is more dangerous than boxing. He much prefers boxing to mixed martial arts, which he thinks is far more harmful than boxing. “You can really get hurt in UFC,” he says. “Boxing will always thrive,” he confidently states. “It’s the past, present and future if you ask me.”

His mother, Sheba McKinney, can accept David’s involvement in the sport in the present, but isn’t sure she’ll want to watch him in the ring when he and his opponents are bigger. “You don’t have to box,” she tells him. “You could become a commentator.” If he set his mind to it, I bet he could.

Inside the Downtown Boxing Gym

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