1st Edition

On Boxing Critical Interventions in the Bittersweet Science

By Joseph D Lewandowski Copyright 2022
    108 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    108 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is a philosophical and cultural critique of contemporary boxing. It broadens and deepens our understanding of the empirically and normatively entwined complexities of a sport that is often misunderstood and all too easily reduced to stereotypes.

    Moving between and among work in ethnography, sociology, urban studies and, especially, the philosophy of sport, and drawing on research in boxing gyms in the US, the book presents a stereoscopic view of professional boxing as both situated cultural practice and formalized competitive sport. It takes us inside and outside the ring in discussions of the cultural embeddedness of boxing and boxing gyms, the formation of pugilistic selfhood and ‘boxer cool’, the nature and function of combat sport violence and sparring, and the aesthetics and ethics of cornering a boxing match. With its interdisciplinary focus on the empirical and normative dimensions of professional pugilism, On Boxing makes explicit the bittersweetness of the ‘sweet science’ and provides a new theoretical framework for analysing boxing and, indeed, sport in general.

    Written for a broad audience, this is important reading for scholars and students working in the areas of philosophy and sociology of sport and combat sport studies, as well as policy makers, coaches, and commentators engaged in the sport of boxing.

    Chapter 3 of this book is freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF at http://www.taylorfrancis.com under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) 4.0 license.



    Part I: Boxing and Culture


    1          Boxing and Urban Culture

    2          Pugilistic Selfhood and Structural Violence

    3          Boxer Cool

    4          Boxing and Social Capital?

    5          The Marginality of Urban Boxing Clubs


    Part II: Boxing and Philosophy


    6          Outline of a Constraint Theory of Sport

    7          Boxing as the Bittersweet Science of Constraints

    8          Combat Sport Violence and Sparring

    9          Fight Plan Aesthetics

    10        Cornerman Ethics




    Joseph D Lewandowski is a writer, researcher, educator, and avid pugilist. A former holder of the Fulbright Masaryk Distinguished Chair in Social Studies, he currently serves as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Central Missouri, USA.

    'Why would anyone, especially those born under the bad sign of poverty and exploitation, take up the cruel sport of boxing? A long practicing pugilist himself, Joseph Lewandowski's crisply written On Boxing surpasses all studies in excavating the personal and sociological meaning of the sport. Lewandowski's profound but non-sentimental care for boxing resonates on every page, both in tone and in the creative reforms he proposes.'

    Gordon Marino, former boxer and boxing coach, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College (USA), and author of The Existentialist Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age (HarperOne, 2018).


    'On Boxing takes us on a journey through socioeconomic and cultural forces at play in the intersecting, inseparable worlds of boxing and the urban landscape. This is a fascinating study on every front—from the physical to the philosophical—capturing the complex nature of boxing and the absorbing characters who partake in it.'

    David Albertyn, author of Undercard (Spiderline, 2019).


    'On Boxing is the perfect introduction to the sport—brief, yet wide-ranging, and personal, but with a sharp scholarly focus. Lewandowski cleverly connects sociological aspects of boxing with ethnography, cultural studies and philosophy to create a critical understanding of the complexities inherent in a sport he knows well.'

    Kjell E. Eriksson, Professor of Sociology, Malmö University (Sweden) and Editor-in-chief, idrottsforum.org.