Ethics of Boxing and Manly Sport is a treatise on pugilism and the history of boxing in mankind, penned in 1888 by John Boyle O’Reilly.
I first stumbled upon John Boyle O’Reilly when I went looking for quotes on women’s suffrage as a part of some kind of argument I assume I was in at the time. I was absolutely tickled to find a quote, then, condemning women’s suffrage in favor of masculine power by Mr. O’Reilly:
Woman suffrage is an unjust, unreasonable, unspiritual abnormality. It is a hard, undigested, tasteless, devitalized proposition. It is a half-fledged, unmusical, Promethean abomination. It is a quack bolus to reduce masculinity even by the obliteration of femininity.
I decided after reading that (awesome) quote, that I would research Mr. O’Reilly and find out just who he is.
Boxer, Philosopher, Poet
John Boyle O’Reilly was Irish born. He believed in a free and democratic Ireland, free from the United Kingdom and Her Majesty.
John fought for the IRB – the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a precursor of sorts to the Irish Republican Army (the cool, 1920s one, not the modern terrorist group).
Eventually, O’Reilly was found to be some kind of traitor (for his workings with the IRB) and was exiled to Australia, at a time when the Brits actually did that sort of thing.
No problem, though! John simply set about studying and exploring Australia, writing that western Australia was a desolate wasteland.
Eventually John escaped his prison (lol), and made his way to America, became a naturalized citizen of the U.S.A. and went on to live a very full life as a poet, author, newspaper editor, boxer, philosopher, and many other things. He spent his days reading, teaching, writing, and making love to his wife Mary – as evidenced by their many children.
If you want to know more about John Boyle O’Reilly, then please pick up Fanatic Heart: A Life of John Boyle O’Reilly.
Ethics of Boxing & Manly Sport
On to the book! The book, “Ethics of Boxing and Manly Sport” is a treatise that John wrote on boxing. He starts the book off speaking about sport and athleticism and the important role it plays in our lives.
He goes on to give a history of boxing starting with the Greeks, moving to the Romans, and then up to (what was) present day Ireland and England.
One of the interesting things I found about boxing, that John found interesting as well, is that the basic boxing stance didn’t change from Greeks in 500 BC, to England in the 1880s.
It was only around the time of publishing this book that the modern boxing stance was created and started gaining popularity.
Up to that point, however, the approved and taught boxing stance from the Greeks until then was the “overly manly man” stance, with your left fist and foot out and your right arm guarding ‘the wind’.
John spends time going over the importance of masculinity in culture, the necessity for athletics in school and in life, and the history of Boxing.
John then goes on to explain the basic principles of boxing, defines the three major rule sets in boxing, and defends gloved boxing as “pure sport” where the only thing at play is the boxer’s skill.
The last half of the book concludes with a diet and training regimen for aspiring boxers, diet and training for average men, and tips on healthy living – like sleeping without a pillow under an open window.
You’ll find that a lot of what O’Reilly advocates as healthy living in the book, modern science and medicine has proven to be true. Things like a low carb diet, and the importance of sunlight and fresh air.
Throughout his book, with each assertion made, John references a scientific, medical, or reputable historical source from his time period.
He was a very well read, very well educated man.
Technical notes about the book itself
All of John’s works were written before the U.S. had real copyright laws, so they are all free online for download. I would, however, advise against that.
Some of you may think I’ll recommend buying the book only so I can get a cut – that’s not true. The truth is, the books are very old. There are a lot of imperfections on the paper, the ink is smudged – things like that.
To get his books into eBook format, Google scanned the pages as images, then had a robot crawl the pages and convert the images of the pages into text. The problem here is you end up with sentences like this, which I copied directly from my kindle:
When one con^&e$ ])oxiug aiid the Xegroe femn
Which should read,
When one considers boxing and the negroe form
And problems like that occur constantly throughout the digital manuscripts.
The second major problem with the free eBook is that the pages aren’t in the right order. Each eBook page is two halves of two real pages – but not the same page. So you have to read the top of half of the page, flip, read the bottom half of the next page, flip back and reverse your process.
This isn’t too much of a problem initially, but as the book wears on (about page 100), the pages are separated by 10 or 15 pages. So you have to read the top half of a page, flip and flip and flip, scanning until you find the continuation of the sentence you last read. It becomes nearly impossible to read.
Also, John includes a lot of drawings and photographs which are only available in the online scans or paperback versions, but not the eBook versions.
Eventually, I gave up and just purchased a paperback copy of the book to read.
However, if none of this bothers you, or you’re content to read half a book, you can download the book for free online.
If you want to actually be able to read the damn thing, you can order it off of Amazon. It’s just a few bucks for a well formatted kindle version, and not much more for a paperback copy.
All in all I highly recommend this book because it contains loads of wisdom about masculinity, fighting, strength, and leading a disciplined life.