the last few months, my mind has been racing and planning as I think of new
topics and issues that are boxing related, that I can write about over here. One
of those topics has been whether God has any involvement
in our sport. I think this is something that should be, and could be, discussed
about because that question has already been asked and answered in so many
forms and ways through history, it's really mind boggling.
Back when I was a kid, Sugar Ray Leonard was on top of the boxing world,
his performances against the likes of Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez and Thomas
Hearns seemingly flawless, and his appearance in 7UP commercials and on Franklin
Sporting Goods boxes making him an American icon. It was during that time that,
as a young churchgoer, I heard about how God planned things out and about how
everything worked according to His way, But things have changed and
increasingly, what I hear about in religious circles is not about
history being pre-arranged, but about us arranging history to the way
we either want or deserve it to be. In other words, we may
actually sometimes have control of our own history. That latter belief
plays along perfectly with the world of sports where you can go training
and win a fight, or be lazy and end up losing. It also would answer why
things like September 11 and the horrible Sandy Hooks massacre happen. On
those latter two, tragic occasions, somebody else decided to play God and ruin
the lives of others.
In any case, I wondered if God knew that Leonard would knock Hearns
out in fourteen rounds during their September 16, 1981 fight, and why did He (or
She) chose Leonard to win instead of Hearns, whose talent was basically
comparable to that of Leonard. I thought the answer lay in what we saw at
the time, Leonard's contracts with HBO, Franklin, etc,-in other words, Leonard
living a pretty good life- while Hearns toiled, at least publicity
wise, even when he became a world champion again soon after. But of course,
things aren't as White and Black as we think they are when we are
children, and now we know all about Leonard's personal problems at the time
and other things and you know, we realize now that all that was shining wasn't
gold in his personal life.
Before the 1999 fight between Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya,
coincidentally then thought to be the largest fight in the Welterweight division
since that 1981 bout between Leonard and Hearns, some reporter on a Puerto Rican
newspaper (I can;t remember who and on which paper exactly was it) made a poll
in which the reporter asked different community leaders, entertainment and
sports stars in Puerto Rico who they thought would win. One of the polled was a
pastor, who said some words I'll never forget, that he did not know whether God
got involved in choosing a winner in sports events. To that date, and I was 27
at the time, I had never heard of anyone questioning God's involvements in
things, but it made me think. I mean, before a meaningful basketball
tournament's game, I pray so that none of the players involved get hurt. I used
to pray when I boxed as a teenager. You also see many boxers pray before fights.
But how about if each rival is praying for a win??
Muhammad Ali prayed to Allah before his fight with George Foreman, who
himself thanked God-the Christian one in his case-after beating Michael Moorer
twenty years later. Edwin "Chapo" Rosario prayed before his fights, and Manny
Pacquiao does too, specially now that he professed his belief in Jesus.
With all these questions in mind, I went and asked a couple of people about
their opinions on the subject. One of them is not involved with boxing, but as a
Christian pastor, he is a religious authority. The other one is a member of
our staff at Doghouseboxing.com, and is in that way involved with boxing. Their
insight was deep and very welcome.
Reverend Steve Kozimos is pastor at the Phoenix Friends' Church in Phoenix,
Arizona, and a very good one at that. He is not a fiery, screaming leader, but
he also is not a Xanax-like speaker that puts church goers to sleep. He is an
entertaining, good-speaking pastor whose wealth of knowledge about the Bible is
to be admired. I took the time to interview him about this subject recently, in
preparation for this article. Here is what he shared with me:
AS: Does God get involved in sport?
SK: "God calls people for different careers and sports in an avenue to
glorify God. Bobby Richardson, the baseball player, ministered to Mickey Mantle,
so God can put you to minister on different careers".
AS: Does God have a spot in boxing?
SK: "I have difficulty with people getting beat up but, unlike UFC, boxing
is fair. I don't think God likes people getting beat up, but in boxing, people
aren't trying to beat each other up. Paul had a reference to sport, and I think
he mentioned boxing, First Corinthians Chapter 9, verses 24 to 27."
EDITOR'S NOTE For Reference: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
English Standard Version (ESV) -
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[a] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
The other interviewed, Jenna Jay, is a beautiful woman, both in looks and
personality, and an avid fan of boxing whose passion has lead her to having her
own talk show and to contribute articles and interviews at Doghouseboxing.com.
She and Sunset Thomas are the two ladies at our website and it is a honor to be
associated with them and work with them.
Asked if, as a woman, she thought that God is in boxing, and if she thinks
God gets involved in sports and how, she answered: "I think the fighters are in
control of their own destiny, but I do believe that belief can some times
drive a person to do great things. If you're not in great shape and did not
prepare right, then you are not going anywhere in this sport. It's all about
drive, and believing in yourself and your ability, but I think religion
is discipline, and a very religious boxer can also be a disciplined one. So
that's my view on it....hope it helps".
So there are two people, one an authoritative figure in religion and
another an excellent writer in boxing, giving us their opinion on the issue.
Neither of them asserts that God is involved in boxing by actually saying "yes,
He (She) is!" or, more importantly perhaps, in choosing a winner in each fight,
yet neither of them denies it either (thought Pastor Kozimos seems to
be more 'positive' than writer Jay that God is involved in boxing). I
suppose that if you put, say, Pope Benedict XVI and Larry Holmes in the same
position and asked them the same questions, they would probably have similar
However, if one looks around, one can certainly sense a presence of God in
our sport. Many a famous fighter has turned to God in one way or the other
through the history of boxing. During the late 70's and early 80's, there was a
time in which many fighters followed Ali towards Islam, including Eddie Mustafa
Muhammad, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Mustafa Wassaja and Matthew Saad Muhammad, who,
in fact, later disclosed he is actually now a Christian. More modern Muslim
boxers include Mike Tyson and Hector Camacho Jr. And, looking through history,
many of the all-time greats have professed belief in the teachings of
Christianity and faith in the (Christian) Lord, such as Reverend Henry
Armstrong, the only boxer to be a world champion in three divisions at the
same time, and Deacon Aaron Pryor, Reverend Earnie Shavers, Tiger Flowers,
Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfred Benitez, Reverend Gene Hatcher, the late Johnny
Tapia, Danny Romero, Troy Dorsey, Reverend George Foreman and Manny
Pacquiao. Being in the ring alone with each other while inside a sea
of spectators and officials might be the reason these fighters look for
spiritual help to accompany them. That in itself indicates that God is
involved, at least in the smallest bit, in boxing.
After all, boxers must look for every inch of strength inside that squared,
roped area. If they felt they had nowhere to look for help, how then could they
go in there confident of their ability to edge the other guy out?
However, like I said before, how about if both fighters prayed for a win?
Or did not pray at all?
All I can say to that is that, someday that I hope will be very far from
now, because I believe in the Lord, I will be up there next to The Spirit
itself, asking it who will win the fights, and if it lets me know that it
plans boxer A to beat boxer B because God thinks it would be better for the
world to have said boxer A win, then I'll know which one to put my
money on! But, that's only if...
Please send all Questions and comments to Antonio at TJ69662094@aol.com.
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