"It's not a bad feeling when you're knocked out," two-time heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson told the writer Gay Talese once.
It's a good feeling, actually. It's not painful, just a sharp grogginess. You don't see angels or stars; you're on a pleasant cloud. After Liston hit me in Nevada, I felt, for about four or five seconds, that everybody in the arena was actually in the ring with me, circled around me like a family, and you feel warmth toward all people in the arena after you're knocked out. You feel lovable to all the people. And you want to reach out and kiss everybody—men and women—and after the Liston fight somebody told me I actually blew a kiss to the crowd from the ring. I don't remember that. But I guess it's true because that's the way you feel during the four or five seconds after a knockout.
And then what happens? asks anybody who expects to have to someday give or receive devastating news:
"But then," Patterson says in Talese's 1963 profile, The Loser, pacing, "this good feeling leaves you.
You realize where you are, and what you're doing there, and what has just happened to you. And what follows is a hurt, a confused hurt—not a physical hurt—it's a hurt combined with anger; it's a what-will-people-think hurt; it's an ashamed-of-my-own-ability hurt … and all you want then is a hatch door in the middle of the ring—a hatch door that will open and let you fall through and land in your dressing room instead of having to get out of the ring and face those people. The worst thing about losing is having to walk out of the ring and face those people.
Writers, empower your punch. Give yourself the gift of boxing writing this Christmas. Read Talese's essay and many more masterpieces in the fine new collection, At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing.
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