The Urban Geography of Boxing
Race, Class, and Gender in the Ring
Routledge – 2012 – 192 pages
This book is an interdisciplinary cultural examination of twenty-first century boxing as a professional sport, a bodily labor, a lucrative business, a popular entertainment, and an instrument of ideology. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted with Latino boxers, women boxers, and boxing insiders in Texas, it discusses boxing from the vantage point of the sundry players, who are involved with it: the labor force, promoters, handlers, ringside officials, medical professionals, media, and the audiences. The various parties have multiple stakes in the sport. For some, boxing is about physical empowerment; others are in it for the money; some deploy it for ideological purposes; yet others use it to claim their 15-minutes of fame, and frequently the various interests overlap.
In this book, Benita Heiskanen makes a broader connection between boxing and the spatial organization of racialized, class-based, and gendered bodies within particular urban geographies. Journeying actual sites where the sport is organized, such as the barrio, boxing gym, and competition venues, she maps the ways in which boxing insiders negotiate a variety of conflicting agendas at local, regional, and national scales. Beyond the United States, the worker-athletes conduct their labor within global socioeconomic conditions, business networks, and legal principles. Through this sporting context, Heiskanen’s discussion discloses some complex socio-historical, cultural, and political power relations between urban margins and centers, with ramifications far beyond boxing. This book will be of interest to readers in Sport Studies, Cultural Studies, Cultural Geography, Gender Studies, Critical Race Theory, Labor Studies, and American Studies.
"The Urban Geography of Boxing is a truly excellent piece of research. Heiskanen engages in both intensive fieldwork and sustained theoretical writing, making her one of those rare scholars who deftly weds theory, everyday life, and the intensities of fieldwork (Hancock, 2009). She also works across disciplinary boundaries. This ensures that the book will appeal to a wide range of graduate students and academics, as well as some boxing enthusiasts. Her theoretically driven ethnographic approach prioritizes the practical knowledge of participants within boxing landscapes. In doing so, this work demonstrates that theory is indispensable in capturing and explaining the multiple and shifting meanings of boxing, including those that extend far beyond the everyday sporting contexts. In the end, this book offers an important and highly original contribution to sport sociology and the scholarly boxing literature, an area considered by some to be a relatively saturated research field."
– International Review for the Sociology of Sport
"The Urban Geography of Boxing makes a valuable contribution to the ever expanding literature on what is social, cultural and political about sport."
– Sociology of Sport Journal
"Anyone with an interest in boxing, the geography of sports, or cultural geography will enjoy reading The Urban Geography of Boxing. It may not get you to run out to your front porch for the morning paper to check the boxing results (if you are one of the few who still gets a newspaper). But it will remind you of why the sport had been, and may yet again become, such a captivating component of American popular culture. It will also remind you of how naturally sports and geography blend together."
– Ray Oldakowski, Jacksonville Universit, published in the Geographical Review
Introduction 1. On the Barrio’s Ropes 2. Wo/Manly Art at the Gym 3. Business is Business Backdoors 4. The Limelight of the Ring 5. Through the Media’s Lens 6. Politicking in Combat Zones 7. The Ivory Tower in the Real World. Epilogue.
Benita Heiskanen is Director of the John Morton Center for North American Studies at the University of Turku, Finland.