Fight Night In Brooklyn
So my friend Mitch, who lives literally across the street from me in Astoria, Queens, tells me he has an extra ticket for a night of boxing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. I’ve always liked boxing, and I’ve seen most of the major fights from the 80’s and 90’s, and even in to the mid- 2000’s. Then I sort of dropped off.
But the thing is, I’ve never been to a boxing match live. So I say yeah, hell yeah, I’m all in, let’s do it Mitch. We catch the N train at the 30th Avenue station in Astoria and make the long and arduous journey from Queens through Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn.
The lords of the city who planned the NYC subway infrastructure over a hundred years ago routed everything through Manhattan. So getting from Queens to Brooklyn is an absolute nightmare. There’s only one train that even does traverses the two boroughs, the G, but it’s notoriously slow and makes way too many stops. That’s why we chose the N, because even though the N take five minutes longer than the G to get to downtown Brooklyn, at least we can catch it right in Astoria and not have to transfer.
About one hour and ten minutes later, we arrive at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, where the Barclays Center is located. The New Jersey Nets of the NBA play here, as do the New York Islanders of the NHL.
The area has become pretty gentrified in the last ten years or so, and the Barclays Center sits at the crossroads of affluent and brownstown-laden Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill and Fort Greene. It’s a nice neighborhood, and since I don’t spend that much time in Brooklyn, I make a mental note to check it out more.
There are six fights on the card tonight, starting at 6pm, and when we arrive in Brooklyn it’s around 6:30. The last two fights of the night will be televised on HBO, and those two are the main draw. They will probably start around 10pm, so we decide to get some food before entering the arena.
We stop at a Latin joint that Mitch tells me a lot of the fighters and their families frequent. Mitch used to cover boxing for a prominent website, so he knows a lot about the fight game.
I order the sopa de pollo on Mitch’s recommendation, and he gets the half chicken with plantains. The food arrives, and it’s absolutely delicious. I devour my chicken soup, which has meaty chunks of chicken in it and a whole chicken leg, and Mitch tears into his half chicken and plantains.
I look around the restaurant. It’s a casual place with a friendly vibe, and most of the clientele is black or Hispanic. It has the feel of a neighborhood joint, even though it’s in trendy Brooklyn right next to one of the nation’s most prominent arenas.
We eat our meals at a leisurely pace, wash them down with water and diet Coke, and then we’re on our way.
We make the half-block walk to the Barclays Center, pass through the security checkpoint and metal detector, and we’re in.
The first thing I notice are the patrons. I do a quick visual scan and estimate that at least two-thirds of the fans are either black or Hispanic.
Which is totally cool with me. But it’s a lot different than the fan base at a baseball or basketball game, of which I’ve been to many. There are a lot of dudes in hoodies, and dudes wearing chains, and dudes with the latest sneakers.
The second thing I notice is that the atmosphere is charged, perhaps in anticipation of the violence to come, or perhaps just because there are so many tough dudes here.
The last thing I notice, which makes me very happy, is that there are a good number of very hot women.
As I look at them more closely, I notice they’re mostly wearing high-cut dresses and lots of makeup and jewelry.
These are, I would say, pre-women’s liberation movement kind of women. Which is not to say they’re willing to take shit from men, because they’re not. But they’re also happy to be objectified by the men they hang out with, and they enjoy being pretty for them.
Which is also totally cool with me. I mean women objectify men too. We’re all guilty of liking pretty faces and bodies. The main thing that matters to me most is that these women are hot, they’re not afraid to show a little skin, and my night just got a whole lot better.
Mitch and I have really good seats on floor level because of his boxing connections. We sit down around 7:30pm, just as the second fight is nearing its conclusion. It’s a match between two dudes I’ve never heard of. I watch for a minute or two, and then I notice that the arena is still half-empty, the crowd is pretty quiet, and no one cares about these two guys fighting on the undercard of the Danny Jacobs fight. And that’s what this night is really about. Danny Jacobs. The Brownsville, Brooklyn native. The Hometown Boy Made Good. He’s the headliner, the guy everybody came to see.
So I watch a little more of these dudes, and then I take a look around. There are two large white suburban-looking guys behind us who are getting progressively drunker and louder as the night wears on. They’re talking a lot about the technical aspects of boxing, and they seem to know who the fighters are.
But they’re also babbling about some hot chick they wanna double-team later that night. And the hot rings girls. And doing cocaine. Basically they’re two fifty-something suburban dudes who still like to party, they like boxing, and they’re here to have a good time. Which is totally cool with me, even if they are a little annoying and loud.
There’s a big black guy with a button-down shirt and a gold chain over it in front of us. He’s sitting with a fairly hot Indian chick and her less-hot sister or friend.
Then on the left there’s another black guy who’s just chilling, drinking a lot of beer and hanging out in his horn-rimmed glasses. He’s got a Yankees jersey on, and he seems to be enjoying himself even though he’s alone. He regularly calls out to the fighters when the action heats up, and he pumps his fist when a fighter unleashes a good combination.
An hour or so passes as the undercard progresses, with little-known fighters making their way to the ring to beat the shit out of each other in front of a few thousand fans who could mostly care less, they’re just here for the Danny Jacobs fight.
There’s a bunch of Polish or Eastern European-looking dudes sitting behind us on our right, and they seem have a strategy of just always rooting for the white fighter. During one match between Shojahan Ergashev from Uzebekistan and Zhimin Wang from China, they root for the Uzbek guy. Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic, so I guess he’s their hometown boy for this fight. Plus he’s whiter than the Chinese guy.
Later they root for a Kazakh guy against a Mexican guy. Same thought process, I figure. Kazakhstan is a former Soviet republic, and he’s whiter than the Mexican dude.
These Polish or whatever fans are all wearing gold chains and muscle shirts, just like the black and Hispanic guys. It’s all really just an inferno of macho testosterone coursing through the arena.
But I like it. I mean it’s a little weird, in the way that being in a really charged, close-quarters arena with some tough dudes is, but the truth is, everyone is just here to have fun. Most of these fans just love boxing. I think to myself that it’s really just the uptight white guy in me that sees a bunch of young black and Hispanic guys having a good time and being a little loud and immediately assumes there’s gonna’ be a riot or something. I just have to get over that ingrained or learned racism and see everyone as just people enjoying themselves at a sporting event.
No, it’s not baseball, with family-friendly events and goofy songs on the loudspeaker. In fact, when I look around I notice there are very few kids here. Which makes sense, I guess. I mean why expose your kid to fighting if you don’t have to. If they want to fight, they’ll fight anyway, but no need to lead them to it.
The music pulsing throughout the arena is mostly either hip hop or hard rock, in alignment with the various ethnicities here.
One crazy thing about the entire evening is that there’s a beautiful black woman standing up about twenty rows above us, and she’s screaming at the top of her lungs rooting for all the black fighters in every fight. In the third fight, between Larry Ventus, a black American, and Julian Sosa, a Mexican dude, she’s yelling “knock him out, Larry, knock his ass out, throw the hook, Larry, fuck him up!”
Her voice is like the haunting vengeant cry of the raven as it comes to deliver death upon the wicked and the weak. She’s screaming “fuck him up!” in the most raw, visceral way I’ve ever heard. It’s like she’s speaking on behalf of all the suffering, marginalized groups in the world. She’s demanding justice for the black man, for the brown man, for the yellow man, and for everyone else who’s suffered at the hands of white supremacy. She may not be able to have justice in the real world, but tonight, at least, she can have it in the ring.
At one point in the evening I leave my seat to go to the bathroom, and just as I enter a conflagration breaks out. There’s a lot of “fuck you, I’ll fuck you up bitch” flying around, and two groups of men are scuffling for a few seconds. Then calmer heads prevail, the fighters’ friends hold them back, and order is restored. It’s really no big deal, just a bunch of guys with a lot of testosterone who had one too many.
I use the bathroom, then stop at the concession stand on the way back and grab a pretzel with mustard and a Jack and diet Coke. When I was a kid, it was beer and hot dogs at arenas, but now they have full bars and sushi. Progress I guess.
When I return to my seat the lights have just gone dim, and the HBO portion of the night is beginning. The first of the two HBO fights is a 12 round heavyweight match between another hometown guy, Brooklyn’s Jarrell Miller and Frenchman Johan Duhuapas.
Jerell comes out in a black mask, and I say out loud to Mitch “is he wearing a mask?”
The big guy with the button-down shirt and the chain sitting in front of us turns around to face me and says “yeah, that’s the Black Panther mask. It’s his trademark.”
“Oh, OK, thanks man,” I say.
Black Panther was a dope movie, so if Jarrell wants to wear the mask, I’m all for it.
The national anthem is sung, the ring announcer calls out the fighters’ names, heights, weights and hometowns, the bell is rung, and the fight begins.
As the fight moves along, the Polish guys behind us on the right are all screaming and cheering for the French fighter.
Then a Hispanic guy with a thick chain sitting behind us says to one of the Polish guys: “I know why you’re rooting for the French guy.” He rolls up his sweater sleeve, stick out his forearm and touches his tan skin with his other hand. “It’s because of this. The color, bro,” he says.
“No, you crazy. I like this French guy. He’s a good fighter,” the Polish guy replies.
But we all know the deal, those of us who witnessed the exchange and those of us who didn’t. Boxing is a very tribal sport, with each rival ethnicity battling it out for supremacy. No one makes apologies for the tribalism, because it’s been ingrained in boxing since the late 19th century, when you had Irish fighters, and Italian fighters, and black fighters, and Jewish fighters dominating the scene.
Throughout the whole fight I keep hearing those piercing screams from the beautiful woman above us, who’s now yelling “knock his ass out, Jerrell! Fuck him up Jerrell!” although her voice is starting to crack a little.
One of the best things about the evening for me is the ring girls. These are the young ladies who climb into the ring in between rounds and hold up a sign with a number from 2 to 12 indicating what round is coming up next.
What makes these ladies so special is that they’re super hot and they’re barely wearing any clothes. Like almost a G string and the skimpiest bra you’ve ever seen.
Every round that goes by I avail myself of our floor-level view to enjoy the panorama of beauty and sexiness that’s before me.
To see women that beautiful practically nude just quickens your heart and excites your insides, not to mention your loins. So the ring girls turn out to be my favorite part of the night.
The fight plods on, with Jerrel looking about 30 lbs overweight.
Ultimately he wins a decision, but it’s a boring fight. The suburban white guys behind me are talking about how Jarrell is out of shape, not a smart fighter, and possibly lazy. They say he needs to rededicate himself to the sport.
Whatever, we know what you mean, suburban white dudes. Coded racial language is all over TV sports, and these guys are just mimicking it. Whatever.
Finally the lights dim once again, and Michael Buffer, the famous ring announcer, goes into his elaborate routine.
“In this corner, fighting out of Poland, standing six feet tall and weighing in at 160 pounds, Maciej Sulecki!”
And in this corner, fighting out of Brooklyn, New York, standing six feet one inches tall and also weighing in at an even 160 pounds, Danny Jacobs!”
When Maciej Sulecki is announced, the Polish guys and the Eastern european guys and the suburban white guys all go crazy for him.
And when Jacobs is announced, the people of color in the arena go wild with cheers. It’s tribalism at its finest.
Sitting ringside are the HBO announcers Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Roy Jones Jr, all of whom I’ve seen on TV countless times.
The fight itself is pretty good. Jacobs fights well, but Sulecki is also a good fighter, and as we move toward the latter rounds it’s a pretty close fight, with a slight edge to Jacobs.
The beautiful woman’s violent cry echoes throughout the arena. “Knock him out Danny! Knock his ass out Danny! Throw the hook Danny!” Then she adds a new twist. “I can’t but you can Danny! You can knock him out!”
It’s like she’s channeling mother Africa and all the colonized peoples of the world into her plaintive cry for Danny to deliver justice upon this white man, who represents all the evil white people have inflicted upon people of color across the centuries.
Her cries kind of shake me, and it gets a little hard to follow the fight. Other people in the crowd are also turning around to look at her, but she just keeps on screaming. She’s in a party of about six elegantly dressed black folks, but she’s the only one screaming.
Finally in the 12th round, Danny scores a knockdown, and with the extra points he’s awarded he wins a unanimous decision.
In the post fight interview, Max Kellerman asks Danny some typical questions about how hard it was for him to motivate for the fight, what it took for him to win, what his strategy was, and etc. The usual sports stuff.
Then he asks him about a potential future foe, Jermall Charlo, an up and coming Houston fighter who’s been talking trash about Danny.
Up to now, Jacobs has been extremely polite and soft-spoken when answering Kellerman’s questions. But at the mention of Charlo, his eyes grow wide, his shoulders tense up, and the Brownsville, Brooklyn kid in him comes out in all its glory.
“Tell that motherfucker Charlo to come to Brooklyn, I’ll knock his ass out,” he says.
The crowd roars.
Boom! Danny just reminded us that despite all his success and his corporate demeanor, he’s still the tough kid from Brownsville who scratched and clawed his way to the top, and you better not fuck with him unless you want to get knocked out.
OK Danny, message received, and congrats on a great fight tonight. He really does seem like a good guy. It’s just that in the heat of the moment, after a huge win, there’s undoubtedly going to be some emotion in his language.
It’s about 12:30 am now, and the fights are all over. Mitch and I make our way to the exits. The big guy with the chain and the hot Indian women accompanying him have already left. The Polish guys are milling about, looking vaguely angry about Sulecki’s loss, and looking also very drunk. You wouldn’t want to meet these guys in a dark alley right now, is what it comes down to.
The dude who was chillin’ in the horn-rimmed glasses with all that beer is still drinking his beer, with a big smile on his face. Mitch and I wish him a good night as we pass by, and he says same to you.
As we move up the aisle, we pass the beautiful woman who was the source of all those pained and harrowing screams during the evening. She’s stopped screaming now. I notice she’s wearing a midriff baring tight T-shirt, and her stomach is like absolutely beautiful, smooth creamy goodness. I want to fuck her right then and there, and I figure with all that screaming she must be a riot in bed.
We move on, though, because she’s with a group, and I probably have no chance anyway.
Mitch and I stop at a deli a block away from the Barclays Center, and I buy a Carrot Cake Clif Bar, a banana, and a 32 ounce bottle of Poland Spring water. Mitch gets water and a banana.
We call for an Uber outside the deli, and seven minutes later a dark sedan pulls up. We hop in, and now we’re Queens bound.
About ten minutes later we stop and pick up another passenger, since we’re using Uber Pool.
He’s a young white dude with a handkerchief over his head, and he seems drunk as hell. He gets in the front seat and we continue our journey.
Fifteen minutes later we’re in Queens, and we drop this guy off in Astoria, not far from where Mitch and I live.
A minute later the Uber driver, who judging by his name is from West Africa, maybe Senegal or Cameroon, tells us that the guy who just got out left his wallet and his driver’s licence in the car. Yikes.
The driver tells Mitch and I that he’ll drop the guy’s stuff off at the Uber office, but he’s not going back to the guy’s drop off point to give it to him. Mitch suggests maybe he should, but the driver tells us there’s no way in hell he’s going back the other way. He says he has to drop us off and keep rolling, making money and all that. We both nod our heads in understanding.
Finally we get dropped off on our block, on 34th street between 28th and 30th Avenues. It’s about 2:00 am. I’m hungry, and so is Mitch, so we walk the half-block to 30th Ave and survey our options.
Just about every store is closed, and there’s very few people on the streets. I decide to get a slice at Astoria Pizza, on 32nd Street and 30th Ave, because they’re open until 4am. Mitch joins me, I get the slice to go, and we roll out.
On our way back Mitch stops at the taco truck that’s always parked on 30th Avenue in the evenings. I think their tacos are crap, but a lot of people like them. Mitch orders a chicken taco, he pays, and we head back to our block.
Since we live literally right across the street from each other, we part ways when we reach 34th Street. Mitch goes to one side of the street and I go to the other. We give each other a fist bump and I tell him it was a good night.
“Yeah man, I’m glad you came,” he says.
“Me too,” I say. “Have a good night bro.”
“You too,” he says.
I walk the two flights to my third-floor walkup, enter my apartment, say hi to my cat Copper, and collapse on the couch in the living room. I say “Hey Google, play Iris DeMent.” She’s a folk-rock singer that a college friend recommended to me when we were messaging on Facebook.
The music comes on and it really chills me out. It’s like after all that testerone during the evening I need to unwind with some estrogen and female vibes.
As I lay on the couch with Copper by my side, I reflect on the evening. It was an awesome night, and I’m grateful to Mitch for taking me to an event I probably never would have attended on my own.
I got to see some good boxing, and some hot ring girls, and I got to hear the nightmarish cries of a possessed woman screaming for justice for the downtrodden.
I also think about how boxing is the perfect sport for this moment in time, for Trump’s America. Because in boxing everyone is cordoned off into their own ethnic blocks, rooting for their tribe or clan. Which is just like Trump’s America.
But the difference is, at the Barclays Center tonight, all the different groups coexisted peacefully. There was an air of familiarity to the event, as if everyone knew who would be there, and the members of each group were all OK with the dynamics.
So maybe we can actually learn something from a boxing event. Which is that you can embrace your own heritage and culture, and even openly root for it against other heritages and cultures, as long as you respect and coexist peacefully with these cultures.
Because that’s what the night was really all about.
And we need more of that in America.