We’ve seen in our first reads of Wolf Play how boxing is important to our characters, the story, and the structure of the play. To understand more about how boxing impacts the world of the play, here’s some background on the basic structure of the sport:
In both the fight and court scenes, we hear the familiar signal: “Ding, ding, ding, Round One!” In professional bouts, the number of rounds can reach up to 12 for men and up to 10 for women. Rounds typically last 3 minutes for men, and 2 minutes for women, although there is a recent movement in women’s boxing to extend rounds to a full 3 minutes. In between rounds, opponents have one minute in their respective corners to receive coaching and physical treatment from their staff. We see this when we hear Ryan and Ash checking in during the bout, and we witness Robin and Jeenu’s support as part of Ash’s team, or pack.
Once the bell rings, the next round is announced and the fighters continue. If both boxers can make it though all rounds, which is also known as “going the distance” of the match, the fight is then decided by up to three ringside judges to calculate the scores and determine the winner.
For professional bouts, points are awarded on a ten-point scale, points deducted when fighters are knocked down or if any of their moves are considered a foul.
A boxer may win a match before rounds are up through a “Knock-Out” or “KO,” which means that the referee decides that the boxer is unable to safely continue the bout. This is often determined by a count of eight if a boxer is knocked down or in danger of being unable to protect themselves. Boxers can also receive a technical knock-out, or “TKO” which is determined if there are three or more knockdowns. If a fighter decides themselves that they’re unable to continue, they can “throw in the towel” or forfeit the match.
Another match to take a look at is the recent heavyweight bout that was one of the biggest upsets in the sport to date – Andy Ruiz Jr. vs. Anthony Joshua. Joshua, a 6’6” shoe-in for the title, was hurt badly by Ruiz, an underdog who won with a TKO in the 7th round. (At a rematch this past Saturday, Joshua reclaimed the win.) This video below breaks down the highlights of the first match with commentary from boxing greats like Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, and Sylvester Stallone, and the athletes themselves.
The commentary showcases the intense psychological aspect to boxing. When punches are not being thrown, we see glimpses into the boxer’s mind and emotions, and then when the blows begin, we see how each fighter attempts to use the other player’s state to their advantage.
Here is a link to a useful article about the rematch that analyzes Joshua’s turn towards smarts and technically-focused boxing as a way to defeat Ruiz’s massive force. We also hear how Ruiz slacked off on training the past few months, while Joshua doubled down. We appreciate this insider analysis as it connects nicely to our in-rehearsal conversations about boxing’s mental game.
Boxing feels like a fight for one’s life — round after round, the stakes get higher and higher, until something breaks or the referee steps in to make the call. This momentum reverberates through Wolf Play, with Ash’s boxing training and bout being central to the action. Fighting is used as a metaphor for what our characters are experiencing. In the court scene, we see how the emotional and psychological fight of the sport becomes a fight for Jeenu, with the sound of the bell escalating the cacophony. We witness him experiencing this trial and interpreting what he can from the legal jargon and making sense of this tragic event through the lens of a boxing match.
Coming up, we’ll be going into more detail about the styles of fighting that Ash, and Ryan (and Jeenu) are working with, as well as the trainer/boxer relationship, and what it’s like to “go pro.” Until then, here are some quotes that line up well with the boxing in this play:
It’s less about the physical training, in the end, than it is about the mental preparation: boxing is a chess game. You have to be skilled enough and have trained hard enough to know how many different ways you can counterattack in any situation, at any moment. – Jimmy Smits
“I’m scared every time I go into the ring, but it’s how you handle it. What you have to do is plant your feet, bite down on your mouthpiece and say, ‘Let’s go.’ “ – Mike Tyson