Who’s Out There To Look Up To?

Ash is a female boxer about to turn pro, and with that shift comes an enormous change in what kinds of bouts she can fight, and the possible money on the line. Once pro, she’s no longer eligible for the Olympics, and the purse gets bigger. But women’s boxing is wildly under-resourced. Whereas a male pro boxer at the top of the game can sign a contract for more than 50 million dollars, the best women boxers only bring in a few hundred thousand dollars at the most.

Even though women’s boxing hasn’t been nurtured by promoters or audiences, there are amazing women boxing, and the most promising of the last ten years is Claressa Shields, a young Black woman from Flint Michigan.

Ash comes out of the rich amateur women’s circuit around San Francisco, and would surely have been looking for a role model in the pro field. The best, and maybe only person to look up to would be Shields. Like many amateur women boxers out there, it’s a fair assumption that Ash would voraciously follow Shields’ career highs and lows, which have been extensively documented in numerous articles, videos, tv shows, and in the 2015 documentary T-Rex (which is being adapted to a feature film by Barry Jenkins, of Moonlight fame). Perhaps a love of Claressa is shared by Ash, Robin, and Ryan together?

Watch T-Rex via paid streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Vimeo, Google Play, or YouTube, or find some great excerpts linked here.

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This excellent 2016 article from The Undefeated, “The rise of women’s boxing,” not only discusses Shields specifically, but gives a thorough overview of the field’s challenges, including an interview with another top woman, Heather Hardy:

New York-born and bred, Hardy used to dream about becoming a Yankee. As a child she would even envision herself running out of the bullpen at Yankee Stadium. She watched every game. She knew every stat. But little girls didn’t play baseball.
“I remember feeling like I was sorry I liked it,” she said. “I was sorry I was a girl.”
Later in life, Hardy adopted a new dream: becoming a professional boxer. But as she transitioned out of the amateurs, she was confronted with a harsh reality: Women don’t make much money fighting.
“A bunch of the girls who are pro [told me], ‘Just know this isn’t a life for you; this is a hobby because you’ll never make any money off of it,’” Hardy said.
“And 20 years later, I have that same feeling. I’m sorry I’m a girl.”

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Earlier this year, Kelefah Sanneh profiled Shields for The New Yorker in a wide ranging piece that looks at her fighting style as well as her place in the culture:

Shields is constantly being compared to [MMA fighter Ronda] Rousey, and sometimes she seems frustrated that she has not drawn a similar fan base. “I’ve achieved double of what she have and I’m younger and the hate is off the charts,” Shields recently wrote, on Twitter. (After all, Rousey’s only Olympic medal was merely a bronze, in judo.) One difference, though, is the way that Shields wins. In her eight professional fights, she has looked neither unstoppable, the way Rousey once did, nor untouchable, the way Floyd Mayweather, Jr., usually did. Last summer, a boxer named Hanna Gabriels knocked Shields onto her backside in the first round; Shields recovered and won a wide decision, but the sight of Shields on the mat made it easier to wonder whether she is as good as she is supposed to be. She carries herself like a knockout artist (she has promised to “destroy” Hammer), and she sometimes fights like one, too, stalking her opponent face-first, with her hands down, swinging wide, as if she were a moment away from landing a decisive punch. But Shields has only two knockouts in her eight fights. In general, she brawls and then relies on the judges to name her the winner; this strategy can be ugly, and, given the occasionally unaccountable behavior of boxing judges, it may one day prove disastrous.

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In October 2019, Showtime Sports released the latest installment of the digital franchise THE RISE which profiles boxing’s stars as they grind their way to the top — this time featuring Claressa Shields. The three parts are embedded below.

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Finally, here’s video of Shields vs. Hanna Gabriels in 2018. (For a more recent fight, check out the full video of her bout with Christina Hammer in April 2019):

Wolf Imagery, Part 1

Throughout the play, playwright Hansol Jung includes countless allusions to wolves in nature, wolves as symbols, and wolves in folklore.

One of the most evident ways that wolves are built in to this story is in the characters’ names.

On page 34, we learn that Peter’s last name is Hunt. We know that wolves are apex predators at the top of the food chain — they hunt animals large and small, and often as a pack that separates and surrounds their prey with great speed and strength. Wolves first stalk their prey, and then strategically select the right time and choose the most vulnerable animal to attack. This maximizes nutrition by exerting as little energy as possible.

BBC Earth
BBC Earth: Frozen Planet

Another layer of meaning that this name holds is a reference to Peter and The Wolf, the opera by Sergei Prokofiev. The opera was first written and performed in 1938, and later famously recorded in 1978 with narration by David Bowie. The opera was made popular over several albums that served as a teaching tool and gateway for children into classical music. Movie adaptations also abound, like the 1958 Disney version, pictured below. A full version recorded by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, can be found here. Notably, each character has a leitmotif, or a musical pattern that signals when they appear in the story, which you may recognize. In this version, the conductor describes the wolf’s leitmotif as, “hideous, nasty, ugly, smelly” and “scary.” Peter, on the other hand, is represented by joyful strings.

The story of Peter and the Wolf follows a young boy named Peter who, excited to explore the clearing outside his grandfather’s home, leaves the gate open unintentionally. Although being warned by his grandfather that a wolf could come out of the forest and enter the yard, Peter defiantly claims that “boys like me are not afraid of wolves.” Inevitably, a wolf does appear, and gobbles up one of the boy’s ducks. With the help of some hunters, Peter catches the wolf, and instead of killing it, parades it to a zoo. One of the morals present in this story is that courage and creativity are essential to getting solving risky situations.

Notably, in Hansol’s play, we are doubled up with Peters. First, we have the young Peter Hunt — a puppet — aka Jeenu, an adopted child of Korean origin, who is also a boy in Wolf’s clothing. Or a Wolf in boy’s clothing. Then, there is the elder Peter Hunt, a white man from Arizona — the first adoptive father, who renames his Korean son after himself. We are told explicitly by the Wolf that Peter Hunt Senior is not a member of the pack, though has been someone worth forming an alliance with.

Disney’s Peter and the Wolf (1958)

Robin’s last name, Shephard, also has rich meaning behind it. A shepherd, is literally, “sheep-hearder.” And of course, what does a shepherd protect the sheep from?
Predators.
Wolves.

In many religions, and especially in Christianity, a shepherd is often synonymous for God. This points to the notion that humans have a divine leader who will protect them from harm and not lead them astray. Just as shepherds keep watch over their flocks at night, and protect them from dangerous predators, so Jesus protects his flock. In the Biblical parable of the lost sheep, he says:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

By imbuing character names with wolf-imagery, what do you think Hansol is potentially revealing about these people and this story? What other ideas come to mind when examining these wolf-centric names?

In future posts, we’ll be writing more about all of the different references to wolves, their natural behaviors, and their presence in culture. But in the meantime, here’s Sam Sheepdog & Ralph Wolf in Looney Tunes’ “Steal Wool,” a classic of the Sheep-herder/Wolf genre…