The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty - 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel - Tiffany Watt Smith 2016
You listen to me now.… The man don’t hit hard… he’s slow, he has no skill, no footwork, he’s awkward.… This man have two chances, slim and none.
—Muhammad Ali, interview with David Frost, 1974
It’s thanks to Muhammad Ali that trash talking has become such an important part of the art of boxing. His virtuoso insults flung at the world heavyweight champion George Foreman—in the buildup to the “Rumble in the Jungle”—are legendary. Today, months ahead of the fight, boxers continue to trade insults on social media, the wittier the better. And the fact they see it as an effective way of wrong-footing their opponents tells us a lot about what being insulted feels like.
Mostly, it’s a SHOCK: a sudden and bewildering drop in status. One moment you feel respected, the next—bam!—an object of ridicule and CONTEMPT. It’s the insults that come out of nowhere that sting most, leaving us flustered and confused.* But that’s not only why boxers dole out the insults. They don’t want just to rattle their opponents. They want to rile them too, make them blind furious till they’re snapping out the punches, and tiring themselves on the way.
Boxing might look like a sport fueled by rage and aggression. But as any boxer will tell you, whoever is seeing red when the bell rings—because they’re swept up in the fury of being put down—will be the fighter you can expect to lose.
See also: BEWILDERMENT.