There are things in the fight game that you cannot teach. And those are the things that captivate us about prizefighting in particular over other sports. There is something about personally besting someone in a way that uses spatial, physical, and violent intelligence as communication. It’s an expression of one’s response to the variables in our life that we can’t control into an arena.” ---  Esther Lin, “Focus UFC 207 Edition,” MMA Fighting,


WEEK 1 & 2: Introduction to Prizefighting  

·     Attendance/Ice Breaker

·     Course Overview

·      In-Class Free Writing

Readings/Multimedia for January 24th


·      Introduction (pp 8-12) to Jeremy Schaap, Cinderella Man (also on BB)

·      Introduction (pp IX-XII) of Reading the Fights. 

·      30 for 30 Podcast. No Rules: The Birth of UFC (season 2)



Multimedia for January 24-31. We may refer to these movies on during these next couple of weeks but you do not need to have them watched until Monday, January 28th.


·     Rocky. Directed by John G. Avildsen


·      The Fighter. Directed by David O. Russel)


WEEK 2: January 28th and 31st: The History of Human Combat

Photograph shows amarble sculpture of ancient Greek wrestlers from 510 B.C. is part of an exhibition at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens (credit NBC news)


Readings for January 28th


·      Homer, Iliad, Book 23, line 664.

·      Gottschall, Jonathan. “The Riddle of the Duel.”The Professor in the Cage. Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch. Penguin, 2015. Print. (BB)

·      David Remnick, King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero (Introduction, Part 1: 3—77)


Readings for January 31st


·      Talese, Gay. “The Loser,” Esquire. March 1964. Print. has YouTube videos of Patterson vs. Liston II)

·      Liebling, A.J. “Ahab and Nemesis,” The New Yorker. 8 October, 1955, Print. (BB)

·      Sanneh, Kelefa. “No One Knows Whether Ronda Rousey Still Wants to Fight.” The New Yorker.30 December 2016, Online. (BB)

·      David Remnick, King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero (Introduction, Part 1: 3—77)



David Remnick, King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero (Introduction, Part 1: 3—77)

·      Liebling, A.J. “Ahab and Nemesis,” The New Yorker. 8 October, 1955, Print. (BB)

·      David Remnick, King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero (Introduction, Part 1: 3—77)

·      King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero (Introduction, Part 2: 81—153).


·      Recommended: Documentary, Biography Channel via Youtube, Muhammad Ali - He Changed Boxing as much as He Changed the World. 

Check this out if you get a chance. It’s one thing to read about Ali. It’s another to see him speak and fight.

How Words Helped Build Champions.

We will use the beginning of class to share our fighters. Students will be asked to deliver an “elevator pitch” and listen to feedback from their peers.

We will then discuss King of the World (Part 1 & 2), using this text to begin our discussion of Forwarding and Countering in academic discussions.

We broke into four different groups to examine sports writing on Muhammad Ali. These articles were written for specific audiences and comprised different styles, tones and voices. We will finish these discussions on Monday, February 13th.


·      Group 1: Le Roi Jone, "In the Ring," The Nation (June 29, 1964)

·      Group 2: Tom Wolfe, "The Marvelous Mouth," Esquire (October 1963)

·      Group 3: Murray Kempton, "The Champ and The Chump: The Meaning of Liston Clay I," The New Republic (March 7, 1964)

·      Group 4: George Plimpton, "Miami Notebook: Cassius Clay and Malcolm X," Harper's (June 1964)


Week 15  April 24th and 27th: It’s All Over? Can a Fighter Ever Win the Fight Game?


Week 16  May 1st:  The Future of Combat Sports/Class Review


Week 17 Final Presentations and "It's All Over!"

101.47    Final Presentation: May 4, 2017        11:20am-1:50pm

101.69    Final Presentation: May 8, 2017          2:30pm-5:00pm

  Videos for Thursday:


  • Tyron Woodley: Race a factor in status as 'worst-treated' UFC champ,


·      Discussion Board on BB:

  • I will start two conversations that deal with Thrilla in Manilla and Tyron Woodley’s recent statements about race and MMA. Please add at least 3 comments to these threads and FORWARD and/or COUNTER with evidence to back up your claims.


  • I will start the Discussion threads on BB on Thursday, February 9 at 7:00am. Please post by Sunday, February 12 at noon. Please email me if you have any trouble using this portal on BB.

·      Reading: Finish King of the World

WEEK 5  February 13th and 16th: Race and Ethnicity— The Great White Hope and “Race Baiting”




Discussion on Blackboard:

Please extend the discussion on this fight, considering one of these questions:


·      Why did Philippine President Marcos want this Heavyweight Title Fight and its international attention in his country?


·      Why did Ali verbally abuse Frazier and characterize him in this way and was this behavior successful?


·      In this 2008 documentary, Joe Frazier is interviewed in his hometown of Philadelphia. We also watched the first film in the Rocky series. How do the storylines of these fighters compare? How do they differ?


·      In his afterward, David Remnick provides his overall analysis of Ali’s influence and believes that, despite losing some fights, Ali will always be considered The Greatest. Do you agree? How did Ali make such impact both inside the ring and in our culture?


·      Why does Tyron Woodley believe that race may be a factor in the treatment of UFC champions? What is it about the “fight game” that brings the topic of race to the forefront?


For Monday, February 20th:

  • A True Champion Vs. The 'Great White Hope’ on


  • How Bruce Lee Exploded a Stereotype With a One-Inch Punch, New York Times



WEEK 6 February 20th and 23rd: The King of the World: Geopolitical Implications of Boxing and MMA




February 20th: Response Essay 1 Due.

 We spent the beginning of our class reflecting on what was frustrating and satisfying about the process. Perhaps there is a behavior or habit that is not working (i.e. text message interruptions) or another that you can adopt (i.e. breaking the assignment down into sections)? I suggest try something out for your next paper.


Class Discussion:

Today we discussed Jack Johnson, Jake LaMotta, and Bruce Lee, focusing on how these individuals defined and/or defied social archetypes. We will finish these discussions on Thursday.



Readings and Multimedia exploring Gender and Fighting

•       The Sociology of MMA: Women’s Integration into the UFC, 

•       Why Do Female Action Heroes Always Do This? Black Widow, Mystique, and the “between-my-legs takedown.” 

•       Assignment: Archetype

 One page– Write about a fighter we haven’t covered in class who defined or defied an archetype (can be real or fictional book, film, etc.)

  • Race

  • Ethnicity

  • Religion

  • Gender

  • Region

•       Use supportive evidence


WEEK 7 February 27th and March 2nd: Point of View— The Challengers, The Audience, The Referee, The Promoters, Etc.

Thursday, March 2nd

Stanley Fish

Yesterday we analyzed Stanley Fish’s How to Write A Sentence. According to Fish, “If you just assemble a list of words, what you have is a list of words." A writer must think carefully about the relationship between the words, "so that the words no longer simply exist in a list, but are now part of a large and comprehensible statement." That's the crux of it, Fish says: "To understand that a sentence is a structure of logical relationships. When your sentences fall apart, they go back in the direction of being mere lists."

I asked you all to substitute English words for nonsense words in Lewis Carroll's famous poem, “Jabberwocky,” to illustrate the importance of sentence structure.

We learned that the structure of Carroll's stanza provides all the clues you needed to design a sentence that makes sense. Fish says, “They then begin to understand that form comes first, and content follows." I will be providing more forms to use throughout the semester.


Mid-Term March 9th

I handed out a study guide for our mid-term next Thursday (also on BB). Reminder: The mid-term is open book, but it is a good idea to review broad concepts and familiarize yourself with readings, films, multimedia, etc.


March 2nd: Assign Response Paper # 2 (Due March 23rd) Write an Op-Ed about an issue in boxing or MMA. 

I handed out your next assignment (also on BB), which is due Thursday, March 23rd. You will be writing an Op-Ed on topic relevant to combat sports. Op-Eds are articles that express the opinion of the writer as its main focus. Your job is to take an opinionated stand on this issue (claim), use techniques of persuasive writing (rhetoric) to sway your reader to agree with you, and back it up with facts (evidence.) 

For Monday, March 6th:


To Get You Started On Your Op-Ed:

  • Write down at least three issues/conflicts that you are compelled by in fighting and write down some thoughts.

  • Find two op-eds that moved you and bring them to class. Start thinking about the rhetorical moves and choices the writers made. These do not have to deal with fighting. I am more interesting in the writing.


WEEK 8 March 6th and 9th: Promotion, Capitalism, and The Fight Game




Hello! Today we broke into groups to analyze your three ideas for the opt-ed assignment. We also discussed the two sample op-eds your brought to class and analyzed why there were so compelling.


Hopefully, you now know which issue you would like to write about, have a possible counter-argument, and maybe even a rhetorical style for how you will write it.

Remember, if you are constructing a claim that is based on logos, bring statistics or examples to illustrate your logics. If you want to spark an emotional response (pathos), use vivid imagery or describe a story. Or, use ethos and include an expert opinion (even yours!) to compel your audience. In addition, don’t forget the power of the title with these essays. It should strike a cord and sway the reader to read your work.


Ideas to start your draft (due Thursday, March 23rd) Use a form!

•       Try using a rhetorical style from one of the opt-eds you picked out. 

•       In addition, Graff and Birkenstein have templates for starting a debate that may also help you!


*Optional—a colleague told me about this short video on Kellyanne Conway and her interviewing techniques. It's short - about 6 minutes - but well worth the time. Very interesting to identify her rhetorical methods.  


**Mid Term on March 9th


March 10th -- 19th: SPRING BREAK


WEEK 10: March 20th and 23rd: The Lady is a Prizefighter— Gender and Sexuality in the Ring and the Cage



Monday, March 20th:


How To Read a Peer-Reviewed Paper. 

 In academic publishing, the goal of peer review is to assess the quality of articles submitted for publication in a scholarly journal. Before an article is deemed appropriate to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, it must undergo the following process:

•     The author of the article must submit it to the journal editor who forwards the article to experts in the field. Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).

•     These impartial reviewers are charged with carefully evaluating the quality of the submitted manuscript.

•     The peer reviewers check the manuscript for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and procedures.

•     If appropriate, they suggest revisions. If they find the article lacking in scholarly validity and rigor, they reject it.

•    Because a peer-reviewed journal will not publish articles that fail to meet the standards established for a given discipline, peer-reviewed articles that are accepted for publication exemplify the best research practices in a field.

(source: Lloyd Sealy Library)  


We discussed how to identify a peer-reviewed (or scholarly) article, including:

  • academic and/or expert credentials of the journal and the author;

  • jargon for a specific audience

  • the use of citations and references

  • an abstract

In addition, we discussed how to effectively read scholarly articles, which can be very challenging as they are written for a specific audience with jargon and presuppositions. We went over the SQ3R method (handout and video on BB), which challenges you to survey and skip around and come up with questions instead of trying to read straight through.


Assignment for Thursday:

1.  March 23rd: Response Essay 2 Due.

 ** I plan to be on campus in my office on Wednesday, March 22 from 9am-4pm. Please feel free to stop by to discuss your essays. If you can, drop me a note if you know specifically when you can come by.


2. I would like you to prepare a short, one page review of a peer-reviewed article concerning the match between Emile Griffith and Benny “Kid” Paret. (These are also the fighters featured in Ring of Fire, the documentary I would like you to watch by Thursday. See below for link!)


I have divided the class into 2 groups (see BB for your assignment under Groups). 

·      Peer Review Group 1: Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical Cultures: Three Decades of Evolving Research by Eric Anderson.


·      Peer Review Group 2: The Story of Benny “Kid” Paret: Cuban Boxers, the Cuban Revolution, and the U.S. Media, 1959-1962 by Crhistina D. Abreu

Keeping the strategies in mind as you read the paper should help make the process easier.


Your one page review should include the following from the SQ3R method:


  1. SURVEY: After skimming over the article’s headings and reading through the summaries at the end, please write down your notes. Try to anticipate what the author is going to say.

  2. QUESTIONS: Change paragraph headings to read as questions and write down any other ideas you will look for about the reading.

  3. 2 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How you would join this conversation? What would be your argument.

  4. Find a peer-review article that you might use if you were writing a paper on Warrior.


Also for Thursday:

 ·      Cinderella Man- pp 1-92 (first 5 chapters) by Thursday, March 23rd.



·      Warrior (2011)

·      Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story (2005) HBO via YouTube. 


Thursday, March 23rd:

Response Essay 2 Due.

Assign Writing Project # 3: Research Project – Going the Distance: Focusing An Argument About Combat Sports and Society. Final Draft Due Monday, May 1st



WEEK 11 March 27th and 30th: Violence and Society— Dangers of Combat Sport




WEEK 12 April 3rd and 6th: Is Martial Arts An Art? Cultural Significance vs. Human Cockfighting



·      “Meryl Streep slammed mixed martial arts. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.” Sunny Bunch, Washington 

·      “Say No to Fight Club, New York,” Nicole Gelinas, New York Times. 


WEEK 13 April 10th and 13th: Cinderella Man— The Narratives of the Underdog and the Comeback


       April 13th: Film Discussion Group Activity


Film Discussion Group Activity: Like writing, fighting and films have a unique partnership.

Writer DJ Summers explains, In over 150 boxing films made from the medium's beginning, the boxer guides us through society's ugly bits, from the Depression's debased poverty to man's instinct for cruelty and need for redemption.(

In order to explore six films outside of our required list, the class will break up groups to watch a film and then briefly present it to class. A 10-minute discussion will include:

1)    The fighter(s);

2)    The place and its importance to the characters;

3)    The narrative arc (i.e. coming of age, the comeback, rivalry, etc.);

4)    The cultural context (i.e. economic instability, political or corporate corruption, gender, geopolitical impact, etc.).

The list of six films we may explore include:

1)    The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933);

2)    The Harder They Fall (1954);

3)    Champion (1949);

4)    Someone Up There Likes Me (1956);

5)    Fight Club (1999);

6)    Southpaw (2015);

(10 points total)


Week 14

April 17th and 20th: Fighting Out Of— From Stockton to Lowell, Place and Location as a Character




Week 15  April 24th and 27th: It’s All Over? Can a Fighter Ever Win the Fight Game?


Week 16  May 1st:  The Future of Combat Sports/Class Review


Week 17 Final Presentations and "It's All Over!"

101.47    Final Presentation: May 4, 2017        11:20am-1:50pm

101.69    Final Presentation: May 8, 2017          2:30pm-5:00pm



Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in their second fight on May 1965 in Lewiston, Maine. (credit:






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