May 6, 2011
From Downtown Express:
So hot off the press that the ink is barely dry, Aussie artist/journalist (and Australian national women’s boxing champion) Mischa Merz’s odyssey through the scuffed looking glass of America’s best boxing gyms is already one for the history books.
Written as a humble, keenly observed and utterly obsessive chronicle of women’s boxing (from the post-“Million Dollar Baby” boom to the present), “The Sweetest Thing: A Boxer’s Memoir” wryly time stamps this unique moment when the sport is poised to make its debut in the 2012 Olympics.
So determined is Merz to tell that story, she often jettisons her own formidable late in life redemption tale to the back burner — in favor of standing in awe when witnessing (often during sparring sessions) the skill and determination of others. The result is an autobiography full of character sketches that crackles and sparks with the ring of truth.
Of the contemporary pioneers who will never see Olympic gold hanging from their necks, Merz fires off a preemptive challenge to 2012’s first female boxing champion: “These amazing women should never be forgotten or allowed to slip under history’s rug as the sport gathers pace and grows. I feel honored to have met them, to have been in the presence of their courage and their commitment.”
Referencing her own career trajectory, Merz nails the personal greed and universal glory that could very well represent the distilled essence of anyone’s path to self-discovery: “Maybe that’s what I like most about the culture of this particular sport. It is all about me, baby, that’s for sure. But no one does it alone.”
As for what that “it” is: Merz rose to the top of the Australian boxing ladder, then found herself at age 45 deciding to give it one last go in the USA. Much of the attention she lavishes on female boxers comes from her time spent observing, participating, learning and building on her already impressive skills. The best of the best (and some of the rest) in boxing gyms in California, Georgia, Florida and NYC left indelible marks, impressions, scrapes and scars.