Behind the T(rope): One Boxer's Story


  • Diane Patricia Ketelle Mills College
  • Lucas Ketelle Mills College



subjectivity, narrative inquiry, life story, dialogic research representation, boxing


This research describes aspects of the life story of a professional junior middle-weight boxer. We conducted this inquiry in an urban boxing gym in the United States. Five extensive interviews were collected and analyzed through a life story interview method; the findings we present through dialogic representation.

This work is a partnership between an academic and a sports journalist, a mother and son duo who wanted to explore one boxer's life story: the sometimes glamorous, sometimes mundane reality of life inside the ring. The research began with a familial connection: The first author's father (who is also the second author's grandfather) was a boxer in the U.S. Navy. As an amateur champion welterweight, Bob "The Brick Wall" KETELLE had a 17-0-1 record (17 wins, 0 losses, 1 draw) with 10 knockouts. This familial introduction formed an interest in the sport of boxing and gave rise to learning more about one boxer’s life.

The boxing trope has long been the subject of film and literature, most notably documented in American movies such as Raging Bull (1980) and Rocky (1976). We all know the story: the young unknown boxer with a heart of gold, fighting his way to the top, going from a nobody to a champion in a few short fights. But how does this cliché match up with reality? Through our research we have attempted to go behind the trope, to present some of the life experiences of one professional boxer to better understand how boxing tales from film and literature relate to life lived in an urban boxing gym.



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Author Biographies

Diane Patricia Ketelle, Mills College

Diane KETELLE is a professor of education and the Robert and Ann Wert Chair at Mills College in Oakland, California, USA.

Lucas Ketelle, Mills College

Lucas KETELLE is a sport journalist, therapist, and doctoral student at Mills College in Oakland, California.




How to Cite

Ketelle, D. P., & Ketelle, L. (2015). Behind the T(rope): One Boxer’s Story. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(3).



Single Contributions