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Fighting for “Respectability”: Media Representations of the White “Working-Class” Male Boxing “Hero”

In the United States and the United Kingdom, the White male boxer has long held a special appeal among the public and media. Boxing “heroes” are constructed not only on the basis of Whiteness but also on the basis of their perceived “working-class” nature, at a time when “working-class” or “blue-collar” identities in both the United Kingdom and the United States are subjected to forms of negative stigmatization. However, central to the appeal of the White, “working-class” boxing hero is their asserted “respectability,” which is used to establish distance from less “respectable” forms of raced, classed, and gendered identities. The media representations that surround boxing champions Ricky Hatton and Kelly Pavlik illustrate the way in which their “respectability” is asserted, explored, and related to broader conversations about a perceived growing “White underclass.”