THE first detectable sound is not his voice but a buzzer in the background. Loud and prolonged, it is today also unsettling, interpreted by my ears if not his as the signal for an airstrike rather than the conclusion of a three-minute round.

This sound, familiar to anyone who has ever spent time in a boxing gym, should not come as a surprise, much less unsettle. Yet today it does both. Today it surprises because the boxer in earshot was recently damaged by boxing and it unsettles because he is back and because the combination of his voice and the gym’s buzzer is akin to hearing an alcoholic claim sobriety against the background noise of a pub or the unscrewing of a bottle cap.

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