Tony Parsons: 'Boxing gives you confidence - and it's good to be able to take a knock'


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The Independent Online

Men should look after their bodies better Ryan Giggs will be playing for Manchester United when he's 40 and it's yoga which makes that possible – he's England's greatest advocate. Men have got this image of classes filled with beautiful lithe women bending over backwards to the sound of Buddhist temple bells. That's exactly right – and I've found that it's one of the most wonderful things about it.

My father was a distant figure I loved him but I rarely saw him, as he worked six days a week. I remember every football match I went to with him, and every kick we had together, as there weren't that many, and then it was over.

I was surprised at the emotional gap between me and my son On the surface, our experiences growing up were not so different: sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. But that doesn't mean a thing if you're at the local comprehensive, staying out for the first time and running wild. I told him that a lot of people I loved the most in the music business died because of drugs, but it didn't mean a thing to him, as there's no substitute for being 16.

My mum was dying of cancer when I wrote 'Man and Boy' I was a mass of raw nerve endings but writing was therapeutic and it helped me to deal with the pain. It's hard to explain the book's success; I think people responded to what we all go through: watching our parents grow older and sicker and saying goodbye. If I'd written it a year later, it would have been a different book.

My whole family was boxing-crazy My dad was an amateur boxer and I discovered that there was a real etiquette to sparring. You're hitting each other as hard as you can but without anger or spite. It gives you confidence – and it's good to be able to take a knock.

Muhammad Ali did more for racial equality than anyone else in the 20th Century He had a sense of humour and a physical beauty but his most underrated quality was his courage. I was exactly the right age to watch his career, from first watching him fight as Cassius Clay against Sonny Liston in 1964.

I understand the hysteria of David Bowie's return It's quite touching, as a lot of middle-aged people are excited at the memory of that great golden period of British music, from the Rolling Stones to the Stone Roses – the last great British band. I get it, but his new stuff isn't as good as the old stuff.

The newspaper industry is struggling That happens when technology changes. My mum had six brothers and many worked at the hot-metal printers in Fleet Street and lost their jobs in the 1980s, when their trade was no longer needed. It can happen to any of us: suddenly our sets of skills are overtaken by history or technology.

Tony Parsons, 59, is a columnist and bestselling author. 'Catching the Sun', his latest book, is published by HarperCollins, priced £7.99