Brian Edwards Media

The Ignoble Sport of Boxing

 

Photo: One News

Photo: One News

‘I’m willing to die for what’s about to take place.’  So said David Tua about his heavyweight boxing fight tonight with Nigerian Friday Ahunanya.

I wondered what it was that Tua was ‘willing to die for’ – money, fame, glory? Or the many further opportunities to be ‘willing to die’ which the pathway to the heavyweight championship of the world and, if he reaches that goal, the ongoing defence of that title, will offer him.

There can be nobility in being willing to die for a cause – the protection of one’s family, friends, country, of liberty or democracy. But there seems to be little nobility, or indeed sense, in deliberately putting oneself in harm’s way, in being ‘willing to die’ for money, fame, glory or the victor’s belt. 

I won’t watch the fight. I abhor professional boxing.

There are two ways of winning in this ‘sport’. One is to hit your opponent more often than he hits you during the bout. The hits must be clean and telling – that is to say, they must hurt. If you score more of these hits than your opponent, you win on points.

The other way to win is to knock your opponent unconscious or near unconscious, so that he falls to the ground and cannot get up for ten seconds. This is normally achieved by a blow or blows to the head.

Now I do not want to bore you with the vast body of neurological evidence on what receiving a single blow to the head, let alone dozens of blows, let alone dozens of blows from a Tyson, Holyfield or Tua, does to the human brain. The shuffling Mohammed Ali, who no longer ‘floats like a butterfly’ or ‘stings like a bee’, could tell you that… if he could talk coherently at all.

Or you could simply reflect on the fact that you can kill a small child simply by shaking it violently. Our brains do not take kindly to being pummelled in our skulls.

Professional boxing, the Marquis of Queensbury notwithstanding, is a violent, uncivilised and life-threatening sport. When we take pleasure in watching one person hurt another, we are less human for the experience.

Of course, much worse things happen to people in the movies. And professional wrestling makes professional boxing look positively genteel in terms of the demeanour of the contestants.

But there is a difference. Both the movies and professional wrestling are choreographed fantasy, and we know it. If the actors in either get hurt, it is by accident rather than by design.

And, generally speaking, violence in the movies and in professional wrestling takes place against a background of the conflict between good and evil. In that sense both are cathartic.

There is no conflict between good and evil involved in professional boxing. It is about money not morality. Nor is what happens in the ring choreographed fantasy. This is reality. The pain is real, the blood is real, the damage to the body, brain and nervous system is real. Dead boxers, unlike play-dead actors and play-dead wrestlers, do not get up and do the scene again.

In sum, professional boxing is a spectator sport in which people pay to see men hurt, maim and sometimes kill one another.

That is why I will not be watching Tua fight Ahunanya for his life tonight.

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23 Comments:

  1. Of course the MoQ was a nasty piece of work given to physically abusing his family not to mention homophobic, so it is hardly surprising he should be so closely associated with this activity.

    I have to confess that when Mohammed Ali was at his peak I found myself taking an interest in boxing but never since. He single handedly gave the ‘sport’ a certain nobility, if you know what I mean. Otherwise I think the ‘sport’ is corrupt as are so many of those associated with it who profit far more than the poor sod who has brain turned to pulp.

    I notice you use the term professional boxing. does that mean you approve of and watch amateur boxing?

    It does not bother me if two men want to knock the s**t out of each other but I could do without all the nonsense leading up to the event, like the drivel quoted above. But id someone would care to offfer me $5m I will happily take my chances with DT; at least it would be over quickly.

    • I notice you use the term professional boxing. does that mean you approve of and watch amateur boxing?

      No. I use the term because greater care is taken in amateur boxing to protect the contestants from the worst effects of the sport and money does not appear to be its driving force. I would not want any of my children or grandchildren involved in boxing and would do everything I could to dissuade them from taking it up. I also anticipated the criticism that not all boxing was as I had described in the post. However, the dangers of brain damage, though lessened, remain, as does my distaste for any sport which involves hitting another person.

  2. How do you feel about Chess Boxing, Brian? :) Personally I find it deeply confusing.

    I’m with you on the “willing to die” quote, and other things you’ve mentioned along that line. The fact that it makes it into all our media at all is something I find depressing, but these days not surprising. It’s what it was designed to do, after all, whether he knows it or whether he’s just following the commercially designed convention for professional boxing because he’s trained to do so. More free publicity and Money Money Money.

    I’m disappointed that taxes are (I presume) subsidising this via Maori Television. Oh well.

  3. People “beating each other up” in the name of sport has never impressed me .In the laws of our society this should be construed to be a crime.Im also against smacking children.Eventually I will be in the majority. Its only a matter of time.

    • People “beating each other up” in the name of sport has never impressed me

      I doubt that boxing will ever be classified as a crime, since it’s a voluntary activity on the part of both boxers. Both agree to being hit in the body or head by the other. So it’s really a crime of stupidity.

  4. You’ll be pleased to know that both boxers lost no brain cells after last night’s dour “snore fest”. It was the hapless viewers who suffered brain damage, forcing ourselves to stay awake.

    If Tua can’t KO an aging journeyman — who’s already lost 5 times already — then there’s no hope for him to have another crack at a genuine world heavyweight title bout.

    • Well, you have only yourself to blame for watching it. As to whether ‘both boxers lost no brain cells’, did neither boxer receive a blow to the head or are you suggesting that they had no brain cells to lose?

  5. I have long had the impression that it was boxing that gave the lead to the puerile hyping of professional sport that is now ubiquitous. The antics of Don King – “Rumble in the Jungle”, “Thrilla in Manila” etc were our first hits. Now we are mainlining the stuff.
    Well some are. I quit television years ago.
    In my curmudgeonly way I associate this phenomenon with a tectonic shift in our national consciousness from the British “its not whether or not you win it is how you play the game” attitude to the American “Win at all costs” model that seems to pervade our commerce and politics.

    I am always amused by the interviews with sporting heroes – you know the type – “they were the better team on the day” or some other blindingly obvious noise. Someone once gave me this piece of advice:
    “Keep up with sports. It will enable you to pass the time in the pub with the morons who think it matters.”

    OK. I’ll go back to my knitting now mumbling imprecations on the soul of Edward Bernays!

    • I have long had the impression that it was boxing that gave the lead to the puerile hyping of professional sport that is now ubiquitous.

      Agree with most of that. But not all sport is the work of Satan. I personally love watching – tennis, cricket, netball, bowls (very good on TV, surprisingly) and some gymnastics.

  6. Oh, no, there were a few to the head. But the deliveries were such that none of the brain cells were permanently silenced; startled, perhaps (even that’s debatable with this non-event).

    This was a hugely disappointing “spectacle” (and I use that word, loosely) for boxing aficionados, who were expecting Tua to kick Friday’s bad black ass over into next Wednesday.

  7. I doubt that boxing will ever be classified as a crime, since it’s a voluntary activity on the part of both boxers. Both agree to being hit in the body or head by the other. So it’s really a crime of stupidity.

    Im sure street fighting is purely voluntary as well.Although they might agree to being hit in the head and body Im sure its not their intention.

  8. Boxing isnt about shaking small children, its a competition between consenting adults with regulations and doctors in attendance.
    What next ban football because to many people suffer hamstring tears and knee injuries?

    • Boxing isnt about shaking small children, its a competition between consenting adults with regulations and doctors in attendance. What next ban football because to many people suffer hamstring tears and knee injuries?

      Ridiculous argument. The stated purpose of football is not to render your opponents unconscious. Hamstring tears and knee injuries are very different from injury to the brain which can turn you into a vegetable. Start thinking!

  9. 9

    Wallis Grobblestone

    To compare progressive brain damage to torn hamstring tears etc, is ridiculous. Brain damage is irreversible, whereas sports injuries heal by nature and treatment over time. Maybe the poster lost sight of this fact by staying in the ring longer than he should’ve.

  10. Id definitely consider banning Vinnie Jones style of football

  11. Nobody is forced to compete in a boxing ring, every week plenty of people suffer head injuries playing rugby and league. It might not be to your liking, so you have the choice not to fight or be a spectator. Just dont tell the rest of us what we can and cant do.
    I think jumping out of a plane is a silly thing to do and people have died doing it, should we ban it?

    • Nobody is forced to compete in a boxing ring, every week plenty of people suffer head injuries playing rugby and league.

      I can only repeat my previous point which you still seem to be missing. Professional boxing is probably the only sport – I say ‘probably’ because there may well be others I don’t know about – in which the purpose of the sport is to hurt or disable your opponent. And the most effective way of doing this is through blows to the head. There are other dangerous sports, including the ones you mention, but with the exception of deliberate fouls, the injuries incurred are the reuslt of accident. They are not deliberate. I don’t recall ‘telling the rest of us what we can and can’t do’, but there is certainly an argument for denying insurance to people who voluntarily engage in life threatening activities and for billing them for the medical treatment they receive. There should be a price for reckless stupidity.

  12. It’s at no cost to me and infinitely preferable to war, to which more people die for equally stupid reasons like, patriotism, politics, power and money.

    At least Tua et al know what they’re getting into and why.

    • It’s at no cost to me and infinitely preferable to war, to which more people die for equally stupid reasons like, patriotism, politics, power and money.

      A preposterous comparison. War and boxing are not alternatives.

  13. they should be…get the world leaders with beef in the ring to sort shit out instead of sending kids with guns to do it.

  14. Some people may only have a single skill of any bankable significance. Coordinated physical violence may be that skill. Not everyone can become an adept media manager.

    Most professional boxers are hardly ruining an otherwise promising career in astrophysics. Maybe they’re on minimum wage and can grab some extra money for food/rent. Only a few get into a position to set their family up financially using the only ‘gift’ they have before hopefully getting out while they can enjoy it. I think there is an element of nobility there.

    It’s easy to dismiss people if you have more avenues than them, Brian.