Is boxing a sport to begin with?Is boxing something else that is just practiced as a sport? Is it, can it, orshould it be practiced as something else rather than as a sport? Maybe I am justmaking too big a deal out of a simple definition here. Nevertheless, this simpledefinition of boxing gives rise to one question we should all take some time toanswer: should boxing be practiced as a sport? Examination of medical findingsand statistics and re-examination of our views and goals as a modern societywill lead us to the one inevitable conclusion: considering boxing as arespectable sport just flies in the face of decency and civilization andtherefore, it should be banned. Somehow, boxers and supporters have deludedthemselves into thinking that boxing, when properly conducted, is safe. Theclassic justification goes something like this: “boxers are not two brawlingbrutes seeking to maim or kill each other. they are two closely matchedathletes seeking, through the use of such skills an footwork, timing, accuracy,punching, and feinting, to determine who is the better man in the ring” (Farley26). Unfortunately, dead boxers tell a different story.
A study on dangerouscontact sports conducted by Patrick Malone of the Knight Ridder News Service in1980 revealed that from 1970 to 1978 in America, there was an average of 21deaths per year among 5,500 boxers, or 3. 8 deaths per 1,000 participants,compared to college football’s 0. 3 deaths per 1,000 and high school football’s0. 1 deaths per 1,000 (Sammons 247). Another more recent study conducted by theNational Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia revealed that361 deaths have occurred in the ring worldwide since 1945 (NHMRC 22).
Deaths andserious injury suffered in boxing contests reveal only a small percentage of thepotential for danger. Unfortunately, the damaging effects of the “sport” arecumulative and difficult to diagnose, sometimes resulting in death, seriousillness, or blindness long after the boxer is out of the public limelight. However, convincing evidence has mounted over the years to the effect thatchronic encephalopathy (a disease of the brain marked by personality changes,intellectual impairment, slurred speech, and motor deficits), Parkinson’ssyndrome (a nervous disorder marked by tremors, drooling, muscle weakness, andspeech difficulties), spine disorders, and other forms of permanent physicalinjury are frequent companions of the “sport” (NHMRC 7). Those who argue for theuse of helmets in professional boxing (as in amateur boxing) should be broughtup-to-date with the current statistics.
The study conducted by the NHMRC ofAustralia also revealed that from 1985 to 1993, six of the eighteen deathsreported were amateur boxers (NHMRC 22). These numbers suggest that fatal braininjury occurs despite helmet use and that there is no safe way to box unless thehead, which has always been the prime target on the opponent’s body, isspecifically not permitted as a target. Simply put, the safest way to box is notto box at all. The statistics and research findings mentioned so far are, forthe most part, a formality. It does not take a genius to realize that a “sport”in which victory is obtained by rendering the opponent injured, incapacitated,defenseless, and unconscious, can be quite hazardous to your health. Although the extreme physical hazards of boxing is, in my opinion, reason enoughto abolish the “sport”, perhaps a more important reason is the fact that boxingjust does not belong in modern society.
It is surely one of the supremeanomalies of our time. Modern society is supposedly against violence. Weconstantly hear about controlling violence on television, violence in music, andviolence in movies. Large segments of society would want to see guns banned. There are strict laws that protect wives and children who are victims ofdomestic violence.
So it would seem that we are intent on becoming a gentler andmore civilized society. Violent behaviour is just not acceptable anymore andmust be punished. However, how sincere are these goals if on the one handsociety advocates non-violence and on the other continues to allow boxingmatches to be held as sports spectacles. What kind of message is being senthere? It is not right to be violent but it is acceptable to enjoy watching twopeople beat and batter each other. Sadly, some people believe that it is aboxer’s individual right to accept to risk his life for the entertainment of abloodthirsty audience; after all, he is in it for the money and fame.
However,advocates of a civilized society should not be duped by this violence-thirstysegment of our society into labelling boxing a “sport”. It is not a sport. It isa show for the barbaric masses, just as gladiatorial fights were greatentertainment for the Roman populace in ancient times. Would modern societyconsider the gladiatorial fight a sport? Why not? Each man must defend himselfand also attempt to injure his opponent; he must show brute force, fightingskills, cunning, and courage. Is boxing not the same in these respects? Althougha significant difference lies in the fact that gladiatorial fights, unlikeboxing, are carried out to the death, the comparison between the two does notstand in the way of the point I intend to make: the inherent and intendedviolence in boxing does not belong in the philosophy of sport that modernsociety should adopt. In relation to modern society, advocates of boxing argue that boxing advancessociety in that it serves as a “safety valve” for violence, allowing people todissipate or redirect the aggressive tendencies they have for others.
This isknown as the vicarious aggression catharsis hypothesis (Klavora 131). “Catharsis” here is an Aristotelian term which refers only to the purgation ordraining off of tragic feelings, and not aggressive behaviour. So it is only byloose analogy that anyone has suggested the possibility of vicarious catharsisof aggressive feelings, and sure enough, research evidence does not support thishypothesis (Klavora 133). On the contrary, most studies have shown that theobservation of violence increases subsequent aggressiveness (Klavora 133). Extending the concept of vicarious catharsis to other feelings does not reallymake much sense either. A vicarious hunger catharsis hypothesis would suggestthat feelings of hunger could be dissipated just by watching someone eat asavoury meal.
This, of course, is pure nonsense, as is the concept of vicariousaggression catharsis. Another flawed argument supporting the importance ofboxing in society is that it provides a social and financial ladder for thedisadvantaged young. But let us be realistic. How many of the thousands of youngcompetitors out there will become another Muhammad Ali, another Mike Tyson? Theodds are clearly against these youngsters, no matter how tough they think theyare, as much as the odds are against other youngsters who dream of one dayplaying in the NBA. What is particularly sad about this argument put forth byboxing supporters is that it allows for disadvantaged youth to be exposed to therisk of further handicap in, for most, the illusory hope of advancement. Elevating the status of boxing from what it really is, fraudulent entertainmentfor a bloodthirsty, violence-addicted audience, to the level of respectablesport mocks the values of what we consider to be a modern, civilized, andprogressive society that deems to frown on violence.
At the most, boxing is aparody of the worst in our society. And therefore, if our society is true to thevalues that it sponsors, it should at least remove boxing from the category ofsport and relegate it to what it really is: circus entertainment. Or better yet,taking into consideration the injurious effects of boxing and the grip it has onour youth, boxing should be banned altogether. It is high time that modernsociety delivers a knockout punch to bring boxing down for the count. Works Cited”Boxing.
” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. 1996. Farley,James A. “My Fight in Defense of Boxing.
” Sports Illustrated 23 Apr. 1962:26-27. Klavora, Peter, and Kirk A. W.
Wipper. Psychological and SociologicalFactors in Sport. Toronto: U of Toronto, School of Physical and HealthEducation, 1980. Sammons, Jeffrey T. Beyond the Ring. Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1988.
National Health and Medical Research Council. Boxing Injuries. Australia: Commonwealth of Australia, 1994.Category: Miscellaneous