A controversial incident happened within the sport of boxing and within hours, on radio phone-ins and newspaper articles across the country, the hand wringing and shrill moralising was in full swing. The ban on boxing lobbyists never miss an opportunity to wade into the fight with their sterilised rationale.
Firstly, let’s look at the incident that has sparked this latest round of debate. The most essential and pertinent point to consider when viewing the incident between Derek Chisora and David Haye is that it happened outside the ring. The two protagonists involved in the (admittedly ugly and disgraceful) fracas weren’t scheduled to participate in a professional boxing match together and never have been. And due to the fact that one of them, David Haye, has officially retired from the sport, it seems highly unlikely that they would ever comepete against each other in the future. So what is it precisely that these overwhelmingly middle class people are clamoring to eradicate? Grown men having a bit of a ‘ding dong’ at the weekend? Good luck with that.
On a more serious tack, this constant haranguing of a sport that is filled with participants, usually from extremely deprived backgrounds, by those in society that have incomparably better starts/positions in life, feels at best a little unseemly. One could go further and suggest that it is a continuation of the working/under class being dictated to by those that possess a presumption of superiority, of knowing better, of being in possession of knowledge that those they dictate to couldn’t possibly be capable of possessing.
Does a boxer know his or her chosen career path is potentially dangerous? Yes. This personal decision to embark upon a dangerous profession, equally applies to squaddies in Afghanistan and to racing car drivers. Consider a naturally athletic young man, perhaps not academically inclined, big for his age, powerful, likely from a deprived area with a high rate of unemployment, seeking a diverting pastime that is legal. On what would the opponents of boxing suggest he focuses his potential? Skiing? Horse riding or gymnastics perhaps? Those above sports are actually statistically proven to be much more likely to cause serious injury than boxing.
It irks me that there is an insidious, inexorable and wider agenda at play here. Having gained power by default, it took the Con-Dem government a matter of hours to turn on their usual targets, namely those at the other end of the spectrum of society. It was like the eighties all over again. Attacks against the unemployed, the incapacitated, council house tenants – open discrimination against the voiceless. One cannot help but equate this attack, on a sport that has always been a bastion of working class life, as an extension of this cultural onslaught.
One does not need to be an anthropologist to notice that young men fight are prone to fighting. Even privileged ones (they learn it at Sandhurst). From a working class perspective, many factors contribute to creating potentially violent situations or individuals: learned behaviour, poverty, envy, frustration, poor education, a lack of role models, the list goes on. Quite how removing an instrument of diverting and channeling such manifestations in an individual would improve anything is perplexing.
If one is to succeed as a boxer, it is overwhelmingly unlikely that he could do so on a diet of nicotine, alcohol, illegal substances etc. He’d get beaten. Regularly too. An ambitious boxer would likely regularly be running at dawn and training at every given opportunity. He would be nutritionally aware, watching his calorie intake. He would have to have respect for himself, his body and his advisors. He would have to develop listening skills, dedication, perseverance, bravery, fitness and all round awareness. Again, how would removing a conduit for the development of these invaluable life skills from the vulnerable individual, in a vulnerable area, in vulnerable times help anything?
Yes, The Chisora – Haye incident was a regrettable and reprehensible incident that will leave a scar on the face of boxing for years to come. However, it has to be reiterated that it happened outside of the ring. It wasn’t regulated, there was no referee. Two men came to blows in a highly charged atmosphere. Why by any course of reasoning this should lead to the ban of a highly regulated and relatively safe sport is bewildering? In the last few months, one has scarcely been able to listen to or watch the sports news or open the back of a newspaper without hearing or reading of how yet another Rugby Union star has disgraced himself in public. There hasn’t been a single call, from any quarter, for a ban on the statistically much more dangerous sport of Rugby Union. The very idea would seem preposterous. But, somehow calling for a ban on boxing seems a reasoned and rational argument. There is to be a programme on national radio in a few days time dedicated to debating the future of boxing, all triggered by this, if not isolated, then very rare incident. It seems strange that Rugby Union or other sports should escape such interrogation. Why would that be?Tags: Sport
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This post was written by RJ Middleton