Boxing and me

Yup, that's me on the deck. I had hair in those days.

For a long time now I've had a love-hate relationship with boxing.

At an intellectual level, I know it should be banned. No ifs or buts, it should be stopped right now.

That's because the price that most, if not all, boxers pay is too high to justify being involved in their vicious trade.

The evidence that it causes brain damage is too compelling to ignore. Arguing against it is like arguing that smoking isn't bad for you.

The only case I've come across in favour of boxing is that a number of young men (Anthony Joshua for one) might have ended up as criminals had they not been introduced to prizefighting. Wonderful though this may be, I suspect there are too few potential criminals saved, and too many brains damaged, for that argument to carry much weight. Nevertheless, boxing will continue, because there is big money involved, and that is always the strongest argument in our cynical world in favour of anything.

And I have to admit that I am a rank hypocrite.

Yes, I agree that boxing should be banned. I would even sign the petition to ban it, if you held it right under my nose. But i'd be unlikely to ever seek out that petition, and every time there is s an intriguing fight to be watched, I will hurry to watch it.

I have even, in my young life, participated in a couple of boxing matches. Yes, I had two fights, and won one and lost one, both in the second round. In future posts I'll tell you what that felt like.

Why does the fight game hold this hypnotic power over me? Why do I watch it? Why did I (admittedly at a very low level) compete in it? I wish I could tell you. I can only speculate.

Here is one possibility: we all respect heroism, and that is what drew me, and what draws us all. (But we all recoil at the sight of blood and that is what repels so many of us).

I suppose I should define what I mean by heroism, but I'm not going to

I'm pretty sure that we're most of us singing from the same song-sheet on that, whether I define it or not.

Going back thousands, or tens of thousands, of years, heroism may have been important to our survival as a species. Is it possible that, at one time, men and women had to be capable of facing up to physical danger on a day-to-day basis just in order to get by? If so, perhaps courage and the demonstration of courage were attributes that were selected by evolution.
Maybe we are genetically hardwired to value these qualities, even as we are genetically hardwired - it seems - to be revolted by the inevitable consequences of these self-same qualities. Namely: injury, blood, gore and, on occasion, death.

(An aside: is it possible that serial killers and other violent criminal types are in part explained by such genetic modifications gone awry?)

Speaking of gore, I had a revelation after my first-ever boxing match.

Prior to having it, I'd never seen any real-life boxing; I'd only ever watched it on television.

The screen sanitizes boxing. It shields the viewer from knowledge of the amount of blood that is spilled during the average fight. So it came as a shock to me to realise just how much blood fountained onto the canvas on my fight night. So much was spilled that by the end of that night, there seemed to be very little white canvas left on the floor of the ring; as most of it was the colour of black pudding.*

I leave you with this thought: in spite of all of the above, I have still not lost my lifelong attachment to the fight game.

Just what the hell is wrong with me?

*An alleged delicacy made from the blood of pigs. I confess I'm rather partial to it.



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