In the previous article we covered the historical/medical aspects of the boxing/safety debate. We concluded that although there have been a number of deaths in boxing over the years, there have been a great many more in other sports. Indeed, there are far more “unnecessary” deaths in other lawful leisure activity every year than there have been in boxing rings in a hundred years. A study of deaths and injuries is most enlightening, indeed, when one compares the road casualty statistics with those of the square ring, one wonders what all the fuss is about.
In 1995, a staggering 213 cyclists were killed on our roads, (1) yet where is the outcry against cycling? Many or perhaps even most of the cyclists killed and the far greater number who were injured, would have been killed or injured making journeys which were every bit as “unnecessary” as two men going into a ring and battering each other. In fact, technically, deaths in the professional ring are not “unnecessary” but are occupational hazards in much the same way as is the death of a taxi driver behind the wheel.
The following figures for deaths and injuries on the roads are extracted from Whitaker’s Almanack. (2)
year . . . road deaths . . . injuries
1965 . . . . 7,952 . . . . . 389,985
1970 . . . . 7,499 . . . . . 355,869
1975 . . . . 6,366 . . . . . 318,584
1980 . . . . 6,010 . . . . . 323,000
These dwarf any deaths from boxing-related injuries, indeed, it is evident from this that more people will die or be injured on their way to, or way home from, boxing matches than in the ring itself!
In 1982, 8% of road deaths were children and 31% were of pedestrians - ie of non-participants. How many children or non- participants were killed in boxing matches? Nuff said! So why all the hysteria over the odd, albeit tragic, high profile boxing fatality or injury? Lying behind the anti-boxing crusade is a doctrine we all know too well, the doctrine of political correctness.
The term “political correctness” appears to have been coined only in recent years, but in one form or another, political correctness has been with us for a good deal longer. Although traditionally espoused by left wing activists, it has crept into the Conservative agenda as the doctrine of the “Nanny State”. (3) It has now been dragged into virtually every aspect of our lives. How did it start?
The Nanny State has of course been with us since time immemorial; the first rulers were kings, emperors and others whose rule was absolute. If the monarch said off with your head, that was it. The tendency over the centuries was to reduce the power of the state to allow people to make their own decisions, something we call freedom, but with the creation of the welfare state by Bismarck - a predecessor of Hitler! - a new tendency arose, that of the state deciding what is good for the people, what is verboten, and making sure they do what they are told for their own good, or for the common good.
The left wing doctrine of political correctness has its roots in bona fide movements for social reform. The abolitionists and suffragettes were politically correct in the sense that they advocated equal rights and equality of opportunity. But what started as a movement for social reform has become an exercise in social engineering and in some cases a holy crusade. Ironically, under our so-called Conservative Government, quangoes and other bodies which meddle in business, and interfere in people’s lives “for their own good” have proliferated more than ever. These bodies have, if not unlimited money, then certainly no shortage of it, funded as they are by our money (taxes and rates). And they are forever dreaming up new ways to enhance their power and finding new social evils (largely imagined) to combat, and they are backed up by the full coercive power of the state.
Not only that, they employ, or seem to employ, vast armies of lobbyists, activists, lawyers, and people whose job it is to scan the press and other media looking for perceived outrages. Probably the most ludicrous example of this was a pronouncement by the Equal Opportunities Commission in July of this year. A company called Britannia Rescue was warned that it might be in breach of the law (and face prosecution) for issuing a leaflet advertising a service that put vulnerable women at the top of the queue for assistance. Eg lone or pregnant women on the motorway. (4) Motoring organisations were astonished at the ruling, as well they might be. A few years ago there was a much publicised - and quite terrible - case of a pregnant woman who was murdered on the motorway when her car broke down. (5) Is there a man living who would consider himself to be a victim of sexual discrimination if a pregnant woman on the motorway were given priority treatment over himself? So where does boxing come into this?
The fact is that just as there are fanatics who seek to abolish all “discrimination” without applying an iota of common sense, so there are those who seek to outlaw boxing. They are every bit as blinkered as the anti-discrimination fanatics, and they will use any and every dirty trick in order to outlaw the sport. At the turn of the century the Communist Party set out to seize power in Russia, and it did this by a brutal frontal assault on the government and imposed its will by force. Another group, the Fabians, sought to bring about a socialist society by gradual change. Likewise, in the anti-boxing lobby there are those who seek to outlaw the sport by banning it outright, and there are others who, believing this to be unrealistic, seek to outlaw boxing by degrees. (6) To what extent have they succeeded?
One can become paranoid about this, there is no “conspiracy” to ban boxing, no anti-boxing plot, and not all changes in the sport are for the worse. Most fight fans wouldn’t like to see a return to bare-knuckle fighting (which is legalised GBH), nor do we need a count of thirty! On July 8, 1889, John L. Sullivan (the last of the bare-knuckle champions) retained his title after 75 rounds! Nobody wants a repetition of such gruelling fights, but most of today’s fighters have never gone more than twelve rounds, and it is doubtful if the fifteen round title distance will ever be restored, although this is probably for commercial rather than for “safety” reasons. (7)
The use of headguards has been mandatory in amateur boxing for some time, although there are arguments for and against them. Medical precautions - especially in British rings - have never been more stringent, and this is to be welcomed, but the “Fabian school” of boxing abolitionists have adopted the tactic of at- tempting to outlaw blows to the head. (8) If this succeeds then boxing is as good as finished.
The abolitionists’ claim is that blows to the head cause the most damage, but this is not necessarily the case. Barry McGuigan - who might know a thing or two about this subject - said in the wake of the James Murray tragedy that his death was probably due to dehydration rather than to a simple knock out. (9)
Boxing Is Politically Correct!
Like all fanatics, the abolitionists have never allowed the facts to stand in the way of a good story. A claim often made by boxing supporters is that if boxing were banned it would simply go underground. This is undoubtedly true, but the strongest argument in favour of boxing - apart from the defence of individual liberty - is that boxing is politically correct!
Although, contrary to popular opinion, many fighters are both highly intelligent and highly educated, (10) boxing is a well- established road to self-improvement for the lower classes. Most of the world’s best fighters are black, many are from disadvantaged backgrounds, ghettoes, some even started their careers in prison. True, some, like world heavyweight champion (and convicted rapist) Mike Tyson, don’t handle fame and fortune well, but others, like Dwight Braxton (later Dwight Muhammad Qawi), would likely never have made anything of themselves. Bruce Seldon was sentenced to four years for armed robbery at the age of fifteen and went on to hold (one version of) the heavyweight championship of the world. The recently dethroned Julio Cesar Chavez is a mega-star in his native Mexico. What would he have been without boxing?
Ironically, the attack on boxing comes largely from the source of all political correctness, the white, affluent, middle class intelligentsia, people who identify themselves passionately with the workers, the toiling and exploited masses, as Lenin called them.
One is reminded here of the greatest “working class” hero of them all, Leon Trotsky. Trotsky came from a wealthy family, and before the Russian Revolution he spent some time in New York where he and his wife became very friendly with a wealthy doctor. One day when Mrs Trotsky was being entertained at a tea room by the doctor’s wife, her sons asked “Why doesn’t the chauffeur come in?” (11)
Finally, a quote from a letter published in the August/September 1996 issue of Class War (a violent “anarchist” newspaper).
“...essentially all boxing is a way for fat rich bastards (who are usually white) to get their jollies off watching two working class boys (usually black) beat the living shit out of each other...the scumbag promoters get rich off working class blood. What I would like to see is these fighting skills being used on the coppers, promoters, politicians and all other rich filth.”
The paper replied “A good case in point is how one of the promoters of the fight for the WBC Super Middleweight title in Feb 95, Don King, has left the challenger, Gerald McClennan to rot in hospital after promising to pay his costs.”
Nice people aren’t they? In the first place, Don King did no such thing. In an interview in the January 1995 issue of Boxing Monthly, fellow promoter Frank Warren painted a very different picture of Don King from that projected by the mass media. In the second place, both Warren and King may be rich, but they became rich by their own efforts (and by giving the - mainly working class - public what they want). Warren has strong working class roots and King is a former convict.
The hard core boxing abolitionists are every bit as credible as Trotsky or the “anarchists” of Class War. And they are just as dangerous, and no friend of either the “oppressed” masses or of the working class.
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