Part-time box­ers must know risks

Herald on Sunday - - REVIEW - Kerre McIvor u@Ker­reWood­ham Photo / 123RF

Iused to love watch­ing box­ing when I was grow­ing up. Prob­a­bly be­cause my dad loved it and it was a way of be­ing close to him. I knew all about the Brown Bomber and Henry Cooper, Rocky Mar­ciano and Te­ofilo Steven­son — all the greats.

Muham­mad Ali was in his prime when I was a kid so when I was watch­ing box­ing bouts, I was see­ing ath­letes per­form­ing at their very best. Fit, able and prac­tised in ring craft.

Th­ese days, I don't en­joy the sport as much. The heavy­weights seem more like bar room brawlers than ath­letes and the cor­rup­tion within the sport has also tainted it for me.

While I love watch­ing pro­fes­sional box­ers from yes­ter­year — thank heav­ens for YouTube — I have never en­joyed watch­ing am­a­teurs in the ring.

I've been to one Fight for Life and I'll never go back. The year I went there was a ter­ri­ble mis­match be­tween the “box­ers” and there is noth­ing en­ter­tain­ing about see­ing some­one hav­ing the crap beaten out of them. And while I en­joyed box­ing as a form of ex­er­cise some years ago, I never took up the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in a char­ity box­ing match.

I was asked a cou­ple of times and both times I said no. I had no de­sire to be hurt and even less de­sire to hurt some­one else and I fig­ured that's pre­cisely what would hap­pen when you put two peo­ple into a ring who had very lit­tle idea about what they were do­ing.

I'm glad that Box­ing New Zealand has drawn a line in the sand and an­nounced that it will no longer have any in­volve­ment in char­ity box­ing matches.

In a state­ment this week, Box­ing New Zealand said that while most pro­mot­ers run their events pro­fes­sion­ally, the or­gan­i­sa­tion is un­able to im­pose the same level of re­stric­tions and guide­lines that they would place upon or­gan­is­ers of am­a­teur box­ing events.

The state­ment went on to say that the am­a­teur sport is heav­ily reg­u­lated and con­ducted un­der very strict rules, where the care and pro­tec­tion of box­ers is para­mount.

Box­ing New Zealand's state­ment fol­lows the death of a Christchurch man, a hus­band and fa­ther of three, who was crit­i­cally in­jured in a char­ity box­ing event and later died in hos­pi­tal. Other men — char­ity or cor­po­rate fighters — have been jolly lucky to get away with thump­ing headaches and mem­ory loss af­ter be­ing knocked out in the ring — a num­ber have been hos­pi­talised and there's been a grow­ing aware­ness that box­ing isn't a sport you can take lightly.

Most peo­ple who en­ter th­ese char­ity events or fight nights have a 12-week train­ing course be­hind them at the very least — but that's not enough time to learn the ring craft re­quired to keep your­self safe.

As with any sport, you only be­come pro­fi­cient and com­pe­tent af­ter spend­ing years prac­tis­ing it and a 12-week course sim­ply isn't long enough to con­sider your­self a boxer.

And I be­lieve calls for com­pul­sory head­gear are mis­guided. That's not go­ing to pro­tect a boxer from head in­juries. There is noth­ing en­ter­tain­ing about see­ing some­one hav­ing the crap beaten out of them. Weav­ing, bob­bing and get­ting out of the way of your op­po­nent's gloves is what is go­ing to save you from head in­juries.

I don't want box­ing matches banned and I don't be­lieve it's a bar­baric sport. Box­ing train­ing is a mar­vel­lous form of ex­er­cise and when two com­pe­tent box­ers who have come up through the ranks and who have spent years hon­ing their craft take each other on, that's en­ter­tain­ment.

I con­cede it's not a sport for ev­ery­one, be they par­tic­i­pant or spec­ta­tor, but each to their own. Any con­tact sport in­volves risk — that's part of the chal­lenge and adren­a­line rush of it. At least in box­ing, you know the blows are com­ing. You're pre­pared for them and you don't get taken by sur­prise — or at least, you shouldn't be.

Part-time box­ers — and their fam­i­lies — need to un­der­stand the risk they're tak­ing get­ting into the ring and then de­cide whether the risk is worth it.

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