Part-time boxers must know risks
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.