Should boxing be banned? Gair Rhydd investigates

Pictured: Boxing can be a controversial sport (Source: Bromiskelly via flickr)

FOR: by Sarah Mahon

When boxers enter a ring they know what they’re getting themselves into. But the cruelty of the sport means that even with a medical team ringside and rules and regulations in place, fatalities are always a possibility and do happen. As was the case on the 30th of September when boxer Mike Towell died of fight related injuries he had sustained the day before from his match against Dale Evans.

As Towell’s family mourn their loss, is it not appropriate to call into question the morality of the sport and whether combat sport like boxing has a place in modern society?

Towell may only be the third boxer in the UK within the past 21 years to die from fight related injuries, but the death toll should not be used to justify the sport as safe when numerous incidences of serious injury occur. One of the more recent and prominent cases being when, after his fight with Chris Eubank Jr., Nick Blackwell had to be put into an induced coma for almost a week. As well as this, research by Dr Ira Casson for The National Parkinson Foundation has shown that 15-40% of ex-boxers have symptoms of chronic brain injury whilst symptoms on average develop 16 years after starting to box. This delayed onset means that we can only know the true long-term damage of the sport years later.

Boxing takes discipline, skill and athleticism but these qualities feature in many other sports that do not have the end goal of causing extreme physical injury. Boxing has an edge of brutality that other combat sport like martial arts don’t possess. When watching a boxing match it’s usually bloodier and the aim is for more damage to be caused- a knockout. UFC also exemplifies the same issue of excessive harm being delivered as entertainment…and then being excused for this because it is classed as a sport.

The morality of encouraging sporting careers based on physically disabling another person is archaic. Although boxers understand the risk involved and willingly fight, Dale Evans now has to live with the guilt of knowing he had a part to play in Towell’s death. Times have changed since the gladiator battles of ancient Rome, we should now live in a society where we do not allow human beings to inflict such extreme bodily harm on each other for the entertainment of others.

AGAINST: By Hugh Doyle

Boxing should not be banned for three reasons: every sport incurs risk, boxing is in fact dealing with its’ injuries issue and the community benefit boxing brings.

The two recent incidents of Mike Towell’s death and Nick Blackwell’s induced coma have raised questions over boxing’s future. While tragic, these two incidents should not bring about the abolition of boxing. Every sport carries risk for its athletes and athletes know this. And every sport will have its own tragedies and will carry on, something boxing will do. It was two years ago when the world was shocked by Australian Test Cricketer Phil Hughes’s death as it also was when Jules Bianchi died during a Formula One died last year. Neither sport was banned, so why should boxing be any different.

It may be pointed out boxing involves more contact than other sports. However, other full-on contact sports such as rugby are now grappling with how to manage head injuries, boxing has kept on top of the issue by operating a suspension system. A boxer faces a minimum of 28 days suspended from boxing (including sparring) until cleared by a doctor who may send boxers off for MRI scans or X-Rays. Blackwell was in fact put into a coma as a medical precaution to help deal with the swelling on his brain and fights will be stopped by a referee if it is clear one boxer is suffering too much. If the boxing community was doing nothing to deal with its’ problems, then abolition would be an option. But measures are there to deal with the issue so, again, why ban it?

Finally, consider the social benefit of boxing. A recent All Parliamentary Group report, the ‘Right Hook Report’ cites various schemes such as the ‘Boxing Academy’. It takes those refused from mainstream academies and places them in an alternative academy, helping those children develop in ways they couldn’t without the discipline of boxing. Such schemes generate millions in social benefit, but more importantly help children left behind by the mainstream system. Banning boxing would strip them of these opportunities.

So in summary, of course, I sympathise with Mike Towell’s family and friends. However I hope – as the reasons above show- that boxing is not banned. The risk involved in boxing is not outweighed by the reward.