Charity boxing bouts should throw in the towel

2 minute read

Sure it’s for a good cause, but the matches are dangerous and unethical.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,” author L.P. Hartley wrote in his 1953 novel The Go-Between.

Your Back Page scribbler was reminded of this observation after reading a heartfelt article in the New Zealand Herald concerning a Kiwi doctor who lost a close family member after that member sustained a severe head injury during a corporate boxing match held to raise money for charity.

It prompted your correspondent to recall his primary school years where, as an 11-year-old, he was encouraged to participate in boxing bouts with fellow pupils as part of the school’s winter sports curriculum.

Could you imagine such a thing happening nowadays? As I say, a foreign country.

But what is still occurring on a regular basis are the aforementioned corporate charity boxing bouts, something which retired gynaecologist Dr Peter Benny, writing in the New Zealand Medical Journal and quoted in the Herald, eloquently argues is a practice that needs consigning to the dustheap of history.

“Because the fighters are novices of unknown potential, these fights are significantly more dangerous than fights between trained graded amateur or professional boxers,” Dr Benny writes.

“In contact sports, head trauma and concussion have a proven association with severe long-term neurological disease. To try and raise funding for charity by promotion of deliberate attempts to induce concussion in an opponent is unethical and nonsensical.”

While Dr Benny is realistic enough to accept a total ban on charity boxing is probably not going to happen anytime soon, he does suggest more could be done to improve the safety of the bouts.    

Amateur and professional boxers are graded on weight and experience, which protects fighters from dangerous mismatches. In charity boxing, he writes, analysis of fighters’ capabilities is far more limited.

“If competitions are to continue to provide rewards to the stakeholders, then the only way they can continue into an era of enlightened brain protection is to make the head sacrosanct, as in other contact sports.”

It’s pretty hard to disagree with that, but unless lawmakers are prepared to step into the ring with the boxing fraternity and actually knock some sense into them, then very little is likely to change.

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