Grand Theft Boxing

By Robert Ecksel on March 21, 2015
Grand Theft Boxing
At its best sublime, at its worst grotesque, boxing and ambivalence go hand in hand.

Loving boxing is difficult, more difficult than hating boxing, which is often little more than a knee-jerk response…

Those of us who observed Thomas Hearns in the inaugural PBC fight card on NBC were reminded in no uncertain terms that boxing, while it may be a sport, and the greatest sport at that, is no game.

The Hit Man’s inability to articulate his thoughts was distressing on several levels. Not only was his presence a miscalculation, especially in context of a venture whose objective is to turn advertizing poison into advertizing gold. It was also not what the average sports fan, let alone the exceptional fight fan, wants to see or hear.

Free from the bats, balls, pucks, wickets, rackets and goalposts that suggest play, boxing, stripped down and primordial, is a matter of life and death. Boxers know this better than anyone. But we know this as well, and we don’t need NBC to rub our noses in it.

The death of 23-year-old Braydon Smith after his fight with 20-year-old John Vincent Moralde at Rumours International in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, last week brought the dangers of our sport to the fore again.

The gladiators were fighting for the WBC Asia Boxing Council Continental featherweight title, a bauble of relative significance in light of what transpired.

After losing the bout by lopsided scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93, Smith appeared to be okay. He was reportedly shaking hands with the referee, family, and friends after the bout. But 30 minutes later he collapsed.

Smith was flown to a hospital in Brisbane, where a blood clot on his brain was detected. He underwent two operations on Sunday and was on a life support system after being placed under an induced coma.

He passed away that afternoon.

The handwringing caused by his death was understandable. It was also justified. But no one blamed the referee for what happened. Instead, the Australian Medical Association blamed boxing.

Whenever there’s a death in the ring, the abolitionists have a field day. They trot out the same old tired clichés abut boxing having no place in civilized society, without giving a thought to what “civilized society” could actually be were their blinkers not so firmly in place.

I’m not a huge fan of Barry McGuigan, but what he wrote about the death of Braydon Smith in yesterday’s Mirror resonates.

The call for boxing to be banned does not surprise after the tragic loss of a fighter.

It is the default response of the anti-boxing lobby, who jump all over the sport when tragedy strikes.

We mourn the departed, in this case Australian featherweight Brayd Smith, who died after collapsing in the dressing room following a points defeat in Toowoomba last week.

My thoughts are sincerely with his family and for his opponent John Moralde, who will also be going through a difficult time.

I know from personal experience how hard it is to process the death of an opponent, in my case it was Young Ali. I don’t know that you ever get over it. The important thing is not to blame yourself.

The Australian Medical Association was immediately on the attack, but I reject in robust terms the abstract arguments of those—largely from a higher social class—who dismiss the traditions of a sport that has transformed the lives of so many.

I’m from a part of the world, Ulster, where boxing saved lives.

I could give you a dozen examples, and more, of young lads who would have been lost to the bad stuff on both sides of the Troubles in Northern Ireland had they not had recourse to boxing.

A similar dynamic plays out in so many parts of the world, where kids from disadvantaged backgrounds learn a better way through lacing on the gloves.

They learn the meaning of respect, about belonging and family, as a result of their exposure to the boxing community…

It’s a tough game—all contact sports are. But boxers know the risks. Boxing is not about intentional harm, as the critics claim. To strike a willful blow against an opponent is, of course, at the heart of it, but we are not talking wanton violence here—boxing is governed by rules and regulations.

The aim is to win, not to maim.

It is, in the final analysis, as Budd Schulberg once said: “As much as I love boxing, I hate it. And as much as I hate it, I love it.”

Loving boxing is difficult, more difficult than hating boxing, which is often little more than a knee-jerk response. At its best sublime, at its worst grotesque, boxing and ambivalence go hand in hand.

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  1. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:33am, 03/22/2015

    Perro Aguayo Jr. killed in Tijuana ring by a heart stopping full force drop kick from Rey Mysterio Jr. The show went on as Perro lay draped limply over lower rope strand. Lots of confusion and wasted time…..no CPR ....WTF!

  2. Kid Blast 03:37pm, 03/21/2015

    Yes, Great image

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:53am, 03/21/2015

    The graphics on Boxing.com are outstanding….as shown by the haunting image above. Viewed Kiladze getting obliterated by Kalenga the other evening. Iago has a lot going for him but one thing he doesn’t have is a chin….literally. May be for the better, just maybe it’s better to have the lights turned out with one big shot than to be rattled all night long by some sharpshooter. Physicality, though seldom cited here or elsewhere, enters into the equation. Some enter the ring heavy boned and thick skulled like Chavez Sr. and progeny and some don’t. Some come in heavily padded with muscle and/or fat and some don’t. Now, add in a Super Hero corner,  a passive/aggressive referee, and a fighter’s heart and you have a recipe for tragedy.

  4. Kid Blast 08:44am, 03/21/2015

    But maybe Braydon’s father should not have been in his corner. He was being hit almost at will and had no chance of winning.

    That might have been the one criticism I had for this tragedy.

    This lad had everything to live for. This was a terrible thing.

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