Magazine article The Spectator

Boxing Is Vile

Magazine article The Spectator

Boxing Is Vile

Article excerpt

I HAVE a bad reputation. Years ago, after I had covered a fight in Atlantic City, the rumour went around the press corps that I had hidden for the duration of the punchup beneath my desk. Subsequently, the Observer ran a piece that fell short of perpetrating this falsehood, but called me 'a somewhat sensitive soul'.

Well, not being a somewhat insensitive soul, I found the spectacle of two giants trying to cause each other permanent brain damage with lethal weapons - that is to say, padded fists - rather unpleasant. I have always taken an abolitionist line on boxing it is not so much a sport as a public death duel - and have said as much in print.

But now I find roles reversed. Hardened boxing writers, hard-eyed, non-abolitionist chief sports writers are suddenly behaving like swooning virgins after the proceedings at the weekend when Mike Tyson bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear during a heavyweight championship fight.

Demeaning and disgusting, said one. An indelible stain on boxing, said another. A funereal night for boxing, added a third. Speaking for myself, I would far sooner be van Goghed than concussed. I have managed the second feat on two occasions in my glorious sporting career, once when heading a cricket ball a good 20 yards, and again when making a graceful headfirst dismount from a galloping thoroughbred.

An ear is only an ear, after all. But the brain - well, in the immortal words of Woody Allen, it's my second favourite organ. (I once quoted that to a young lady I rather admired, and she responded with admirable coldness, `It's my favourite.' But that is by the by.)

You can't get more disgusting than disgusting, and professional boxing is already disgusting. You can't bring something into disrepute if it is already utterly disreputable. Boxing is vile: it is supposed to be. …

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