Do I not like that . . . The fight for our rights: Julie Welch argues that the anti-boxing lobby should be fiercely resisted

Click to follow
OH LORD, switch off the radio, chuck the newspapers across the room - the boxing abolitionists are on the rampage again.

There is no need to tell me what being slugged in the head by a powerful puncher entails. The brain floats inside the skull like a creme caramel in a bowl of water and is fastened there by the thinnest of veins which, when a blow is struck and the brain shifts and rolls, may tear and split, bleed and form a clot which may damage and ultimately kill. This is why Michael Watson attended last Saturday's Hide-Bentt fight in a wheelchair and why Michael Bentt fetched up in hospital, and why the anti-

boxing lobby, which has now been joined by the British Medical Association, is calling for the outlawing of the sport on the grounds that it has no place in a civilised society and is an affront to the human condition.

I'm no great apologist for boxing these days, especially since the heavyweight championship of the world seems to be organised on the old principle of 'pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap', but I'd always defend anyone else's right to organise it, do it and watch it. Indeed, it isn't often that my world view interfaces with that of the libertarian right but on one point I am completely in agreement. It is that we should all be allowed to go to hell in any handcart we choose, provided it injures no innocent bystander and doesn't frighten the horses.

Some of us may opt not to go to hell but that's a decision we have to make for ourselves. When the medical profession starts, like certain politicians, to seek to influence our moral judgements they are straying into very dodgy territory. Especially when some, as they do, claim cleverly that they've watched boxing themselves and, far from finding it violent, brutish and nasty, understand just how mesmerising and enthralling it can be - but it's still got to go, to save us from ourselves. This simply reminds you of the judge in the Lady Chatterley trial who got to cop an eyeful of the juicy bits himself but wouldn't like to think of anybody's wife or servant reading it.

Ban boxing and would that be the end of it? Would it hell. Give the abolitionist tendency the elixir of victory and they'll soon feel like another swig. There will always be something else to busy these high-

minded people whose sensibilities are so much greater and whose knowledge is so superior that we must trust them because they know better than we do what is good for us.

Look at the number of vicious and sometimes fatal injuries that have been inflicted or incurred in the cause of rugby. Look at mountaineering - the expense of rescue, the man hours expended on hospital treatment. Some have been known to set out for a health- giving jog, only to return permanently horizontal. Racing bikes and cars, skiing down mountains, jumping out of planes with only a parachute for company, worming your way along potholes - there is no end to the barmy ways in which people will celebrate the joy of human attainment and the risks they will take on the long slog through this vale of tears.

But I suspect that what particularly exercises the no-to-

pugilism faction is that there is big money to be made out of it - not just by the fighters but, in larger piles, by those nifty gentlemen known as promoters. This is the portrait of the boxer as poor sap, too dumb to comprehend that he is being exploited. Dumb? Exploited? Have these people never come across Chris Eubank or Henry Cooper? You might as well point the finger at confectioners because sweets cause tooth decay and make you fat so you peg out of heart disease.

This does not stop you feeling desperately sad for Michael Watson, who will never be the same again, or hugely concerned in case Michael Bentt does not take the best advice and quit, but the medical world learns more every day about how to protect fighters from the worst depredations of their trade. The best thing they and the rest of us could do is to urge reform of testing and treatment procedures so that nothing is ever as bad again.