Simon Kelner: An ugly face-off that highlights fight game hypocrisy

Kelner's view
  • @Simon_Kelner

I went to a boxing match and a fight broke out. Not, you would have to say, the sort of news that would make the national bulletins, but the unscripted brawl following a world title fight last weekend has caused a stir.

It sparked a discussion on Radio 4's Today, during which James Naughtie used a word I'd never heard before. Remembering a similar incident from the past (believe it or not, this was not the first time boxers had been badly behaved after taking their gloves off) he referred to a "rammy". This, it turns out, is Scottish slang for "a noisy disturbance or free-for-all", and I am grateful to the locquacious Mr Naughtie for both expanding my vocabulary and generally elevating the tone of the discourse.

At the press conference after Saturday's contest in Munich, two British heavyweights – one of whom had just been defeated in the ring, while the other was there as a television "reporter" – traded insults and then a few blows.

There was a proper kerfuffle (a term in wider use) and an accusation that someone had been hit with a glass. I know, it's a long time since a fight between two British boxers has excited such interest, but the indignation in the days since strikes me as just a little confected. The scenes were thought to be "ugly, horrible and disgraceful" by Frank Warren, a man who has made his fortune out of promoting boxing and who, it is safe to assume, would be a beneficiary if the two fighters involved – Dereck Chisora and David Haye – could be persuaded to put their shorts on and continue their disagreement within the confines of an actual boxing ring. There has been much talk about how the sport has been brought into disrepute and even more about how the fundamental aspect of boxing is the way it instills discipline in its participants. I fail to see how it is different from almost any other sport in this regard. In fact, I thought that what separates boxing from other sports is the fact that it's the only one whose object is to render your opponent unconscious. You may gather from all this that I'm not a fan, but neither do I support those who opportunistically – and ludicrously – have used this melée to renew calls for boxing to be banned. (But then, I'm against the banning of any consensual adult activity.)

In many years as a sports journalist, I never went to a boxing contest. I can admire the athleticism, courage and skill of the fighters and I can fully understand the romanticism that attends this most atavistic of pursuits, but I don't like all the nonsense that surrounds the fight game: the crowds baying for blood, the exploitative promoters and managers, the hangers-on and the groupies, and, yes, the exaggerated outrage that follows a "rammy" like this latest one, which has already had the best part of a million hits on YouTube.

It may be bad for the sport's image, but I'm certain it's not bad for business.