Leading Article: TV should show it, blow by blow

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The Independent Online
FIVE QUICK blows in succession - four to the chin, a left hook to the jaw - hit Bradley Stone last Tuesday night. They were the climax to a professional boxing bout in East London, the end of Stone's bid to win the super-bantamweight title. The referee stopped the fight, and Stone passed the post-match medical examination. Then, an hour or two later, he developed a severe headache and began to vomit. Soon he was comatose. On Wednesday surgeons operated for two hours to remove a blood clot from his brain. On Thursday he was dead, aged 23.

These are the bare facts in the story of Bradley Stone, but they have prompted many less pertinent ones. Did you know, for example, that between 1986 and 1992 boxing claimed only two lives in Britain, whereas 94 people died riding horses, nine playing cricket, 59 during water sports, and (incredibly) one playing snooker? Such statistics (these are from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) are wielded by those who oppose a ban on boxing. In fact, there are better grounds for allowing the spectacle of two men trying to knock each other unconscious for money. One, it would be wrong to stop it: the fighters are volunteers injuring only themselves. Two, it would be impractical to stop it: Sweden has banned professional boxing, but Swedes still box abroad and millions of them watch live matches on television.

Television supplies the audience for professional boxing - 7 or 8 million in Britain for even routine fights - and the prize money. Last week the BBC did not show the fight or, on the news bulletins, the blows that dazed Stone. They were ruled out for reasons of 'taste'. Boxing is brutal. It should not be banned, but television companies should be more truthful in presenting it. A man can die at the hands of another man. Our feelings about it need to be fully informed. The 'taste' ban is humbug.

(Photograph omitted)

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