LETTER : `Hidden' statistics that reveal boxing's lethal purpose

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The Independent Online
From Mr Tony Van den Bergh

Sir: In my 60 years of connection with professional boxing, Nicky Piper is without doubt one of the most intelligent boxers I have met. However, his misuse of statistics and illogical reasoning leads me to worry that he might be feeling the effect of the punishment he has absorbed in recent contests.

In comparing boxing tragedies with those in other sports, such as rugby, he totally ignores the numbers involved. In rugby, thousands play every Saturday for seven months of the year. In boxing, there are under 1,500 professional boxers in this country, who fight on average under seven times per year. Yet the sum total of disasters are equivalent.

There will always be tragedies in contact activities. Where boxing is unique is that it is the only (so-called) sport in which the sportsman's prime aim is to inflict irreversible brain damage on his fellow. (Every knockout means brain damage.)

As for the boxers making their own decisions: in these days of mass unemployment there are only three ways in which a young man can become a millionaire in his early twenties: snooker, singing or scrapping. The possibility, or probability, that he might become a mental cabbage in his forties is quite beyond his imagining.

Mr Piper is right that if the "sport" was banned, it would go underground. But there would be no television if it were illegal, no press interviews, no vicious hype and most important of all, no million-pound purses to tempt the youth into risking scrambling his brains to entertain us.

And, finally, boxing is unique in that it is the only British sport in which 99 per cent of those baying for blood from outside the ring would never dare climb through the ropes themselves.

Yours,

TONY VAN DEN BERGH

London, NW3

The writer is a former inspector of the British Boxing Board of Control.

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