I’m not quite sure what I make of boxing. I can see the issues that some have with its brutality. On the other hand, the British Medical Association wants it banned, and I usually make disagreeing with the BMA a point of principle.
I was thinking about this while listening to the Hatton vs. Pacquiao fight on the radio. (It was at about 4.30am as I drove to an early morning bike race, a detail I mention since we’re on the subject of brutality.) Despite its brevity, it was an exciting listen – almost as exciting as the previous weekend when I accidentally caught the Froch vs. Taylor fight, where Carl Froch came back from a battering to win by a technical knockout in the very final seconds of the last round.
This is the problem. However hard I try to listen and think modern, civilised thoughts about brain damage, I can’t stop it from being exciting. It’s so basic, so simple. Compare it with Formula One racing – which is highly complex, remarkably safe, and about as exciting as watching the mould on my shower curtain trying to annex the curtain rail.
I have no desire at all to try boxing myself. I don’t even think I’d like watching a professional fight live – I suspect that would be too much for my squeamish nature. But I can’t quite get round to supporting the idea of banning it.
Like most of these things it comes down to an issue of consent – if two guys want to hit each other in a controlled environment, that’s pretty much their business. It might even discourage them from hitting me (probably without asking first), which has to be a good thing.
It’s also perhaps not irrelevant that I’m from a generation that just about remembers Barry McGuigan’s fights in the King’s Hall in Belfast during the 1980s as one of the very, very few things that united both sides of the community in Northern Ireland.
Mind you, I also remember McGuigan’s BBC1 chat show. However much you might be horrified by the savagery of boxing, trust me, even viewing through your fingers, the chat show was much, much worse.
By the way, The Robin Knox-Johnston interview I did for the BBC last week is available here.