Boxing has taken more black eyes outside the ring than it ever has inside it – but stats, numbers and hard figures don’t lie in defense of boxing’s safety record compared with other sports.
Our own Niall Doran at Boxing News and Views wrote a piece here on certain areas of the media and other influencers within society utilising the tragic circumstances surrounding middleweight Nick Blackwell’s highly publicised defeat and subsequent hospitalisation at the hands of Chris Eubank Jr, as a tool to further their argument against Boxing and capitalise on what is obviously a tremendously difficult time for Blackwell and his family.
Criticisms of the sport being ‘barbaric’ are not uncommon, particularly from those far removed from boxing gyms and often sports in any capacity. In fact, here in Australia where I live the ‘Australian Medical Association’ called for a total ban on boxing in 2015 following two deaths in ring in the same year. The stories of Davey Browne and Brayd Smith’s passing were heart-wrenching, with the departed leaving their young families behind.
The hijacking of their deaths to further an agenda against the sport they loved however, is not only opportunistic and shameful, but also extremely misguided. These deaths became headline news because of the personal stories attached to them but also because of the infrequency that such tragic events occur in the ring. Despite what these anti-boxing crusaders would have you believe, deaths in the ring are very uncommon.
Certainly more uncommon than many other sports that do not face the kind of public scrutiny and persecution that the sweet science endures on a regular basis and I’d like to share some statistics with you to illustrate that fact.
Above is a table illustrating a few examples of the dangers that other sports can carry per participants in country’s such as Norway, Germany and USA alone.
Not mentioned above is horse-riding, proven to be one of the most dangerous sports anyone can partake in with on average over 100 deaths per year in the USA and 80,000 hospital admissions – 15% of which are reported as head injuries. In the UK it is estimated that horse-riding accounts for 3% of all spinal injuries reported in hospitals.
Conversely, boxing (according to Livestrong.com) has accounted for, on average, 10 deaths per year since the early 1900’s – far lower than horse-riding, skiing, and many other sports (on a worldwide basis) that are not constantly questioned for their barbarity or danger.
One defense that has been put to me several times in the past over the dangers of sports such as BASE Jumping and Skiing, is that they are ‘extreme’ sports and the danger of injury is obvious to the participants and something they accept when taking part. This could not be more true of boxing, as competitors are acutely aware of the dangers they are facing when they lace up the gloves. If it is okay for someone to take into account the risks and still decide to jump off a building, then it seems unreasonable to assume that someone stepping into the ring is incapable of doing the same.
In stark contrast to the picture of barbarism that is often portrayed by the anti-boxing campaigners in the media is a side of the sport that is rarely publicised, the positive effect that it can have on individuals who without boxing would be lost and without direction. Whilst many will argue that 10 deaths per year is unacceptable, that statistic ignores the amount of lives the sport has saved. One only needs to look as far as the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Anthony Joshua to see the benefit of young men from troubling backgrounds taking up a sport that teaches not only respect and discipline – but more importantly can give purpose and focus to a restless young mind.
(A short clip illustrating the good the sport of boxing often does):
Having been around the sport for years now it would be impossible to estimate how many times I have spoken to fighters that claim that if it wasn’t for boxing, they “would be in jail or worse” and this is line that will ring true with fighters the world over.
I highly doubt skiing or horse-riding have ever given a kid from impoverished backgrounds that kind of hope or a way out of a desperate situation.
For me the argument is simple – if those campaigning to ban boxing are in it to protect the safety of participants in sports then perhaps they should re-align their scope to involve sports that endanger many more people each year. It’s no secret that sports at all levels carry risks and as participants it is something that must be considered.
However the bias against boxing by those who don’t understand or care for it has to be called out – in the same week that Nick Blackwell suffered his injuries in the ring, 3 professional cyclist have been killed during races – yet I am yet to see a single article calling for the banning of cycling?
I do not wish to see any sport banned by a Government or governing body – as stated earlier, participants in their chosen field are fully aware of the risks they take and accept them, if we are to allow that for sports like BASE Jumping, skiing and horse riding then there can be no argument that combat Sports should be any different.
The day governments of the world decide what sports and activities that we can and cannot participate in ks not only a very sad day for sport, but for our freedom as well.
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