Sunday, 19 February 2012

H&F's school boxing fad: Chisora'd?

Bailey poses as tough guy - voters delivered knock out blow
Our Council loves nothing more than children learning to box - it gives otherwise pretty unfit politicians the chance to pose as rufty-toughties as this pic from unsuccessful Conservative Shepherd's Bush general election candidate Shaun Bailey demonstrates.

Sadly our police also seem to like the idea, believing that getting young lads to try and punch each other repeatedly in the head will lead them to be less, er, likely to, you know, punch other people in the head.

I've often wondered at the wisdom of this - from a health point of view since the vast majority of doctors believe that boxing is a profoundly dangerous activity - but also the logic, which seems to be completely daft.

The British Medical Association states that injuries caused by boxing include:
  • Brain damage - the blows received during boxing cause the brain to move within the skull, damaging blood vessels, nerves and brain tissue.
  • Acute brain haemorrhage - this is the lead cause of boxing deaths.
  • Eye, ear and nose damage - in some cases boxing causes permanent sight and hearing loss.
Which is why they want it banned outright for those under 16 - the very group our Council and the local Police seem to want to promote it to.

Last time I raised it publicly on Twitter, following a Chronicle report eulogising a Shepherd's Bush school Burlington Danes, for encouraging the activity I was told by a councillor that the young lads needed a route to channel their aggression. The Fulham Chronicle, as with so many things, was in full support of the Council, lavishly praising the "art and discipline" of boxing at the school.

I don't accept that logic, what about teaching young lads self control instead? I'd say that's a harder skill than punching someone. And I've seen some pretty tough lads in pretty tough places. But even if it was true what's wrong with other martial arts that doctors say are less dangerous and involve just as much physical discipline, if not more? Karate, anyone?

The answer I suggest, is that some of our politicians think that boxing is just, well, a bit sexy. And they might be hoping a bit of the tough guy stuff might rub off on their image too. Which is nearly as sad as what we saw last night in Munich. Here's the sport of boxing showing us all how their 'art and discipline' teaches young men not to punch each other in the head:

1330 UPDATE - Well, that sparked some interesting reactions! Cllr Greg Smith, who I have a lot of time for, clearly thinks I am a bit of a wet liberal who wants people to live in a "bubble wrapped world". We don't, he informs me, before suggesting that my logic implies that I shouldn't want crossing the road to be a legal activity.

No, I couldn't either.

Others have also disagreed, but more coherently, with the argument that sport is sport and it teaches discipline while one commentator on twitter said that boxing meant young men didn't have to prove themselves on the street so may fight less.

Completely respect these points of view but I still can't see what is so special about boxing. In fact, thinking about it more, what might be the other consequences of teaching young boys to "prove themselves" by fighting each other in the ring? I wonder, for example, how that links to their relationships with women and others who can't fight back.

In the meantime Derek Chisora has been arrested by the German police, presumably after threatening to "shoot and burn" David Haye. Mr Haye is likely to have his collar felt too, not least for proving his self restraint by throwing a camera tripod at someone's head. And it'll all be reenacted in the playgrounds tomorrow.


  1. I disagree completely Chris. At one point or another in my life I've boxed, kickboxed, studied karate, Brazilian jui jitsu and vale tudo, I've also helped teach kids martial arts. I hope that when my son is older he will want to be involved in a contact sport of some description and I will certainly be pointing him in that direction.

    I absolutely believe that contact sports, whether its boxing, karate, judo or whatever teach discipline, respect for self and others and and commitment, I also believe that people who engage in these sports are less likely to go out and act aggressively on the street simply because they have less to prove to themselves, despite what the Youtube clip at the end of the article seeks to portray.

  2. It reminds me of all the people who think National Service is the solution to delinquent youth - giving them a gun and the training to use it!

    This obsession with using sport as a tool baffles me as well - What about kids who just plain don't like sport? What about art, music or drama?

    (I have no problem with boxing, personally. In fact it's one of the few sports I can watch without yawning.)

    1. Art, music and drama are cool too Alexander. Whatever works mate. I'd love my son to do some sort of martial art when he grows up because that's what I've done. If he doesn't, that's the way if the world, everyone's different. I sometimes wish I'd learned to play an instrument as a kid myself...

    2. Oh I agree, I started but never stuck with it. Wish I'd learned a martial art as well, to be honest!

  3. I also completely disagree. I currently box and it's not the overly violent sport that you paint it as. You're more likely to get hurt from playing rugby.

    For amateur boxing which is what kids will doing, you have headgear and mouthguards so the actual danger that they will be exposed to is minimal. Unless you are boxing professionally you will wearing this amount of safety gear.

    What boxing does teach is commitment and discipline, as well providing something that doesn't require a lot of space, can be done all year round, and keep you fit.

    What's the problem if kids are attracted to it? Why not provide a safe outlet for any sort of stress? In the ring you soon realise that you're not the big man and there's a long way to go, surely a good lesson to teach.

  4. Oh Chris please. Your addendum floating the idea that there may be a connection between contact sports and domestic violence/bullying is borderline offensive and beneath you. As a social worker formerly working in the Bush area I have come across both the victims and perpetrators of domestic violence and I can assure you contact sports were never a factor in the equation.

    In my experience the 'consequences' of teaching young boys and girls to fight each other in the ring (or dojo or octagon) is that you have a bunch of young boys and girls who are happy they have found something in life they enjoy, are more confident through learning and training, are fitter, stronger, feel better about themselves and have respect for their opponents who they know have trained just as hard as they have.

  5. Boxing is a fantastic sport which has helped many young men (and increasingly women) find a constructive way to channel their aggression, keep fit, learn to respect other people, etc. Politising it somehow is a bit inappropriate - it's just another sport that people are able to pursue if they take something from it.
    Look at local lads such as our own QPR supporting James de Gale who won an Olympic gold - a far cry from many of the youths he will have grown up with, who have no doubt not all gone on to such productive and commendable careers. Or George Groves, another local lad who is doing exceptionally well in the sport. Boxing has always been popular in West London - Frank Bruno was from Hammersmith, and we had the Finnegan brothers years ago. The Mancinis too.

    Of course there are dangers involved, but it is highly regulated and controlled these days, and rightly so.

    Chris - why don't you pay a visit to the Dale Youth boxing club (which spawned De Gale and Groves) and see if that experience changes your opinion?

  6. You beat me to the punch Anon (pun intended). Our intrepid blogger has never been shy of getting out there and researching the topics he posts on. Check out a club Chris, particularly one that runs classes for kids.

  7. Agreed, rugby has the highest morbidity rate of any sport despite many improvements in recent years (other than cycling in London maybe?) however the brawl and threats these 2 guys entered into, which went instantly on the internet to be viewed by many who will copy their behaviour as "cool", has now taken the pugilistic sport back ten years. GBH is not boxing.