Why I can’t watch fighting sports anymore

I was listening to a Conspiracy Theories podcast today about the Muhammad Ali/Sonny Liston fights, two of the most controversial boxing matches of all time.

It made me think of, and remember Muhammad Ali. He was a remarkable man, and a once in a lifetime athlete. Like a Samurai of old, he was a fighter and an artist. The two seem incompatible, yet are found together more often than you would think. Not only was he known for fast footwork, he was fast in his wit and spot on in his humor.

That’s the man I remember. The man I admired.

Not this man. This man makes me want to cry. In fact, by the time this video was made I had been crying every time I saw him for decades.

Boxing advocates, as well as MMA fighting advocates, will tell you that we are better now, we don’t let this happen, we have safety measures now.

Bullshit.

At it’s best boxing is a mixture of a physical chess match, a dance, and a test of mental and spiritual courage.

But I can’t watch it anymore.

Women are boxers now. I applaud them. I know women will bring a whole new dimension to the fight ring. Finesse. Endurance. And their own inestimable grace and beauty.

But I can’t watch.

With all the medical wonders of the world – why is it that we cannot find a way to truly prevent what us old timers called punch drunk? No – now we are learning even pro football players fall to this set of symptoms. There’s research suggesting that the damage done in HIGH SCHOOL football, or maybe even younger, can contribute to dementia in later life.

When you are young, dumb and full of… uh… LIFE these consequences don’t seem important. You simply can’t believe they will come to you, or you think that you don’t care if it means you can excel at what you love to do right now.

I love auto racing. And it’s a fact that sometimes racers die. And when they do, we say, “well, s/he died doing what he loved”. How much different is that from seeing what dementia does to former fighters? For one thing, they live, they suffer – or maybe it only seems that way to us on the outside, but there’s no way to know for sure. I’m not going to tell anyone not to follow their passion if their passion is a fighting sport in whatever form. That’s your own choice to make. But.

All I know is that it breaks my heart to see the shell of a human being who was once so vibrantly alive and who gave so much to the world, reduced to such decrepitude. It has tainted my mind such that two minutes into a fight, or less, I find myself imagining what these two magnificent young people might face someday.

And I can’t watch.

9 comments

  1. Everyone likes to think they’ll be George Foreman and stay mentally sound forever. You can’t take a lot of repeated blows to the head and not receive long term damage. Nerve tissue doesn’t heal like bone or muscle.

      1. He’s only an inch taller than Ali, but then Ali’s style was different. He (Ali) also got lambasted a few times by some of the hardest hitters in the game *ahem*( Sonny Liston *ahem* At least no one bit him (snicker).

  2. Foovay, thanks for taking the time to share this.
    I actually just got into boxing once the pandemic hit.
    I do all of my boxing with a bag, shadow boxing- not actually engaging with anyone.
    I am older than a prime fighter, so I don’t think I would ever get the chance to stand in the ring as a pro anyway. However, I have been playing with the idea of fighting.

    This hit home, and has made me stop and think about this more.
    Thank you so much for sharing this

    1. A speed bag and heavy bag have been on my wishlist for years now. I live in an RV so space and a good way to support them are the issue. Boxing your way is an awesome way to stay healthy, as it not only builds strength, but speed, and agility, and balance – combating a good many of the physical problems old age often brings to us. But until and unless somehow some genius finds a way to prevent or cure the problems of being hit in the head one too many times let’s stick to shadow boxing… less strategy and community, but also less dementia. It is what it is.

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