Why I can’t watch Manny vs The Hornet

Matt Cleary Columnist

By Matt Cleary, Matt Cleary is a Roar Expert

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    Cock-fighting is on the TV in the Philippines. You can sit there and watch two roosters rip the life out of each other, and bet on it with the local bookie and listen to a commentator gibber away about which chicken’s closer to killing the other one.

    True, you can. Cock-fighting is on TV, with graphics and stuff, with sponsorship and a message running under the action, like Foxtel’s footy coverage.

    Terrible? Barbaric? Well, on Sunday in Brisbane 55,000 Australians will gather at Suncorp Stadium – and however many millions will watch on television – to see two men bash each other’s brains, which will cause their brains to bleed and suffer irreversible brain damage.

    And people will bay for it. And they won’t really know why. And they won’t really know what damage is really being done – or they won’t really care – to the two human beings bashing each other in the head in the ring.

    Yes, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao’s in the country to fight Jeff ‘The Hornet’ Horn – ‘our’ boy, a teacher from Brisbane.

    Jeff Horn Boxing 2016

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Good story. Bad context.

    Because Horn’s sport will leave him with a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Boxing is a cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) “a progressive degenerative disease of the brain linked to memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and progressive dementia,” according to Medical Daily.

    Now, I used to enjoy boxing. Wednesday nights when Jeff Fenech, our man the Marrickville Mauler, was slugging away with Satoshi Shingaki or Azumah Nelson there was no place you’d rather be than on a stool in your pub looking up at the box.

    No place you’d even consider being. It was like State of Origin – you had to be there.

    Similarly when Mike Tyson was fighting or Kostya Tszyu. When Tszyu turned lippy Yank peanut Zab Judah into the suddenly drunkest man in the room, I was up and roaring like everyone else in the Clovelly Hotel, up and exulting as one. You beauty.

    But that was then. And this is now. And now… well, now we know stuff. We know that repeated concussion on the brain causes brain bleeding. It causes brain damage. Bleeding is damage to the brain. It’s brain damage. Google it. The doctors aren’t making it up.

    Boxing causes brain damage. Fact.

    And that seems to be part of boxing’s appeal, that savagery. Boxing is a blood sport. It’s a blood on the brain sport. It’s not right.

    It’s not a blood sport? It’s all sweat, skill and balls? No doubt.

    But were it the ‘sweet science’ its advocates make out, boxers would be wearing huge, highly padded gloves, as they do in amateur boxing, and wearing headgear, as they in amateur boxing.

    The aim of the game would not be to concuss your opponent, or make their faces bleed. It would be to score points.

    If it’s such a sport, why doesn’t professional boxing change the rules so that it’s like amateur boxing?

    Amateur boxing is three rounds, a focus on scoring. Professional boxing is up to a dozen rounds, two men punching each other’s brains. You win by knocking someone out. The head is a target. And knowing what we do, that shouldn’t be.

    The blood sport element of it that appeals to a certain cross-section of our humanity. UFC is like that, a bit. Their gloves are even smaller than in boxing. There’s also more blood. And thus more baying for blood. There’s people love that stuff.

    No, I’m done with boxing. No more. Because when you think about it, when you really sit down and analyse the pleasure you get out of watching two men punch each other in the head until one’s knocked out… well… it’s a bit sick, really, given what we know.

    What do we know? Google it. Read this one for a start, and this one. There’s thousands like it.

    No, stuff it. I can’t watch it. It’s wrong.

    Matt Cleary
    Matt Cleary

    Matt Cleary is a sports writer from Sydney. He enjoys golf, footy and Four Pines Pale Ale, and spends as much time as conscience allows at Long Reef GC. Tweet him @journomatcleary, or read him at his website.

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • June 30th 2017 @ 8:42am
      Rip Snorter said | June 30th 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      SO I guess you won’t be watching any form of football either.

      As you say, the evidence is there ( about concussion), so look it up.

      • Columnist

        June 30th 2017 @ 8:58am
        Matt Cleary said | June 30th 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

        Footy’s different. Concussion is an unfortunate by-product. It’s an accident. There are ever-stronger rules protecting the head.

        In boxing the head is the aim of the game.

        From: http://www.livestrong.com/article/429946-long-term-effects-of-boxing/

        “Dementia Pugilistica. Also called “chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” this disorder is so common to boxers that it’s named after the sport. It’s a collection of brain problems that stem from repeated minor to moderate brain trauma over the course of years — typically more than 10, but sometimes as few as six. Symptoms of dementia pugilistica include memory loss, dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease and motor problems that resemble Parkinson’s.

        • June 30th 2017 @ 2:53pm
          astro said | June 30th 2017 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

          Watch any ad for Origin…it’s all big hits and shots of players fighting and putting their bodies on the line…The physicality of football codes like rugby league are a core part of their appeal and how the games are marketed. To say that concussions are just an “unfortunate by-product” is putting your head in the sand.

          Just this year in league, we’ve seen players knocked out cold, stumble up and come back onto the field later in the same game. We’ve seen multiple others knocked out and return for their clubs a week later.

          The idea that this is only an issue for boxing or MMA because “boxing the head is the aim of the game” and that “footy’s different” because it isn’t, is over-simplifying a complex issue. Just as you’ve cited clinical papers highlighting boxing’s issues, there are similar papers which highlight the problems in sports like league: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590907/

          I completely agree with you that boxing is dangerous, but to pretend league or other football codes don’t carry a significant risk, and more so, don’t leverage the ‘dangerous’ elements of the game to attract viewers, is crazy.

          • July 1st 2017 @ 2:55am
            jeff dustby said | July 1st 2017 @ 2:55am | ! Report

            in RL the objective is not to smash the guy

            • July 2nd 2017 @ 7:22am
              Simoc said | July 2nd 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

              So you obviously haven’t played the game jeff.

              • July 2nd 2017 @ 5:36pm
                Swanny said | July 2nd 2017 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

                Simoc

                Well I’ve played league against some of the best . We smashed each other but avoided the head .

                It’s not tough to punch someone in the head . It’d cowardly

    • June 30th 2017 @ 9:11am
      rock said | June 30th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      That’s fine, don’t watch it – it’s your right, just like it is to those that enter the ring and do an amazing amount of training to get to where they are.

      As for concussion being a ‘by-product’ of rugby codes, why are you not then preaching for the type of headgear worn in amateur boxing to be worn in all rugby codes – I mean it’s all about player welfare isn’t it.

      Plus I’m not the biggest UFC fan, but maybe you should have a look at some of the studies done – UFC is actually safer in the long term then boxing, because it is essentially a bare fist contest.

      • Columnist

        June 30th 2017 @ 9:18am
        Matt Cleary said | June 30th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Because they get knocked out quicker?

        • Columnist

          June 30th 2017 @ 9:36am
          Matt Cleary said | June 30th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

          No. Because: “Boxing gloves don’t protect the person being hit. Quite the opposite: the padding protects the fist from damage and lets you hit much harder. A padded fist is a lethal weapon. Headguards worn for sparring and for amateur bouts (as in the Olympics) don’t protect boxers from concussion: they make the target area larger and exaggerate the torsional effect of a glancing blow.”

          • June 30th 2017 @ 3:46pm
            Ray said | June 30th 2017 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

            Head protection was used in men’s competition until March 2016, before it was removed by the AIBA due to a higher concussion rate with Head Protection. It is no longer used. Please research material for your article properly.

        • June 30th 2017 @ 9:56am
          Gray-Hand said | June 30th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

          Partly. MMA fights tend to get stopped when a fighter breaks say, a cheek bone, or a jaw, or a particularly bad nose break.

          In a boxing match, those breaks don’t happen because of the big gloves, but the brain still gets rattled and the fight goes on and on.

          Also, plenty of MMA fights end by submission or other knockout or injury that has nothing to do with concussion.

          An MMA fighter might be more at risk of just about every other type of injury compared to a boxer, but their brains won’t usually be as damaged after 10 years.

          • June 30th 2017 @ 12:34pm
            rock said | June 30th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

            Spot on Gray-Hand

      • June 30th 2017 @ 10:47am
        nachos supreme said | June 30th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        Yeah, cause you know, being choked out is good for the brain right?

        • June 30th 2017 @ 11:26am
          Gray-Hand said | June 30th 2017 @ 11:26am | ! Report

          The choking in MMA is far, far less of a health concern than concussion. Just not even in the same ball park.

          Soft tissue injuries in, say Tennis, are way more likely to cause lifelong impairment than MMA choking.

        • June 30th 2017 @ 12:55pm
          rock said | June 30th 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

          Again Gray-Hand is spot on.

          There’s actually been no conclusive evidence implying that temporary restriction of blood supply to the brain can cause any long term adverse effects, apart from killing a very very small number of brain cells (which generally regenerate anyhow).

          That’s not to say it isn’t dangerous in the action, choke-holds can cause a number of life threatening injuries if there is way too much force (hint – your brain ain’t going to be injured in this instance) or it is held on for too long of a period (but generally we’re talking in minutes here).

    • Columnist

      June 30th 2017 @ 9:19am
      Matt Cleary said | June 30th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      “Shaken baby syndrome is the result of repeated brain trauma from the snapping of the head and neck, a condition that can cause serious brain injury and death. Boxing subjects the head and neck to almost identical trauma, albeit to a head and neck that are better able to absorb the impact. This and other stresses from boxing can have effects that last far beyond the end of a boxing career.”

    • June 30th 2017 @ 9:46am
      Shaun said | June 30th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      My view on these types of things is very much – ‘if someone wants to get their brains bashed in, inform them, and let them make their own decision’. and if people want to watch other people bash each others brains in, inform them too, and let them make their own decision.

      • June 30th 2017 @ 11:07am
        Gray-Hand said | June 30th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

        It’s not that simple. Brain injuries are different to other sporting injuries.
        Unlike other types of injuries brain damage can and often does directly result in psychological problems and mental impairment. Violent behaviour and even suicide have been linked to concussion related injuries.
        This all has a negative outcome for more than the individual concerned, so it isn’t really sufficient to say that they new the risks before engaging in the risky behaviour. Other people and society generally are harmed by this sport. The question is whether the benefits of the sport (and there certainly are benefits) outweigh the negatives.

        • June 30th 2017 @ 3:12pm
          Shaun said | June 30th 2017 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

          I think the fact that someone has decided to pursue a sport where they bash another mans brains in influence the risk of them being a violent person more than a brain injury

    • June 30th 2017 @ 10:12am
      Ryan H said | June 30th 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

      “But that was then. And this is now. And now… well, now we know stuff.”

      What garbage. We have always known “stuff”. Just because you have decided to get on your high horse now and pretend you have had some awakening the dangers of boxing doesn’t change a thing.

      Don’t like it? Don’t watch it.

      55,000 people like it, and they will watch it.

      Maybe contact sports, and sports in general just aren’t for you?

      • June 30th 2017 @ 1:15pm
        Christo the Daddyo said | June 30th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        Which is exactly what the article said. Looks like it hit a nerve for you though…

        • June 30th 2017 @ 2:13pm
          Ryan H said | June 30th 2017 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

          Just every now and then you see a similar story pop up wether its horse racing or boxing or gridiron; and I just don’t understand the purpose of it.

          Similar to writing a hamburger review which states you will no longer be eating hamburgers as you don’t believe in the killing of animals. Well don’t write a review then? Its just a pointless exercise.

          In addition this article provides an argument against boxing which he then states in comments he does not apply to other sports as the purpose and intent differ i.e. getting KO is an accident. Which to me, if your going to argue safety and all that, makes no sense. Very half cooked approach.

          • June 30th 2017 @ 6:22pm
            Gray-Hand said | June 30th 2017 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

            Part of the purpose of the article is to raise awareness of the dangers of boxing and possibly to further an agenda to either make it safer, make it less popular or to stop it entirely.

            Similar articles were written or speeches made in the past in relation to matters such as cigarettes, dog fighting, fox hunting, bare knuckle boxing, darling, car racing, child labour, the age of consent, prohibition of marijuana, prohibition of alcohol, slavery, workers rights etc.

            Some of the above practices were a hell of a lot more acceptable back in the day than boxing is now. In many cases the world is a better place because things have changed and it is a good thing that people spoke out about them.

            Personally, I don’t mind boxing. I did it for a little bit and I watch the occasional bout. But knowing what I know now, based on the Studies that have come out in recent years, i wouldn’t be too upset if it was banned or forced to change its rules to protect the fighters.

          • June 30th 2017 @ 10:25pm
            Dexter The Hamster said | June 30th 2017 @ 10:25pm | ! Report

            I like it Ryan H. No-one should ever write an opinion piece ever again, or express their thoughts online (except you of course, and in this one case, me!!)

          • July 1st 2017 @ 2:56am
            jeff dustby said | July 1st 2017 @ 2:56am | ! Report

            no Ryan, you make zero sense

    • Roar Rookie

      June 30th 2017 @ 10:32am
      Russell Munday said | June 30th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      Life is a jungle and a battle. Boxing is just a short version of that.
      We can’t make a nanny state of things all the time.
      Sure their are dangers to their long term health, but I can’t help admiring the contest, their bravery, courage and skill.
      They get well remunerated for the risks and no one is forcing them into the ring.

      • June 30th 2017 @ 3:00pm
        jimmy said | June 30th 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

        I heard the great boxing commentator Jim Lampley, on a podcast once, where he was asked about concussions in boxing.

        He said something along the lines of: Some people in life don’t have the choice of working a white collar job. They have to earn a living using their two hands and their body. Boxers do this. They know the risks, in the same way as a coal miner knows the risks or their job, or labourers know they’ll likely have bad knees and hips earlier in life, but they accept that risk in order to put food on the table.

        • June 30th 2017 @ 10:29pm
          Dexter The Hamster said | June 30th 2017 @ 10:29pm | ! Report

          Jimmy you don’t think that can be read two ways?

          That the people who have no chance of being well paid white collar job holders, only have one way of making a good living, by getting punched in the head for the enjoyment of those well paid white collar job holders??

          I guess its all perspective in the end.

      • July 1st 2017 @ 2:57am
        jeff dustby said | July 1st 2017 @ 2:57am | ! Report

        moat other battles arent not based on punching the other guys lights out. Its sad something things like this and comes up with some rubbish allegory – life is a battle

      • July 1st 2017 @ 10:29am
        The Grafter said | July 1st 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        Well said Jimmy.

        Up until this millennium, the world heavyweight champ was universally admired as the strongest, fittest, toughest bloke in sport.

        Boxers know the risks. A lot of the problem comes down to trainers and promotors using them as meal tickets well after their expiry dates. Like all sports, boxing comes down to having the right people around the fighter.

        A well written opinion by the author that usually is rolled out around Games and big fight time.

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