Why I can’t watch Manny vs The Hornet

Matt Cleary Columnist

By , 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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