Pontificating on Pugilism

A highly informal survey reveals not everybody is a fan of the sport

Although sold-out seating attests to the popularity of local fight cards, not everyone enjoys an activity where two competitors employ both strength and skill in trying to beat their opponent into submission--or unconsciousness.

"It's two well-tuned athletes competing," says referee Bobby Ferrara, himself a one-time middleweight boxer, in defense of the sport.

(In the interest of full disclosure, readers should also know that I acknowledge a slight bias in favor of the sport as a result of a brief fling in the ring that resulted in a 5-1 record. It was that single loss, and the post-knockout smelling salts, that quickly ended any career aspirations.)

There is no organized opposition to boxing similar to Mothers Against Drunk Driving or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but there is also no fence-sitting on the subject, either. You either like it, detest it or--at a bare minimum--can abide it.

To illustrate, a truly unscientific poll was taken as research for this story, asking 20 Tucsonans of both genders and varying ages what they thought about boxing. Younger male respondents tended to support the sport, while older males were less enthusiastic--and women almost universally reacted to it as anathema.

"I used to watch it growing up before it got too expensive and corrupt," said a 40-year-old sales representative. "I don't take offense at the competitive sporting aspect. My dissatisfaction is that it costs too much and seems a bit shady at times."

The older the respondent, the mellower the response. "Boxing is an ancient physical contact sport, and I have no problem with that, although as I age and aggression levels mellow, I prefer sports with less violence," one retiree said.

Ironically, in this random man-on-the-street sampling, two of 10 men polled were former boxers themselves. "I won a few and lost a few," says a former Marine middleweight who boxed at the Corps regimental level. "When you're young, you think you are both tough and good. And then you discover the truth, that there's always someone faster and better." The other former fighter, a Golden Gloves boxer, put together an 8-1 record. His single loss helped him decide a boxing career was not in his future. "I got hit so hard, I slid through the ropes and out of the ring, unlaced my gloves, and never put in another mouthpiece," he said.

Although there are female fight fans, as there are lady enthusiasts of other contact sports, they are fewer in number than their male counterparts. "Barbaric," was the single-word response the Weekly received most often by nearly all of the 10 polling respondents representing the female gender.

"I don't see the attraction of two people getting in the ring and beating each others' brains out," said one woman in her early 60s. "If it's coming back in popularity, it's going to do so without my help."

A 50ish mother of three grown boys alluded to the testosterone thing. "I could see the point of it if two elks were butting horns in the forest, vying for dominance, because the herd gets the strongest leader, the dominant male. The only thing you get in boxing is possible brain damage."

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