We live in a politically correct world. Don’t think so? Try making any sort of ethnic, religious, or gender-based joke outside of your immediate circle (and maybe even inside it); you’ll be taken to the proverbial woodshed for a whipping as sure as God made little green apples. Why? Because in the interest of us all living in a “Kumbaya” world, anything that can be deemed as even remotely offensive is frowned upon and stashed away along with other “unmentionables.” Even wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” has fallen out of fashion.
But we also live in a very violent world. I live in Canada, and while we are not a violent society by any means, our neighbors to the south of us have a veritable “Wild, Wild West” going on in their country. Our ‘local’ news spends its first 20 minutes rhyming off the horrors of the day as provided to us by the USA, like some macabre sort of roll call. Sadly, as polarized as America is at the moment, this violence isn’t going anywhere soon.
Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America really aren’t faring any better either. In fact, in many places, they are doing even worse! The world is in the midst of a cataclysmic change as old values are coming under fire from more progressive/liberal voices on a global basis. People on both sides of the issue are feeling threatened and those who try to remain neutral are being forced to pick a side.
When fundamental change clashes with pacifism, the net result is that the world becomes a more dangerous place for those who try to approach both sides with an olive branch and common sense. I’m reminded of something my old Dad would say whether he was speaking about the global situation or a particularly stubborn lid on a pot of marmalade, “Dave, when in doubt, brute force and ignorance work every time.” Now he was joking; my father is actually the consummate diplomat, but I took his point. As the world has become increasingly dangerous and violent, our education system has become more and more placid – terribly afraid of insulting anyone, of raising the ire of any group. This is seeing us turn out graduating classes of well-meaning pacifists who, never having been smote in the nose by a bully, have no idea how to handle themselves in any sort of physical altercation or threat of same. In short, we are busy growing “namby pambies” at a time when we need warriors.
One way to help address this is to return schoolboy boxing to the curriculum of our educational facilities. Oh, I can hear the pacifists already. “Violence never solved anything” (Not at all true – ask Reza Mohammed, a school bully from my childhood days whom I dealt with in unmistakable fashion), or “We want to reach out to our enemies and bring everyone together at the table of brotherhood” (barf!) without having canvassed the ‘other side’ to see if they have any interest of being seated across from us at this fabled “table.”
Look, here’s the truth. Boxing programs don’t typically turn out bullies or violent people. In fact, quite the opposite, these programs turn out well-rounded young men and women who protect the less adept from the bullies. I don’t know about you, but I am still always surprised when I meet a young man in his 20’s or 30’s who has NEVER been in any sort of physical altercation. The first thought that goes through my mind is “How is that even remotely possible?” The second is, “I’m looking at someone who’s going to be a victim for his/her entire life.” This second one saddens me greatly. The occasional scrape as we are growing up teaches us a little about ourselves, teaches us that we can stand up for ourselves and that we are not going to sit idly by and be victimized by those who would take advantage of us.
I’ve broken down the reasons why I think boxing programs should be returned to the curriculum forthwith:
- Physical fitness: Have you had a look at the obesity rates for young people today? It’s outrageous. Why? Because our children are spending every waking moment of their lives playing video games or listening to music on whatever Apple’s newest gadget happens to be. I imagine a world where in a few generations, our children are going to be born with unusually large and muscular thumbs; well-suited to toggling the video games of the day. I can recall when me and my friends played outside all day to the point where my mother practically had to send out a search party to find me for dinner. (For those of you who know me, it’s clear that she found me each and every time, lol) Children should play – vigorously! They should be in good physical condition. I can think of few sports that can meet those parameters better than boxing.
- Leadership and Maturity: The world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows (I think I just quoted “Rocky”, lol) It’s important that our children grow up with the ability to lead, whether it’s their own households, a multi-national company, or a government. Boxing; or to be more accurate; the training for boxing, requires dedication and discipline – both key qualities needed by those who lead. Boxing, and the demands of the sport, pushes its participants to mature, to learn that their commitment to the sport requires them to make some sacrifices. In short, the sport helps its participants to “grow up.”
- Independence: “Boxing is the loneliest sport.” That’s an adage that’s been around for as long as the sport itself. Why? Because it’s true. Yes, a boxer has a team that works with him/her, teaches the fighter everything they know, comforts when necessary and cajoles when necessary, celebrates wins with their fighters and consoles them after losses. But, when the boxer eats a right cross in the ring and finds himself lying on his back looking up at the lights and wondering how he got there; it’s only himself he has to rely on to find the gumption not only to get up, but to confront the so-and-so who just put him that predicament a few short seconds ago. I’m reminded of one of my favorite sayings; “If you need a helping hand, look to the end of your own hand first.” Boxing truly tests your mettle and teaches you to be self-sufficient; another quality we need from our future leaders.
- Teaches fair play: Not very many sports have as many rules as boxing. And in very few sports do those rules matter as much as they do in boxing. Learning to ‘color within the lines’ is a key part of developing quality young men and women. The satisfaction one gets from achieving all one could while playing by the rules is a priceless lesson.
- Respect: It’s something I’ve had to explain to non-boxing fans countless times: it’s the first time they have seen a boxing match; they’ve just watched two men or women beat on each other for many rounds; at the end of this brutal display, the two warriors embrace and show a genuine affection and respect for each other; here comes the inevitable question; why? Because only those two people know what they just went through in that ring. One cannot help but respect an opponent who has absorbed your best shots and replied with their own; one who gave no quarter, and asked none. You see, once that bell rings, whatever differences existed between the fighters before the bell sounded, disappear. Your color, religion, politics, size of your bank account, whatever the differences; they all vanish once the fight begins. By the time the fight concludes, a mutual respect for each other has invariably developed between the two fighters. It’s an important lesson for our youth because, God forbid, should they end up in a foxhole in some forsaken part of the world as adults, they’re going to learn real quick that the origins of the person protecting their back, couldn’t be less important at that time of trial by fire.
Yes, I’m well aware that there are dangers to boxing. But we can mitigate those dangers to near zero. High-school football sees about 10 deaths a year in the USA, but there are few, if any clamors to halt high-school football. Limit schoolboy boxing to body shots only. Insist on bigger gloves – at least 14 oz. Headgear is a must. Maybe even have no contact in first two years; just teach footwork, hit the bag, learn drills. There are risks to everything in the world. We must weigh those risks against the benefits of whatever activity is being discussed. I think that for boxing, the rewards well outweigh the risks. Bring the sport back.