Who’s in boxing’s corner, then?
For some, the practice of boxing is simply brutality which has the kind of painful physical and mental consequences that left Michael Watson in a wheelchair, the great Muhammed Ali with Parkinson’s and Frank Bruno spiralling into depression.
Given that the business of boxing has been historically mired in corruption, it could be assumed it is a short journey embroiled with criminality, too.
Using energy positively
My late father fled from a life of violence, which was entrenched in his family and community (doing the obligatory ancestor check recently, my daughter discovered one of our forebears was a pugilist of the bare-knuckle kind!)
As a teacher in some seriously challenging places, he had his maxims for survival, one of which was, “lads are always going to fight, son.” Forgive his lack of political correctness, it has and always will extend to females too, and a modern translation of his dictate might be, “haters going to hate.”
Making a fist of using boxing
The Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership recently launched a campaign called, “Weapons Down, Gloves Up.”
Author Billy Moore described how boxing saved him from a life of crime, cancer, and drugs. And he is not the first. World featherweight champion Barry McGuigan was born a Roman Catholic with Republic of Ireland citizenship and his childhood coincided with the Troubles. Whilst others took to violence and even terrorism, Barry never had a fight outside of the ring. In his life.
If we are therefore accepting that conflict could be present in any young life, is it better that their energies are devoted in a disciplined fashion – that keeps you fit, too? Those who practice martial arts will tell you must have self-awareness, control and most of all, respect for your opponent. These seem good enough values for life, don’t they?
Weapons Down, Gloves Up is backed by local business DT Hughes and will help create some (very!) civil engineers. The crucial first step is to engage those not in employment, education and training and getting them out from the margins means getting them into the ring.
Time will tell if it succeeds or not. But if nothing else, it teaches us that we must always be open to new and even what might appear to some to be unpalatable ideas, to reach those most forgotten. It may just create champions and lift others off the canvass that unemployment, disadvantage, and violence bring.
Peter Gibson is MRVP’s new communications person. One of his favourite books is “The Fight” by Norman Mailer which chronicles the bout between Muhammed Ali and George Forman, better known as “The Rumble in the Jungle”.