Sunday, 8 November 2009

A question of sport

How do you distinguish valid sports from barbarism? For example there was a recent report that rugby injuries are getting worse as the players become stronger and fitter. Sometimes these injuries are caused by players who are not acting within the laws of the game. At what stage should the police become involved rather than a referee? How do you label ice dance a sport when it is marked on artistic merit? How do you label darts a sport when it is played in a pub and not a sports field?

There are lots of contentious areas when addressing sport but I want to save the rest of this blog for boxing. Boxers are fit and the better ones spend many more hours in a gym than they do in a pub. There are definite aims and nobody thinks about using artistic merit as a means of finding a winner. The problem for me is that the aim is to knock your opponent out. It's not quite barbaric because there are rules to follow and there is a referee in the ring but weren't some barbarians fairly organised?

David Haye fought Nikolai Valuev last night. I don't know the result because I am writing this on Saturday before the fight. What I do know is David is 7st lighter and has to look up at his opponent who is over a foot taller. Perhaps more importantly he has to dodge punches from a much longer arm than his own.

I hope that neither boxer is injured even though this is the obvious aim of stepping into the ring. Players do get injured on the rugby pitch but the aim is to score more points than the opposing team.

Change the world


  1. You've managed to fall for some misconceptions on both counts :
    * the "Barbarians" were very civilised - See Terry Jones' fantastic book and TV series on the subject.
    * Boxing (and almost all combat sport from Thai boxing, to Mixed Martial Arts aka Cage Fighting) is actually subject to judges (usually at least 3) unless the fight is halted early by injury (whether a knockout or other injury or danger).

    I've practiced a variety of martial arts and combat sports and I'm well aware of the risks - funnily enough despite "aiming to knock the opponent out" or otherwise disable them, serious injury is very rare at both amateur and professional levels - my other interest is far more dangerous : Scuba Diving - now that's risky stuff!

  2. I did mention some organisation by the Barbarians but thanks for the Terry Jones reference. As for boxing judges, I thought they counted the number of hits by part of the glove. I didn't think that they measured artistic merit but I'll bow to your knowledge.

  3. Not exactly artistic merit, but most combat sport judges will use some subjective measures apart from counting blows, such as controlling the ring, defensive vs offensive, impact of the blows landed and then boil it down to x out of 10 points.

    ABA rules tend to be somewhat stricter on scoring, much as you describe, but are still fairly subjective on what is good contact :)

    Anyway.. the point was - combat sports aren't barbaric - even "cage fighting" is tightly regulated (and contrary to wrestling bouts of the same name, the cage is there to protect rather than endanger the fighters, as ropes aren't suited to grappling beyond basic clinches used in Muay Thai)