Call me a wimp, a puny weakling who gets sand kicked in his face whenever he foolishly ventures onto the beach (with his decidedly non-beach-ready body), but I just don't understand the appeal of... boxing.
Pummelling your opponent with your leather-gloved fists. This is a sport? It's true I don't like sport, full-stop. But boxing always seemed to me a step too far even when I had an adolescent interest in stuff like football, cricket, golf and tennis. Like the organised animal cruelty of horse racing, isn't boxing a sort of regulated physical abuse?
Think I'm exaggerating? Over the years hundreds of boxers have died from brain injuries, thousands have ended up suffering from the neurodegenerative disease dementia pugilistica (being "punch drunk"), and in the USA the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised parents not to allow their children to take part in boxing.
Some sport. Despite the glorification of boxing in the Rocky films (or Scorcese's admittedly very good Raging Bull) and all the rumble in the jungle-type hype it receives, I reckon boxing belongs with hare coursing or dog fighting: in the past.
Right-oh. Not perhaps a massively popular view ahead of the so-called fight of the decade, the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao bout in Las Vegas (where else?) on Saturday. But that's my view and I'll fight my corner against anyone who has a different opinion - providing they're in the same weight category of course (that's super-flyweight in case you're interested). Come and have a go if you think you're soft enough ...
No, I'll let former boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard wax lyrical about the "artistry" of boxing. All I see is violence, blood, sweat and drool. Plus a lot of men (mostly) bellowing from the ringside seats as if they're at Prime Minister's Questions.
One strange footnote to my little anti-pugilism rant is the story from last year about how a bunch of sadists in the Philippines police force had been torturing detainees using a mocked-up roulette wheel displaying various kinds of "humorously described" torture. The police would spin the wheel and then dish out whatever torture the wheel landed on. One of the punishments was a "20-second Manny Pacman", 20 seconds of being punched continuously in the face. Not specifically Pacquiao's fault of course, but a rather dreadful illustration of the way that organised spectacles of violence can jump from one arena into another. (For a clever spoof video on the Manny torture idea, go here; and for more on the issue of torture in the Philippines, go here).
From what I can gather Manny Pacquiao is an unusual boxer, one who's become involved in Filipino politics, who issued a last-minute appeal against Indonesia's intended execution of a Filipina woman this week, and who even reportedly agreed to fight Mayweather for no fee and donate his purse to charity. Given that this one boxing match is apparently the most expensive in boxing history (with ringside seats said to be going for $100,000 each) that would indeed have been some gesture.
It's not happening though ... No, on top of everything else, money - sponsorship, pay-to-view television rights etc, etc - is the very lifeblood of top-level boxing, just like it is with all major sports. Not a very attractive feature. But as I say, boxing's not a very attractive spectacle.
OK, all you boxing fans and semi-interested sporting types probably hate me now. What a kill-joy! Pouring cold water on all our tough-but-fair fighting fun. Yeah, maybe. Perhaps I should (ahem) throw in the towel. I'll say this at least: I always had a sneaking admiration for Muhammad Ali, with his "trash talking" signifying, his stance on Vietnam and his support for human rights. But then of course Ali has suffered a terrible decline through Parkinson's. Which kind of proves my point.Suggest a correction