This House would ban boxing.

Boxing, the physical skill of fighting with fists, originated as a sport around 800BC.[1] It is a sport of antiquity that has had a troubled and contentious livelihood. The modern day sport has developed from rules and standards established since this time; with two participation forms: professional and amateur. Each has its own rules, although for both forms of boxing, a win is achieved by scoring more points than an opponent by delivering more blows to the designated scoring regions of the body (trunk and head), or by an opponent being unable to complete a bout.4 When first started, this sport was designed as entertainment for aristocrats who enjoyed watching two people ‘slug it out’ to the death.[2] That history has continued into the present day sport which is a largely entertainment based activity, with millions of dollars of investment at the highest of levels. The potential dangers of the sport are a double-edged sword - they create both the entertainment aspect that makes boxing popular, but also run the risk of ending the sport altogether. In the 20th Century, approximately 1000 boxers died in the ring, or shortly afterwards.[3] The youngest death was in a 12-year old participant. In the first decade of this 21st Century, an additional 68 participants have died as a result of their participation in boxing. Such deaths are more common in professional boxing, but deaths in amateur boxing have also been reported. Thousands more boxers have suffered permanent disfigurement, detached retinas in their eyes and various neurological complaints. Unfortunately for the sport, the most well-recognised and revered of all of its participants - Mohammed Ali - is now seen shuffling and mumbling as a result of Parkinson’s Disease which many incorrectly contribute to his boxing career. While neurological conditions (including chronic traumatic encephalopathy - which has almost exactly the same symptoms and signs as seen with Parkinson’s Disease) have been reported at high rates in former boxers, Ali is not one of its victims.

Despite a tightening of safety regulations, neurological and non-neurological injuries have continued with this sport[4]. Most medical associations have policies against boxing, including the World Medical Association and the national bodies of the USA, Britain and Australia. Although the tightness of regulations upon boxing varies from country to country, and from state to state within countries, only a handful of countries have any kind of ban in place. Sweden is one country that bans professional boxing, although amateur boxing remains an Olympic sport.

As safety concerns over boxing have grown, high schools in most western countries have stopped offering it as a sport. Yet overall enthusiasm for boxing is at an all-time high; television audiences are up and record numbers of youngsters across the world are joining boxing clubs. In Britain the young Olympic silver medallist Amir Khan, who turned professional in 2005 and quickly won the title of World super lightweight champion, is a popular hero and role model. In a number of western countries where amateur boxing was losing popularity, especially the United States, interest has been renewed in the past ten years by the rise of women’s boxing and by white-collar boxing for office workers in their lunch-breaks. On the other hand, the large number of organisations claiming to be world bodies for boxing (e.g. WBA, WBO, IBF, etc), each with their own world champions, has damaged the credibility of the sport. Many people have also disliked the sight of aging former champions coming out of retirement in their forties or later, tempted by one last big purse.

The arguments below ask if boxing should be banned. Most apply to both the professional and amateur sports, but the last points deal particularly with banning the professional game while leaving amateur boxing legal. The arguments would also apply to most other forms of combat sport, for example cage-fighting.

[1] Zazryn T. (2008). Improving epidemiological surveillance in Victorian boxing [PhD]. Monash University.

[3] Svinth, Joseph R, “Death under the Spotlight: The Manuel Velazquez Boxing Fatality Collection,” Journal of Combative Sport, November 2007, accessed July 8, 2011,

[4] Zazryn T, McCrory P, Cameron P. (2008). Neurologic injuries in boxing and other combat sports. Neurologic Clinics, 26 (1); 257-270.




American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness. "Participation in Boxing by Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults." Published in Pediatrics. Vol. 99, No. 1 (January 1997): 134-5.

Australian Medical Association. "Boxing." 1997, reaffirmed 2007, accessed July 8, 2011.

Barner, Bill. "Is Boxing Too Dangerous? Examining The International Push To Ban Boxing." Bleacher Report. May 18, 2009.

BBC. "Tyson: 'I'd bite again.'" October 4, 1999.

Brick, Jason. "Positive Views on Violence In Sports." Livestrong. January 7, 2011. Accessed July 13, 2011.

Friedman, Joseph H. "Progressive Parkinsonism in Boxers." Southern Medical Journal. Vol. 82, No. 5 (May 1989).

Kreager, Derek A. "Unnecessary Roughness? School Sports, Peer Networks, and Male Adolescent Violence." American Sociological Review. Vol. 72, no. 5 (October 2007): 705-724.

McCabe, Peter. "Boxing is a dangerous sport and doesn't deserve state funding." Guardian. November 20, 2009.
New York Times. "Sports People; Ali Leaves Hospital Vowing to Take Better Care of Himself and Get More Sleep." September 22, 1984.

Svinth, Joseph R. "Death under the Spotlight: The Manuel Velazquez Boxing Fatality Collection." Journal of Combative Sport. November 2007. Accessed July 8, 2011.

Thomas, Robert Jr. "Change In Drug Helps Ali Improve." New York Times. September 20, 1984.

Wacquant, Loïc. “The pugilistic point of view: How boxers think and feel about their trade.” Theory and Society. Vol. 24, No. 4 (August 1995):  p 489-535.

World Medical Association. “WMA Statement on Boxing.” (Adopted by the 35th World Medical Assembly, Venice, Italy, October 1983 and editorially revised by the 170th WMA Council Session, Divonne-les-Bains, France, May 2005.) Accessed July 8, 2011.