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Boxing must be banned – inflicting brain damage isn’t a sport says RICHARD MADELEY | Richard and Judy | Columnist | Comment

Which means I also remember the world heavyweight title fight in 1964, when Clay pulverized reigning champion Sonny Liston so comprehensively in the first six rounds that Liston stayed put in his corner and wouldn’t come out for the seventh. Clay won by a technical knockout.

For the next decade, Clay/Ali was an incredibly fast-moving, dancing, prancing, punching force in the ring; a devastating combination of grace and power. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was his self-proclaimed slogan.

He was superquick in media interviews too, funny, clever, charming. What a mind. What an intelligence.

But initially, rare blows to Ali’s head began to increase and accumulate. Recordings of his public speaking show that by the time he reached his mid-30s, his speech was steadily slowing and slurring. Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed at 42.

It’s generally agreed that Ali’s boxing career led to the Parkinson’s. At 38, the man’s neurological symptoms were glaringly obvious. His last fight from him was horrible to watch.

We now know that boxers are at greatly increased risk of developing dementia. They were once described as “punch-drunk”, a nasty, dismissive little expression. The word “drunk” carried obvious judgmental overtones.

That they once might have been fast and capable and clever and were now clinically brain-damaged wasn’t a consideration.

Today we know different. But boxing continues. I certainly don’t condemn it, but I just can’t watch it anymore.

For example, I couldn’t watch the recent Tyson Fury fight, much as I admire the man and his extraordinary achievements. The slamming uppercut that sent Dillian Whyte tumbling to the canvas, completely “out of it”? That’s brain damage. Hopefully, temporary – but we’ve no way of knowing.

Boxing isn’t the only sport now strongly linked to dementia in later life (and sometimes, not-so-later). Heading the ball in soccer is increasingly suspect.

Dementia experts insist it should be eliminated from the game. why? Because former professional players are more than three times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease than non-players their age.

Look at the 1966 England squad: FOUR are dead with dementia – Ray Wilson, Martin Peters, Jack Charlton, and Nobby Stiles.

A new study into the dangers of headers began this week. Simultaneously, it was announced that portable brain scanners are to be deployed at rugby games to measure the effects on players carried off with concussion.

Many former rugby professionals have been diagnosed with permanent brain damage and early-onset dementia after years of thudding collisions on the pitch.

I think the day is coming when blows to the head will be outlawed in the ring, headers banned on the pitch, and the more brutal collisions ruled out of rugby. I really hope so.

Brain injuries in sport? Time we used our heads.


Acoustic cameras are great news

Why does a certain type of man (and it’s ALWAYS a man) modify his car’s exhaust to make it super-loud?

Why does he remove the “muffler”, or add a stupid sound-amplifying exhaust tip? Recently, the Mayor of Toronto, a city that for some reason is plagued by boy racers charging up and down in deafeningly noisy cars, suggested such men are “compensating for something” (ie: very loud = underendowed).

Last summer our road in north London was visited almost every sunny Sunday afternoon by some moron driving up and down in a stupendously deafening convertible.

By the time I’d run to the front door to see who it was, he was blaring into the distance and too far away for me to get his number. But he’d succeeded in waking up babies who’d been put down for their afternoon nap, including our visiting grandson. Infuriating.

So I was delighted to learn this week that Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has announced that “acoustic cameras” to detect when cars and motorbikes are breaking the legal noise limit will be installed in four areas in England and Wales. They’ll capture the vehicle’s noise level and film its registration. Large ends to follow. That should bin the din.


Avoid shard-line justice

Why would anyone even consider visiting Middle East neighbors Iraq or Iran without an overwhelmingly important reason to do so?

Their simmering hostility towards we Brits is notorious. The latest person to fall foul of this ingrained enmity is 66-year-old retired British geologist Jim Fitton, currently languishing in a Baghdad airport holding cell.

His “crime”? Collecting a few worthless pottery shards from an archaeological site. For this he faces charges potentially punishable by death.

I pray our diplomats succeed in getting Mr Fitton, right, released, and soon. But his case of him offers yet another stark warning to others. Just. No. Go. There.

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