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MAN down, they said, Scott Westgarth is dead. Another life lost to a sport that glorifies punishment to the head. A sport we all love. A sport we all love?
We will unite, no doubt. We have no choice but to stand and defend ourselves because the opposition, after this latest fatality, will be fierce.
Another family in mourning, another tormented opponent, another agonising, eternal hangover. Another reason for the anti-boxing brigade to surround us and attack.
But how do those in the middle, the advocators of boxing, the likes of you and I, defend this sport that has taken another life? Seriously, ask yourself. Can you put one hand on your heart and truthfully say that boxing, that brutal pursuit, that deathly endeavour, deserves to survive?
It would, perhaps, be easier to justify if the sport was clean, besides the punches and pain. If we could say, without a second thought, ‘Well, boxing is good and honest and helps more people than it hurts.’ If we didn’t hear constant whispers behind the scenes about drugs and crime and dishonesty. About fighters not getting paid, about yesterday’s heroes being forgotten as they stumble towards the gutter, broke and helpless. Yes, it would be easier, much easier, if the noble art that damages so many, was noble in every other way.
If it was a sport without unfathomable scorecards and hooky logic, without sickening insults, without mismatches and bad taste pantomimes and unscrupulous rankings and nonsensical titles. If it was a sport without criminals in high places and money-hungry chancers making a mockery of those who have spent their whole lives just trying earn an honest crust. If, ultimately, those who gave their all, those brave fighters who strip themselves of everything, would see that effort reciprocated and rewarded. Because, otherwise, why should we forgive a sport that has just killed a 31-year-old man?
It is getting harder, admittedly, but we must, we absolutely must.
We must unite. We must learn and improve. We must focus on the positives that the sport brings to so many, the reasons that won’t make Scott Westgarth’s passing feel like such a wretched waste.
We cannot presume that this is as good as it gets. No, we can’t do that.
We must remember and discover what boxing is really about. For every Scott Westgarth, there are many more who have had their lives saved. Many more who were dealt an atrocious hand in life, only to find real salvation in a prize ring. Focus on the old gyms and wise coaches and young boxers, eager to learn, off the streets. Then think of those streets without boxing, the monstrosities and aggression, the underground fights and the blood on the hands.
Above all, we must have faith in the fighters today, those who are being checked more than ever by doctors, those who will continue to box and to take their chances, not because they have to, but because it’s their choice, because they love this more than anything else.
But anyone who is faint of heart, any fan who does not believe that the sport is dangerous, any fighter who refuses to accept the fate that befell Scott Westgarth could happen to them, must consider their future. And that, perhaps, is where Scott Westgarth’s death does serve a purpose. That is where we can find some meaning, some reason. And that is to remind us all of the disasters that this sport is capable of, and to demand we all shape up and clean up our act.
So, yes, unite and fight back against those strangers closing in. But take some time, please, to look in the mirror and ask yourself why you are here. It has to be for the right reasons, to better the sport, to enrich its history, and ensure the likes of Scott Westgarth never, ever, die in vain.
Yes, it was another life lost to a sport that glorifies punishment to the head. A sport we all love.
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