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Soup of This Day #347: Slow Guitar, Soft Trumpet And A Bell

October 25, 2013

Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital
Perth’s main medical centre Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. Here they treat everything from head injuries to cancer – Photograph by Gnangarra…, 2006. Gnangarra is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I used to smoke cigarettes. It was mostly a social thing – My friends smoked and I’d join in because it seemed like a decent trade-off – Light up and I’d get an excuse to hang with my mates. None of them ever forced me to or in any way actively encouraged me – I guess then that you could say that it was subconscious peer-pressure. I know that sounds lame and it surely is – I’d watched my Mum and 2 grandfathers die from cancer.

Long, awful deaths.

Only 1 of those was down to smoking but what a stupid thing for a life to end early like that, to have to throw in the towel on the wonderful potential of living, and all for big tobacco.

And yet I willingly subscribed to that.

Smoking is compelling.

A while back I wrote a Soup about boxing. In that piece I admitted that, to me at least, boxing too was compelling. I described the sport as ‘skilful, technical and exciting’ and I brought out that old label, ‘the sweet science’. I wrote all of that while acknowledging that boxing is, in the main, not good for participants. It’s the brain that is the problem you see – When somebody gets hit in the head region, that soft, spongy grey matter, so critical to us being who we are, bounces around inside the skull. Even if there is no immediately apparent damage, the results of such traumas accumulate, and almost inevitably serious brain damage will occur.

But the sport is still compelling I wrote. And it is so compelling that, even though I said I was no longer a fan, I’ve still been finding ways to sneak a glance, to look back at historic fights, because they’ve already happened and watching them is not supporting boxing now.

It is though. Just like revelling in those cigarettes I once smoked would be tacitly supporting the tobacco industry, me enjoying Clay and Liston going at it in ’64 is somehow saying that boxing is not that far removed from ok. That if we just whack a filter on it and drop the levels of toxicity then maybe we can return to the days of glamour and glory.

Except that boxing is not even close to being ok and it never really was. Those toxins are lethal even in reduced concentrations and we’d need to put 1 hell of a filter of regulation on it to make it breathable. Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali is now a trembling wreck, a shambolic caricature of the vital person he once was. Liston isn’t even with us any more – He died in shadowy circumstances in 1970, his heart muscles hardened and his lungs wasting. On his tombstone reads the epitaph:

‘A Man.’

Which he was until boxing robbed him of that, his ability to be a person.

There’s something I reckon all sports fans should read. It’s by a truer boxing fan than I’ll ever be and it is as clinical a dissection of that sport and what it means to its participants as I’ve ever seen. Let’s call you reading it as Round 2 of this post. Go on, the bell just rang…

…And breathe deeply, maybe get some vaseline on that cut to your sports-loving core. Come on now, shake it off and get yourself focussed for Round 3…

In which I’ve embedded the video you may have seen in that article. If you didn’t watch it and are tempted now, then I’ll warn you in advance that the footage contains some very graphic images. If you’re already against boxing then spare yourself because this is some kind of awful to watch. If though, you were like me and you held out some sliver of a belief that throwing punches is a sweet science, then dose up on smelling salts and do not look away:

This is an undercard fight between Mexican Raul Hirales and his countryman Francisco Leal. The latter loses the fight.

If you didn’t or couldn’t keep your eyes on that film let me tell you what happened.

At around the 38 minute mark, a person died.

I don’t necessarily mean ‘died’ in the way we imagine it from watching movies. For some time after it happened, he was still functioning to some degree, able to sit up – and he even got to his feet for a time – but nonetheless he was dead. The towel was chucked in on the wonderful potential of living (He was 26), and all for big boxing.

And by big boxing I mean the promoters, the boxing associations, the bookies, the networks and the ignorant tossers like me who somehow thought there was something magical going on in that stupid game.

I’m not even tacitly supporting that @#$% any more. In fact, just like I quit smoking 15 or so years ago, I’m throwing boxing completely out of my life.

Slow Guitar, Soft Trumpet And A Bell

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