The Idiocy of Women’s Boxing

Just when you thought man- (and woman-) kind had invented every sort of torture and brutality possible, just when you thought U.S. society was violent, blood-loving and ruthless as it could get, comes another brainy trend. This time, it’s women’s boxing.

Yes, friends, it’s not only so hot here in the good old US of A, it’s also selling tickets to gore-seekers worldwide. And if the International Boxing Association has its way, it will make its Olympic debut in Beijing at the 2008 games.

It’s a fair wager that Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank did not intend to promote the sport, given the sad (and one might say, deservedly realistic) ending of Million Dollar Baby that won an Academy Award this year for Best Picture. Perhaps they just “caught a wave” that was building power and depth before they came along.

But the sport is growing in participation, popularity and purse-size nonetheless, most rapidly at the amateur level. USA Boxing, the governing body, counts more than 2,000 registered female boxers. A seven-figure purse match is to take place between two women later this summer. The New York Times reports the sport is growing apparently beyond its own ability to funnel qualified women into the pipeline.

“Women are being rushed into competition at the professional level, and women may be at greater risk for serious or fatal injuries than men. In recent years, numerous prestigious medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have called for the abolishment of boxing. … Its elimination is unlikely in the foreseeable future.”

Boxing’s elimination or regulatory banning, even of the female version of the sport, should not be the goal here. It is nothing less than appalling to fathom (in male or female boxing) the thought of a “sport” in which the stated goal is destruction of an opponent’s nervous system. Boxing promoters have philosophical difficulty, in my humble opinion, differentiating themselves from Rome’s pagans who gleefully shepherded Christians into the Coliseum for certain annihilation by starved lions.

But certain protections should be put into place. First, would-be female and male boxers should be shown videotapes of former boxers who have sustained major brain and spinal cord injuries. They should understand, in graphic detail, the risks they are taking. The best anti-smoking ad I ever saw was a picture of a black-toothed, wrinkled, wicked witch of a woman with a cigarette in her mouth bearing the caption: “Smoking is so glamorous.” Nothing would turn a teen girl away from smoking faster, than the thought of becoming that.

Female boxers, in particular, should sit through an anatomical comparison of the female physique’s propensity to sustain serious injury versus the male physique’s propensity. Women should be informed, in graphic terms, that our inherently smaller neck musculature, according to the Times, “provides less stability for shock-absorbing capacity and the prevention of rapid acceleration-deceleration movements of the neck, head and brain” making us much more susceptible to debilitating spinal cord injury than men.

Finally, since quick money is probably the most important motivating force for women entering the field, entrance into the sport should become more expensive for women boxers, their managers and promoters. The women themselves should be required to carry more costly health insurance policies. This, so that when they and if they are injured during their obviously dangerous undertaking, it is they and not the rest of us who pay for their expansive use of medical services.

Their managers and promoters should be held financially liable when and if inexperienced boxers are rushed into competition at levels or against competitors for which they are not properly trained.

The true “cure” for this “disease” is to rid ticket-purchasers and TV-viewing boxing fans of their sick need to enjoy this “sport.” But that, if it ever happens, is several millennia away. In the interim, making it less profitable for the misguided souls who choose to engage in it is one way to make curb its growth without infringing on personal freedoms.

(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)