From the archive - 06.04.1984
Knock boys' boxing events on the head
I recently attended a meeting where a colleague - a man in his mid-40s - claimed it was an act of considerable bravery for someone of his age to light up a cigarette in such company. The company to which he referred comprised education advisers, headteachers and education administrators, and all but the speaker were non-smokers.
A quick check revealed that more than half of them had at one point been slaves to the weed. Not all that surprising, for at one time all film heroes demonstrated their masculinity by speaking through a nicotine haze. It was the done thing to smoke.
Gradually the medical evidence and the efforts of anti-smoking advocates have brought a marked changed in attitudes. It is fairly easy to see a parallel in schoolboy boxing.
At the time when John Wayne was riding off into the sunset, rolling his cigarette one-handed, almost every town, city, county and region staged schoolboy boxing championships.
As a young teacher in Brighton, I remember the annual festival of supervised fisticuffs. Hundreds of spectators were attracted to this gladiatorial arena and, providing the difference in weight between the contestants did not exceed four pounds, the bout (it was never called a fight) was deemed safe to take place.
Over the ensuing years the medical profession has gradually built up irrefutable proof that brain damage may be the consequence of repeated blows to the head. Boxing encourages such blows.
Despite constant reminders to all referees of schoolboy boxing that their first responsibility is the protection of the boxers, and that bouts should be stopped to prevent unnecessary punishment, many boys continue to suffer heavy blows to the head.
As parents, teachers, headteachers and local education authority administrators become increasingly enlightened, I hope that sufficient pressure has now built up to either modify the conditions under which schoolboys are permitted to box (headguards may provide acceptable protection) or to remove boxing from the list of acceptable schoolboy activities.
I applaud attempts to put a stop to the staging of the National Schoolboy Boxing Championships.