Sport – Should Catholics Box?

Although I am happy for the young Catholic man who won Gold in the boxing at Boxersthe Commonwealth Games, and I heartily commend him for wearing his Brown Scapular openly for all the world to see, I am of the opinion, expressed on our General Discussion thread, that I really can’t comprehend why any Catholic would want to participate in boxing.

One blogger expressed outrage at the suggestion that boxing may not be a suitable sport for Catholics and asked for a thread to discuss the topic. Happy to oblige.  I haven’t said that boxing should be banned or that the Pope should write an encyclical on the subject but I do stick to my personal view that boxing – it seems to me – is not an obvious first choice of sport for any Catholic.

But if you disagree, feel free to say so.

49 responses

  1. Maybe it’s worth considering all the martial arts in this question, not just boxing. It’s the motive which counts, in my view. It can be (1) genuinely to aim at excelling in one of these arts (2) to learn self-defence or (3) sadistically to knock hell out of another human being. Motives (1) and (2) are fine. (3) is definitely not. Or is that too obvious?

    • I don’t think it’s too obvious but I wonder if motive is the main thing. You can have a good motive, e.g. excelling at boxing as a sport, but still damage someone or yourself.

      I’ve never held strong views on boxing myself but I can see that some people might wonder at Catholics going in for it.

  2. As far as I know (which often amounts to very little), the rules of the combative sports successfully negate the possibility of deliberately occasioned brutality and the likelihood of intended serious injury. Boxing is frequently depicted as ‘the art of self defence’ – it is never described as licensed to kill; that, I believe, is James Bond´s moniker.
    Question:- Is it okay for Catholics to read the Bond novels or view the Bond movies?

    • I’m sure there’s no “licence to kill” but you just need to look at the bruises on a boxer’s face to see that they do get hurt.

      As for James Bond – I wouldn’t read one of the JB novels or watch one of the movies. As mentioned on the TV thread there is explicit sex in there, as well as the violence, so that makes James Bond a no go area for Catholics IMHO.

        • Sorry – I released this first post from Jo in haste, thinking it was a bit of fun, someone with whom you were friendly. a joke between the two of you. I’ve now deleted it.

  3. Personally, boxing never interested me at all. I could never see the point of two men punching each other stupid, to knock the other fellow out cold. It always bothered me that boxers could end up, what is termed punch drunk, because of too many blows to the head.

    Since Pew Catholic mentions martial arts, I do admit to taking up judo, years ago. Being a petite lady, slim and every bit as glamorous as the Editor, some might have thought me an easy target. It was fun having gotten the hang of throwing people over my shoulder and running to safety as fast as possible. Self defence big style.

      • I disgree that Boxing is not suitable for Catholics. While boxing has it’s risks it seems to me that it has lots of noble qualities. It instill discipline, keeps kids out of gangs, allows (trained) kid to keep themselves from being bullied at school etc.

        It’s also alot more technical than many realise. If you watch Charlie Flynns post fight interview he describes the tactics he employed in neutralising the other boxers attempts to defeat him.

        Anyway, my original intention of the post was just to congratulate Charlie Flynn who has done incredibly well. He is basically an amateur boxer with little funding who was fighting against other boxers who were fully funded. He was working part-time at the post office to support himself. When he was at St. Michael school he used to get up really early and train for 2 hours before attending Mass (my son told me this). He was unbelievably dedicated and focussed.

        If you look at the boxing results you can see that he won every bout of the competition without losing a round (every fight was 3-0).

        • cbucket

          Whilst I fully support your acknowledgement of Charlie Flynn’s outstanding achievement and of your advocacy of monitored boxing as a sporting activity fit for Catholics to participate in, it is important to realise that this topic may open a real can of worms, in that the discussion might move along to deciding which lawful activities, careers and occupations are not to be adopted by Catholics.
          One, amongst many, which springs to mind is this:- Should Catholics voluntarily serve in any capacity in the Armed Forces? After all, someone might die or suffer horrific injuries.

  4. There was a time when boxing was the only way for a person to feed his family, especially in the days of ‘no Catholics need apply. ‘

    It was maybe a dangerous sport but still a lot safer than going down a coal mine or on to a construction site. Boxing also led many a young man away from crime by channelling their GOD-GIVEN talents away from a life of crime.

    Personally though, I am not as keen on it as much as I was when younger, the same with football, but I put that down to the excessive greed and cheating.

  5. What I find so pathetic is the way the opponents ‘glare’ at each other at the weigh-in, like we’re all supposed to think…’oh, boy – what a fight THIS is going to be’….

    They must think we were born yesterday.

  6. Boxing is a noble sport. Politically correct nonsense tries to demean it. I know a young boxer who is in the same stable as Reece McFadden and I can assure you the discipline of those young men is second to none unlike some primaddonna young footballers!

  7. A few thoughts. Firstly, the practise was common in Ancient Rome, and indeed the early Church banned people from going to view it and, I beleive, it only reappeared in England after the reformation.

    That said medieval Europe had in it some of the most dangerous sports that have ever existed. One only thinks of jousting where in a tournament people would ram pieces of wood the weight of a ships mast into another man. This suggests that not all violent sports are prohibited.

    I think it’s perhaps healthy to view it as with the question of Halal meet. St Paul tells us that it is permissible to eat meet sacrificed before idols because the gods in question are fake. However in the same passage of Scripture he also cautions us very carefully so as to make sure we don’t cause scandal to anyone (such as the newly converted, who might think you were honouring their former god). Therefore it MAY be permissible to engage in boxing,but not if it could be a cause for scandal (such as telling a boxing when you have a friend who has become a Catholic after having previously lived a violent life style where they beat their spouse or were beaten themselves.

    • No One You Know,

      That’s very interesting, all of your post. I didn’t know boxing was banned by the early Church in Ancient Rome.

      I agree, it’s best to leave it to individuals since it’s not banned now, and let people make up their own minds. I don’t have strong views one way or the other.

  8. I for one believe that boxing is a good sport for Catholics to be involved in. This sport, when participated in correctly, with full regulations etc, teaches people self-restraint, provides them with a good focus, and also gives them a high level of physical fitness, with improved co-ordination and skills. It has kept many people on the straight and narrow, with boxing clubs in poor neighbourhoods.

    If one criticises boxing, then one might as well criticise other sports that cause violence, hatred and rivalry. Rugby is violence. Should Catholics play that? So is football. You see players kicking each other up in the air, scissor tackles, over the top tackles. Look at the time when Roy Keane, when he broke Haaland’s leg on purpose. Hardly a healthy example is it? Football causes inter-communal hatred with rivalries, as seen with Celtic V Rangers.

    In conclusion, Catholics should participate in boxing, as much as they do with other sports, as long as they are played correctly.

    • I don’t like any of the sports you list. In fact, I think sport has become a god in the UK. It takes up time on the news bulletins and there is always some major sporting event being televised for hours on end. All rough sports are dangerous and so I can’t see how they can be “disciplined” or teach self restraint. That’s a real puzzlement to me. To me, being restrained means not punching or kicking someone.

    • Catholic Convert

      I wouldn’t believe the press stories about inter communal hatred surrounding Celtic and Rangers. Certainly there has been elements of this, especially in the past, but the vast majority of Celtic and Rangers fans get on with each other with no problems.

      I grew up in a tough Glasgow housing scheme and I never experienced any hatred. In fact, my best friend for over twenty years is a Protestant and a Rangers fan. I work with Rangers fans and I love beside them. I’ve never experienced any hatred.

      That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, especially in days gone by, but I wouldn’t believe all the hype. This is the type of thing that carries the myth going, people who have probably never stepped foot in Glasgow trying to speak authoritively on the matter.

        • Frankier,

          Either that or you have been unlucky. I have never known anyone to experience anything like that, Catholic or Protestant.

          • Petrus

            I have certainly not been unlucky. Maybe It`s because I have been out in the world. With all due respect, teachers, which I believe you are one, have never actually left a school environment and I don`t mean that in a disrespectful way. Priests, in my opinion, also come under that category which makes them feel that all is well in the big outside world.

            Everyone, including their great grannies, know that Scotland is a hate-filled anti-Catholic country and it is not just in the West of Scotland. And it is certainly not just in housing schemes. In my experience as a building contractor I found it in the highest quarters in the land.

            I have mentioned before that in the Scottish Parliament there is a “respected” lawyer (MSP) who openly talked about “another
            f”*^ing Catholic getting a job” and complaints by a number of people were ignored. If you wish to know her identity you will see her sitting
            and nodding behind Alex Salmond on tonight`s Scottish News while Alex is being ravaged by a dead sheep.

            The young boxer who won the gold medal recently was hugged by his Royal Mail colleagues when he went back to work on Monday
            and it was lovely to see.

            This, however, was in stark contrast to the experience of a young nephew of mine who also works with Royal Mail in a Scottish seaside town. When Pope Benedict was coming to Scotland he, and other Catholic workers, were subjected to a daily helping of filth about
            paedophile priests and bishops as well as the cost TO THEM of the visit. He was almost sick with nerves every morning in case he would
            break and retaliate then lose his job.

            That was bad enough but it was decided to keep it up well after the visit and it became the cry that all Catholics were paedophiles.
            Even telephone calls from my nephew`s wife, who was/is suffering from cancer, to the manager was ignored since it was considered to be just a bit of banter.

            This, by the way, happens in a lot of workplaces in Scotland outside the “sheltered” environments.

            I just wonder though if these cowards, who are always in the majority, would have acted differently if one of the Catholic workers had walked in with a gold medal for boxing. I think I know the answer and this is one of the reasons I agree that Catholics should participate in the sport.

            This story had a happy ending though. I personally intervened by approaching one of the bigots when he was alone doing his postal
            round and asked him nicely (you can believe that if you like) to get it stopped. And funnily enough the persecution ceased.

            This is the real Scotland.

            • The Scotland I grew up in was certainly rife with sectarianism. A typical example – as a lad of around 8 years old, I recall going off to collect some tadpoles from the local pond in a jam-jar, the kind of thing youngsters would do during the school holidays. Suddenly a bunch of older neds would appear and start asking ‘whit team dae you support?’ or ‘whit school dae you go tae?’

              God help you if you said the wrong thing or gave the wrong answer – you would be verbally abused, spat upon, kicked, punched, pelted with missiles and chased for your very life.

              The workplace was no picnic, either. Your very presence was resented, there were always those poking fun at your beliefs and treating you with utter disdain for holding them (on one occasion I was asked if I’d been drinking Holy Water….!). I had the misfortune of standing among Rangers fans at one or two football matches. Their hatred of Catholics and all things Catholic was literally spewing out of them throughout.

              If, as has been suggested, ‘things are much better than they used to be’, this is only because the vast majority of ‘Catholics’ are well and truly protestantised and have lost all sense of Catholic identity.

  9. Petrus

    Although my subsequent request is (more than slightly) off topic, since it is a quiet afternoon and ennui is not far away, I was wondering if you could go into more detail as to how you “work with Rangers fans and love beside them”? Sincerely, I am intrigued. LOL

  10. I like boxing, I used to follow it a lot on TV (less so now, for various reasons) and attended one of the boxing events during the Commonwealth games.

    I grew up watching it, as my Grandfather was a big boxing fan.

    I admire the self-discipline, effort, dedication and courage of boxers; especially that which goes on away from the public eye: long hours of training and abstinence, over months, in preparation for a fight. The sport embodies some of the best attributes of manhood.

    I think its a very romantic sport; look at Charlie Flynn of Motherwell, now a hero and with the world at his feet thanks to his gold medal.

    Its easy to see why some people may find it ugly at times; but ultimately the aim isnt to hurt anyone – though I accept that cuts/bleeding are commonplace. Following tragic deaths in the sport, I think that today’s refereeing is very much engaged towards safety and prevention of injury. Its worth noting that there are sadly deaths in every physical or high risk sport.

    There is sadly a lot of vulgarity associated with professional boxing, which is also very corrupt institutionally. The vlugarity is brought on, of course, by money and the lust for profits and so we see the sport pitched in an ugly way – where aggression, arrogance and vanity are far more prominent than the attributes I listed above. Its all in the way of generating “a spectacle” so the TV companies and others can make their money.

    I think Charlies faith would be a great asset to him, if he ever became a professional boxer, in terms of helping him avoid the excesses of the celebrity and money it would bring him.

    I strongly dislike women’s boxing; I dont think that makes me a hypocrite, its ultimately the same sentiment that I dislike the idea of female soldiers for example. And there are differences in male and female bodies which make it a higher-risk sport for women.

    • Gabriel

      I agree with what you say, especially about women boxers.

      Boxing is not the only sport though where there is vulgarity. The greed is as bad in football, cycle racing, rugby, athletics, horse racing, etc.

      It always was and always will be.

    • Gabriel Syme,

      I didn’t even know there were women boxers. I agree with you about that. I can’t imagine two women boxing. Ugh!

      • Indeed there are professional women boxers, one of whom is Mohammed Ali’s daughter. Women boxed at the Commonwealth Games. If you are uncomfortable about women boxing, what about women playing rugby, football, hockey, swimming, diving? What about women serving as Police Officers or in the Armed Forces? Or should they simply sew, cook, clean and raise children?

        • I notice you do this a lot, “what about this or that” – comparing applies and oranges.

          IMHO there is something particularly unattractive about the image of two women punching each other. I just don’t like it. It is not at all like the other examples you give, except for rugby and football which are also games that women would not look good playing.

          I also dislike your denigration of those of us who sew, cook, clean and raise children, all important and useful activities, unlike punching people.

          • First of all it is nice to be noticed, thanks for that!
            Your claim that boxing is unlike the other sports I mentioned is compromised by your excepting rugby and football from your own generalisation.
            You conveniently ignored my query regarding Police Officers or women serving in the Armed Forces.
            Finally, I intend no denigration of women performing household tasks and raising children. Indeed, the converse is true. Housewifery is as much a vocation as other caring professions. It is simply asking what duties, careers, sporting activities are in your opinion suitable for Catholic women. I do believe I have seen videos of nuns playing volleyball.

            • I think from my reply it is obvious why I exempt rugby and football as they seem rougher than hockey, swimming, and diving. I don’t think woman playing hockey or swimming and diving is ugly, while I do think that is must look ugly to see two women punching each other. I’ve never seen it, so I can only imagine.

              You ask “What about women serving as Police Officers or in the Armed Forces” and my answer is the same as Therese gave.

              I think the way you spoke about women who “simply” sew, cook, clean and raise children suggests you don’t really think that much of housewives and you add to that impression by comparing it to “the other caring professions”. Being a wife and mother is way above just being another “caring profession.”

              As for the nuns you’ve seen on video playing volleyball – so what? Is volleyball a rough sport? Do they hit each other playing volleyball or what? It’s not something I know anything about. Have you seen a video of two nuns boxing?

              I hope I’m not making a personal remark here but I have to say that you seem to be wanting to pick fights all the time. I mean no disrespect. I’m not interested in making smart alec replies to you, I just don’t like to see two women (or two men) punching each other for sport. I am sorry that seems to anger you because I don’t feel angry that you are a fan of boxing. It’s not an illegal activity, it just doesn’t appeal to me.

              I’m not going to apologise for my point of view. I dislike boxing, end of. Sorry if that upsets you.

              • I have no problem with you disliking women boxing, Naturally, since you have never seen it, and would presumably never watch it, you have only your imagination as a basis for your opinion. That is okay, it is your decision.
                What I do have a problem with is your accusatory and ill founded assumptions that I am wanting to pick fights all the time and the insinuation that I seek to make smart Alec remarks. Nothing could be further from the ‘Catholic Truth'(!)
                In reference to women as housewives I deliberately used the term “vocation” and one cannot get a more caring profession than that. The use of the word “simply” was, in fact, the reverse of denigration — it was an ironic rebuttal of the current fashion to regard a housewife as unfulfilled. I am sorry that it went over your head and gave you the wrong impression of my views on wives and mothers, whom I love dearly.

                • I decided to watch two women boxing on Youtube to make sure my imagination was not playing tricks on me. This is what I saw – if anything it is worse than what I imagined

                  Since you say you love wives and moithers dearly, would you like to see your wife, if you have one, or your mother boxing, like the two women on the video?

                  I did not accuse you of making “smart alec” replies. I said I wouldn’t do that. You seem to want to prove my point about you picking fights even while you are denying it.

                  I think we are not going to agree so it may be better if we just agree to disagree on this.

                  • Thank you for your response, and for taking the trouble to actually watch a video of women boxing.
                    Yes, I agree that it was disturbing and yes I agree that I would not relish seeing either my mother or my late wife voluntarily participating in such a sport.
                    My position is this:-
                    Is such activity legal?
                    Is such activity sinful?
                    Has such activity been condemned by the Church?
                    Are contestants forced to fight each other?
                    Are contests regulated by rules enforcing standards of fair play and personal safety?
                    I am therefore prepared to accept Boxing as a legitimate sporting activity enjoyed by willing participants whether such people are or are not Catholics.
                    Anyway, as a final comment – if you read through our posts, you will see that the only one who has slipped into personal abuse is your self. Never mind, we can indeed agree to disagree. Best wishes.

                    • Mikidiki,

                      (to Fidelis)…

                      “… if you read through our posts, you will see that the only one who has slipped into personal abuse is your self.”

                      I have just read through every one of Fidelis’s posts on this thread and there is not a single personal remark in any one of them, not to you or to anyone else. .

                      You clearly feel very strongly that boxing is a good thing and you appear to be very intolerant of anyone who thinks differently. Nobody said it was illegal and nobody said it was sinful. It may be sinful. I don’t know. But it is perfectly legitimate to argue that it may not be a suitable sport for Catholics. I’d say the same about any other sport which has the aim of injuring opponents.

                      I will say this, though, after reading through your robust defence of boxing. I hope readers of this blog take note of your strength of feeling and ask themselves if they feel half as strongly about the attacks on our holy Faith from the Pope down, which they are witnessing through liturgical abuses and modernist preaching in their parishes. It is my dream, now, that they learn from your heartening example and fight half as hard to defend the Faith under attack from their modernist priests and bishops as you have, so laudably done, on this blog to defend boxing.

                      To save time later 😀 I’ve read through my comment here very carefully and there is not a single solitary personal remark in there, as there are none in any of the comments posted by Fidelis on this thread. Indeed, it is because Fidelis is one blogger who never makes personal remarks that your accusation caught my eye and I decided to read through each one very carefully indeed. Far from there being any unkind personal remarks, there is praise for you in this comment, so perhaps this is a good point at which to echo the sentiment already expressed by Fidelis and yourself, that we might now agree to disagree.

                      I’m away from my computer quite a bit in the next few days so I won’t be engaging further in this debate. I will, of course, if necessary, remove all and every personal remark on checking, but apart from that I’m afraid my interest in this topic is waning big time as I’m sure is true of yourself and the others. We’ve boxed to death, so to speak… Time to jump out of the ring 😀

        • Mikidiki

          I’m not uncomfortable about women boxing, I just think it’s unpleasant to watch and rather stupid. Hockey’s OK, swimming’s OK, diving’s OK. Women serving as police officers – OK as long as they are in specific areas – ie sexual assault/rape cases. If I’m ever unfortunate enough to be attacked I’d rather have a big burly policeMAN coming to my aid than a policewoman. Ditto, if I’m trapped on the second floor of a burning building, I want a big strong man to come to my aid and carry me down, rather than a woman. Self preservation before political correctness for me.

          As for the armed forces – it passes my comprehension why any woman would want to go into battle. Notwithstanding a woman’s personal views on favour of such a “career”, it is unfair on the men who have to fight alongside women as it has been proved (specifically in the Israeli army) that, nature being what it still is – men are more affected by the violent death and imminent danger of death to their female comrades than to the males and take extra risks to protect the females. I think that that is admirable on the males’ part, and very selfish on the females in putting them in such a position.

  11. What a great achievement for young Charlie. I’ve known a number of boxers, and they were all level headed guys. It’s as valid a sport as any other. The Quiet Man wouldn’t have been the same without it.

  12. I have now quickly read this thread and I just cannot apologise enough for stating my personal opinion about boxing. I had no idea it would annoy anyone let alone make anyone as angry as some appear to be on this thread.

    I have absolutely no authority within the Church. I expressed a merely personal view about the unsuitability of boxing for Catholics, as I see it. I had no idea that others held such strongly positive views about the subject.

    To be frank, there isn’t a sport on the face of the earth than interests me. I did learn to swim an I did watch Andy Murray play tennis once but I can’t remember the last time I went swimming or watched tennis. I am, however, encouraging one of my young nephews to learn tennis, whereas I would never encourage him to learn boxing. That’s just my personal view.

    My intention was not to insult anyone or take away from the achievement of Charlie Flynn who – judging by his appearance on TV a couple of times – seems to be quite a character. A very likeable character indeed.

    So, I’m sorry I expressed my personal view. I really can’t help thinking as I do about it, but I am perfectly ready to recognise that others may well know better and I note that lots of good points have been made in favour of boxing.

    What I have to say disappoints me somewhat, is the dismissive through to hostile attitude of some bloggers towards my personal opinion. There is no need for that. It introduces a sour note into the discussion which is why I have elected to make a general comment here instead of, as I would normally do, answer individuals. I do not want to risk prolonging unpleasantness, so, if anyone still wishes to comment on this topic, I would ask that you stick to the issues and leave any sarcasm to me 😀

  13. Graeme Taylor posted the following comment on the General Discussion thread yesterday by mistake:

    The long term brain damage suffered by boxers is just simply wrong. It should be banned.

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