Boxing, and its possible abolition, continues as the debate of the moment in sport. The wave of protest that began when Benny Paret received his fatal injuries in the ring swelled again after another boxer, Tunney Hunsaker, was badly hurt last week. The New York State legislature has appointed a committee to investigate the sport. The Vatican has unofficially described boxing as morally wrong, though it limited its charges to the professional game and absolved amateur boxing. A New York Times sports-writer, Robert L. Teague, appearing on David Susskind's Open End television show, argued that boxing should be banned on moral grounds—claiming that since the aim of boxing was for one man to beat the other senseless, or at least helpless, the sport appealed to the coarsest side of human nature and should be prohibited.
Cus D'Amato, manager of Floyd Patterson, heavyweight champion of the world, defended boxing. "You talk as though it was something real," David Susskind laughed. "It is real," said D'Amato. "It's ugly," said Susskind. "It is not ugly," said D'Amato and launched into a defense of boxing as a sport, with its subtleties of offense and defense, its patterns and strategies, its reliance on the courage and dedication of the fighter, its testing of a man alone. Someone mentioned the injuries and deaths. "They happen in every body-contact sport," D'Amato said, "despite every effort on the part of all interested parties. Unfortunately, they happen."
Others argued that boxing, of all sports, gave the best break to minorities. It had helped the Irish in America a century ago (when help-wanted signs said flatly, "No Irish Need Apply"). It had helped the Jews and Italians. It is now helping the Negroes and the Caribbeans. Even Robert Teague admitted this. "It is the opportunity for the low man on the ethnic totem pole," he said. "Boxing is a short cut to money, prestige, status, power."
We feel it is that, and more. It is not a gladiatorial spectacle, despite that frequently voiced charge. The gladiators were not free men. They fought because they were ordered to. And they fought to kill. A boxer's aim is to win—a significant distinction—and he goes into the ring on his own, with no weapons but his skill and courage. No athlete is better conditioned than a topflight boxer. None works harder to achieve. None depends more on himself. As we noted last week, a boxer runs a considerable risk but he stands to win a great deal, too, and not merely money.
Boxing is a hard sport, but it is a sport and a valid one.
LOST BY A BLOODY NOSE
A New York horseplayer who has had the in-and-out luck of all horseplayers suffered an unusually wry casualty loss last week. He favors doubles, parlays and that complex maneuver, the If and Reverse, which is too complex to explain here. Be content to know that he bet an If and Reverse on Daddy R in the eighth at Laurel and Mighty Fennec in the seventh at Gulfstream. Daddy R won his race handily, which meant that the horseplayer would take home $55 on a $10 investment if Mighty Fennec could come through, too. The race chart in The Morning Telegraph the next day described what happened: "Mighty Fennec worked his way up fast on the outside, appeared to have dead aim at the winner midway on the final turn and then bled from both nostrils and lost all chance of continuing his bid." Our man went at once to his neighborhood tavern and If'd and Reversed a Martini with a stinger.
MR. JUSTICE WHIZZER
Byron R. (Whizzer) White, the former All-America and All-Professional football player recently appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Kennedy, "wrote" his first opinion in an interview with Seattle Times Sports Editor Georg N. Meyers:
"The little town I grew up in, everybody played sports. When I got to college, going out for sports was the thing to do—in the sense that people thought you ought to go out if you had the capability. I am reasonably certain that there are several things sport does for you. It is good fun, and that is not to be sneezed at. It is healthful, in the main, and that is not to be sneezed at. It is the one way to get some absolute experience. Even though it is an artificial and manufactured environment, you are constantly being exposed to critical situations which require performance under pressure, and you have to respond."