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Pope Starts Fight

BY Robert Ecksel ON October 16, 2005
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The view from the Vatican must be different from the view everywhere else. Seat of a world religion, home of spiritual treasures and fine art, when the Vatican speaks, the faithful listen … as do we heathens in the fight game.

A leading Jesuit journal, Civlta Cattolica (“Catholic Civilization�), mouthpiece of the Pontiff’s inner circle, decreed in its recent issue that boxing is bad. In an article titled “The Immorality of Professional Boxing,� the Vatican pulls no punches when it says the sweet science, “From a moral point of view� is “gravely and absolutely negative.�

Boxing certainly is “grave� and “absolute� – no argument there – but “gravely and absolutely negative?� And we thought redemption was your thing.

After comparing boxing to the gladiatorial contests in ancient Rome, about which the church knows a thing or two, the author of the article got down to business: “Professional boxing is manipulated by powerful economic groups, which are often ruthless and cruel, and for whom the boxer is not a man but only a machine to make money."

Boxing is “manipulated by powerful economic groups,� no doubt about it, but so is everything else, including the church. And if history is any guide, “ruthlessness� and “cruelty� are not the province of boxing promoters alone.

Riccardo De Girolami, secretary-general of the Italian Boxing Federation, read the article and claimed it was full of "clichés" about boxing. "They don't really know the sport," he said. "The competitive level is like any other sport."

The article in Civilta Cattolica even goes so far as to describe boxing as a "legalized form of attempted murder"; it is, in that regard, like war.

From their perspective, these must look like the end times to the pope and his crew. Floods, earthquakes, plague, pestilence, famine … it’s like something plucked from the pages of the bible. But it’s always apocalypse now – pick a century – pick a continent – pick a natural resource – and things don’t look to change any time too soon.

If the church with its zillions and moral high ground wants to fight the good fight and clean up the planet, we’re in your corner, let’s lace up gloves, let’s get it on; but every great champ needs a great opponent … Why go after your own?

Countless boxers over time have been good (and bad) Catholics. Think of all the rough-and-tumble Irish pugs, the legions of never-say-die Italian scrappers, the little kids from way back when with their rebellious athleticism quitting the rosary for the ring: the Sullivans, Corbetts, Fitzsimmons, Tunneys and McLarnins; the Marcianos, Grazianos, Peps, Canzoneris and Basilios; the Carpentiers and Cerdans; the Arguellos and Monzons; the Zales and the Zivics; the whole fantastic dazzling kaleidoscopic array of Catholic warrior-heroes.

War, hunger, poverty, grotesque inequality on a global scale – those are fights the church needs to make to prove its mettle. For the church to pick on a lowly sport is not a sign of strength, it’s a sign of guile. Attacking boxing is not naïve; it’s a ruse. Read more at the BLOG

Robert Ecksel

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