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Original Issue


I was uplifted and saddened by the excellent special report on boxing in your April 11 issue (Too Many Punches, Too Little Concern, and An Encounter to Last an Eternity). The last prize fight I watched was in 1981, when Larry Holmes beat Leon Spinks into submission. At the time I was struck by the pure savagery of the sport, the only intent of which is to render another human being either unconscious or unable to defend himself. I wondered, how can the skull protect the brain for any length of time from such a barrage as Holmes administered to Spinks that night? However, until I read your articles, the terrible long-term toll to the brain of punching had escaped me.

I have a bachelor of science degree in zoology and have examined and dissected the brains of both cats and humans. The brain is an extremely fragile organ, sensitive to abuse in any form. Why then should we in the U.S. continue to endorse an activity that deliberately exposes human beings to the real possibility of permanent brain damage? Or, as my wife, who spent one summer in a trauma intensive-care unit caring for patients with brain injuries, says, "Why should you pay money to see done in a ring what you would get arrested for doing in a bar?"

As I was finishing the articles, a representative of the local PAL called to ask me if I would like to buy tickets to see some youngsters box. I thought of Louis and Benjie and politely told him no thank you.
Springfield, Ohio

I'm not a particularly avid boxing enthusiast. In fact, for years I've questioned how individuals could take the kind of punishment that is dealt out in the ring. Your report causes me to ponder this matter even more.

It seems only too obvious that repeated blows to the head would cause damage such as that documented by Dr. Ira Casson, and it amazes me that it has taken so long for anyone to seriously analyze the problem. I only hope that further research and greater concern in the future will result from these studies.
Greenville, S.C.

Boxing would be a much better sport if punches above the neck were simply banned.
Cataumet, Mass.

As a neuropsychologist, I am alarmed by a sport whose purpose is to beat an opponent senseless. As you point out, for every kid who fights his way out of poverty through boxing, there are too many others who fight their way into serious physical injury. Boxing should be banned!
Portland, Ore.

Your special report on boxing was worthwhile and provocative. However, it was not journalism. It was pure advocacy, using such techniques as highly selective presentation of data, shock headlines and appeals to emotion. The overall result is a distorted picture of a sport that has long been universally accepted and is a main event of the Olympic Games.

You cite the Jan. 14, 1983 issue of JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, but fail to mention that the conclusion of the report by the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs, "Brain Injury in Boxing," which appeared in that issue, was that boxing "does not seem any more dangerous than other sports presently accepted by society."

You also ignore the fact that the AMA Council Report notes statistics showing that the risk of fatality is substantially greater among college football players, motorcycle racers, jockeys and athletes in several other sports than it is among boxers.

You further ignore the fact that the Council Report includes statistics showing that at any time approximately 12,500 boxers participate in the Golden Gloves program, each averaging approximately 20 bouts per year for three to five years, but that fewer than 5% of those amateur boxers sustain a knockout blow during their careers.

Finally, you ignore the fact that the turnout for a recent AMA Conference on Medical Aspects of Boxing was tremendous, showing real concern for knowledge and reform. Genuine strides in ring safety have been made in recent years.

To suggest it is a fiction that for thousands of boys boxing provides a straight and narrow road away from disorder, indolence and crime is to disregard many well-known examples and personal testimonials. To criticize a sport because few in it are sufficiently talented to succeed on a grand scale is a false criticism. The same can be said of most fields of human endeavor, including journalism.

Efforts at improved regulation of boxing must continue, but the reality is that risk of serious injury cannot be completely eliminated from the sport. I am dismayed by the fact that there will probably be some ring deaths this year, as there were last year. But there will also be boys killed in youth baseball, young men turned into vegetables by football, jockeys crushed in horse racing and racers badly injured in motorcycling. However, in pursuit of selling magazines, it is a better bet to dwell on what is bad in boxing than to write about the risk of serious injury inherent in most other sports.
Arizona State Boxing Commission

What a pleasure it was to see Tom Seaver, the man who personifies the spirit of the Mets, past and future, have a triumphant return to New York (It Was a Terrific Homecoming, April 18). Even if Seaver doesn't win 20 games this year or strike out 200 batters, he will surely provide a spark for the team. Now if the club could only recapture the élan of the Miracle Mets, or the Amazin' Mets....
Los Angeles

It was a pleasure to read Douglas S. Looney's article on John Reaves (We Has Seen the Light, April 18). I had often wondered what Reaves's difficulties were during his last two years at Florida and most of his nine seasons in the NFL. Now I know, and thank heaven this young man was tough enough to do an about-face and begin to live up to his potential.

I hope that before long Looney and Paul Zimmerman will be able to write of an about-face by Art Schlichter, another fine young athlete, whose NFL career is currently in jeopardy because of his gambling (Has It All Been Thrown Away? April 18). His story is as depressing as Reaves's is uplifting.
Waynesville, N.C.

As the father of a teen-age athlete, I compliment you for featuring articles on Tom Seaver, Art Schlichter and John Reaves. These stories clearly depict how different three individuals with superior athletic talent can be. They should be required reading for all aspiring athletes.
Bellefonte, Pa.

Letters should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.