Classic Column: Number of ring fatalities reduced to minimum
Classic Columns by magazine founder Nat Fleischer and other RING magazine writers over the past 86 years are posted Tuesdays. Today's column was selected because of the recent ring deaths of Benjamin Flores and Andras Nagy. Fleischer wrote in the September 1960 issue that boxing had become safer and lamented a movement in the Catholic church to urge its adherents not to box.
When one considers the large number of boxers who compete on a world-wide scale, it is amazing to note the few fatalities recorded during the past year. Although there were 11 listed, seven amateurs and four professionals, one more than the previous year, the percentage of deaths is infinitesimal.
With 2,077 boxers having competed in three or more bouts as professionals, close to 2,000 additional competitors in one or two contests, and almost 7,000 amateurs registered in the countries that are preparing for the Rome Olympic Games, one would expect an extensive list due to the severity of every contact sport.
Take American football, for example. According to the report of Dr. Floyd Eastwood, of Los Angeles City College to the American Football Coaches As┬¼so┬¼cia┬¼tion, there were 31 deaths on the gridiron in 1959, the largest [number] since 1947.
In boxing, not one professional fatality took place in the United States, the cleanest record in more than a quarter of a century. Three amateurs succumbed after bouts in England and four in our country, two of them collegians and two Golden Glovers. Yet the cry against boxing and a call for its abolition continues.
Why a clean slate among the pros? Because the medical advisors of our boxing commissions are on the alert. No longer do they listen to the boos and the catcalls of fans who yell for blood.
The majority of enthusiasts who attend boxing shows have become educated to the fact that a one-sided contest or one in which a contestant has suffered severe cuts should be stopped. They take it in the proper spirit, and because of their cooperation and the speedy action of the doctors, many of the dangers of the past have been eliminated.
Those who shout “Let’s Kill Boxing” had better study the college football report.
Should the suggestion of Pope John XXIII be accepted by the Italian people and the Catholic Church generally, the end of the Catholic Youth Organization’s international boxing program is in sight.
On January 10, the head of the Catholic Church asked that Italy’s Roman Catholics shun what were described as dangerous sports, particularly contact sports such as boxing and auto racing. It was announced that Pope John XXIII at a special gathering to be convened by him at the Synod for the Diocese of Rome, would ask that all Catholics avoid direct participation in risky sports and even attendances at such.
Though it was said that the Catholic Church would not issue an order and that Pope John XXIII would merely make this a request, usually such a request is accepted as an order, and if it goes into effect, boxing will receive another severe setback.
The Catholic Youth Organization in America furnishes many of the star amateurs for the Golden Gloves tournaments and from its organization have sprung some of the outstanding professionals, among them Tony Zale, who is now an instructor for the Chicago group.
Packey McFarland was chief of staff years ago when Cardinal Stretz appointed him. The Church in the U.S. has been a supporter of boxing in the youth movement for many years and there is no likelihood that the action in Rome will meet with wholehearted support from its executives in our country unless it is an order from The Pope.