The dreadful consequences of Dundee boxer Mike Towell’s fight in Glasgow on Thursday night starkly illustrate the dangers of the ring.
“Iron” Mike was knocked out in the fifth round of the British welterweight title and last night the desperately sad news was announced that he had died.
The moniker “Iron” should be applied to every man and women who climbs into the ring in my view.
Every time one of those brave battlers goes through the ropes the ultimate prize of life is put at risk.
There is no hiding place, nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. The contest pits competitor against competitor in a gruelling test of courage, fitness and belief.
The prize is very often scant in monetary terms but for most boxers it’s about the glory not the gore, the majesty not the money. The guts required to stand toe to toe in the ring is beyond the ken of most ordinary folk.
The stakes are the highest they can be and yet the risks often outstrip the rewards. The boxer is on the cusp of mortal danger with every punch and the punishment the human body must withstand in the contest is unforgiving.
Yet these gladiators accept the challenge without murmur or complaint. It is their trade, their livelihood, their reason for being.
They accept willingly and without demur the dangers posed under the brutal glare of the lights, where every character flaw and weakness is exposed for all to see.
No hiding place, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, from the rein of blows, from the jabs, the uppercuts, the haymakers, every one of which potentially poses the deadliest of threats.
The iron discipline required of the fighter begins in the gym and is a journey of constant training, strict diet, and punishing fitness regime. It all leads to one destination, an enclosed ring measuring up to 6.10 metres square, within which deeds of desperate daring and bruising battles are enacted.
Within those bare dimensions, greater measurements are exhibited to public scrutiny.
There we find measured in exact quantities, guts, heart, stamina, and above all the indomitable human spirit.
The fighter faced with the foe who is fitter, faster, and stronger, who knows this and yet willingly matches up. The fighter who risks it all against the full gamut which the sport can throw at him: the showman, the stylist, the big hitter, and yet still gamely pulls the gloves on.
The noble art can be ignoble at times, but dressed in its finest regalia it’s an exhibition of the finest traits of humanity. Watch two boxers scrap, sweat, clinch and maul in a bruising battle with no quarter asked or given, and then watch the sportsmanship of vanquished and victor at its conclusion and fail to be moved, then you possess a heart of stone.
Boxers possess hearts of oak, which in desperate times such as this can be broken with grief and pain.
They accept fully, the dangers, the risks, the trials and the tribulations which are constant companions in the ring. For this they are worthy of our greatest admiration and respect.
My thoughts are with Mike’s family and friends at this incredibly sad time.