Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Baddest are the saddest

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There is one very good reason Mike Tyson, also known as Iron Mike, Kid Dynamite and The Baddest [sic] Man on the Planet, should not be permitted entry to this country that doesn't seem to have come up yet: he is a boxer.

How the notion that people who hit each other for money are great role models for young people became generally established is a mystery.

For every Muhammad Ali, an exception and exceptional in every way, there is just about every other boxer you care to mention. But Tyson is in a class of his own, as much a biter as a fighter.

In 1997, he bit a piece out of opponent Evander Holyfield's ear during a fight. In 2002, he bit opponent Lennox Lewis on the leg at a press conference to promote their upcoming bout. If this is what our disadvantaged young people need to look up to, then they have more problems than they realise.

Indeed, many boxers represent cases where someone heading down the wrong path has had his life turned around - from a life of criminal bad behaviour to a life of socially acceptable bad behaviour. But these are almost invariably young people who are starting from way back.

You don't often hear of middle-class youth with problems being encouraged to turn their lives around by taking up boxing.

Boxing is an activity whereby those from the wrong side of the tracks are trained to assault each other for the amusement of those who can afford the tickets.

The description gladiator is well chosen because, like ancient gladiators, they don't have many options.

Proponents of boxing often point to the existence of violence in the animal kingdom to justify it as part of the natural order. But in most cases animals go out of their way to avoid the high risks of fighting each other. When they do scrap, it is over food, territory and mates, not entertainment.

Humans certainly have aggressive and violent instincts - it's taming them that separates us from the beasts.

Then there's the historical argument: some form of sporting close-quarter combat has been part of human society for as long as there has been human society, so that's all right, then.

Those ever-so-sophisticated Greeks practised it, after all. But when they weren't inventing democracy and theatre, the Greeks also kept slaves and abandoned unwanted infants outdoors to perish from exposure.

The Urban Maori Authority, supporting Tyson's visit, seems to have become enthralled by the glamour of celebrity. They need to look elsewhere for role models who represent more noble, more achievable ideals than becoming heavyweight champion of the world.

Historical footnote: 12 years after the ear-biting incident Tyson - or his representative - exchanged tweets to promote Evander Holyfield's newly launched barbecue sauce.

Tyson: "@holyfield's ear would've been much better with his new BBQ sauce. Check it out." Holyfield: "My realdealbbqsauce.com will make you wanna take a bite out of someone's ear! Ask @MikeTyson - Luv ya bro!" What good sports.

It's hard to sympathise

I don't wish to appear callous, and I'm sure someone equally demented probably loved Edward Archbold, but I can't bring myself to believe that a person who dies at 32 after eating too many live cockroaches, along with other insects and worms, in a competition to win a python - as he did in Miami, Florida, last week - was ever going to make a contribution to the world in general.

- Herald on Sunday

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