Boxing Needs More Gerry Cooneys

By Shaun Murphy - The content of this article derives from conversations I often have with people who tolerate my company. I love boxing: I boxed myself, so did my grandfather (on both sides!), and I watch as many fights on You Tube that time allows (should I say that?). However, I think, people forget what type of individuals boxing attracts – usually the poorest, most uneducated, and underprivileged sections of our planet’s population. For example, if you go to Madison Square Garden among the celebrities, tycoons and Trustafarians (British slang for the born rich) you won’t find many spectators that come from the same background as the boxers. You know, that’s cool. I believe that boxing and combat sports in general give nature’s belligerents, in Ken Shamrock’s words, ‘’Somewhere to go.’.

I’m keeping a keen eye – at the moment – on Tyson Fury. I hope he makes ‘’it’’, and the lights of Las Vegas, New York and, the less glamorous, London become as familiar as brown paper bags to back-alley winos (by the way, I come under the wino banner!).

But he’s Tyson Fury, he’s already guaranteed a living from sport, but what about those who aren’t? Ever heard of Clifford Etienne? Well, his boxing career didn’t work out how he’d planned after being released from prison and after a respectable career – turning pro at twenty-nine – the calls dried up and he went under water. I’m not excusing his behaviour – I’m an ex-con myself – but the squared circle was his only chance. When Mike Tyson separated him from his consciousness and Nicola Valuev TKO’d ‘’The Rhino’’ he started to mix in his previous circles. Tragically, he’s been convicted for 150 yrs for armed robbery. Now, wasting away, in some jail cell, he probably regrets his decisions and wished he’d made another choice.

Clifford Etienne’s story isn’t unique: jails, park benches, homeless hostels and welfare cues are stacked with ex-professionals that ‘’could’ve made it’’. They didn’t, instead, all the sport has left them with is broken noses, dreams and lives. Now, I’m going to stop my Nihilism and get to the core of my article. Gerry Cooney’s F.I.S.T organization – a charity that helps ex-fighters, that haven’t attained economic stability, procure the skills needed to survive after their careers have ended, should be more common. The former Great White Hope makes the point that when a prospect is a commodity the promoters take care of all of the fighter’s needs. If he was a talented amateur, his national government would have supported him while he prepared for the Olympics, World Championships etc., and all his time is taken up training for his eventual stardom.

I believe in other sports like basketball etc., the athletes are given a college education and acquire the requisite skills to gain employment if their careers don’t work out. My point is this: I believe that the most successful fighters should channel some of their illustrious incomes into programs that help the guys they may have beaten up in their pursuit of glory. It’s the 21st century, during this Pay-Per-View generation and age of million-dollar paydays. Some of the money should be directed towards helping the people that make our great sport possible.

Article posted on 13.09.2009

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