When it comes to boxing, count me out!

HUNTING, Britain's EC membership, religion in all its guises, the death penalty - over the years I've covered stories on all those highly-controversial subjects.

Col-boxing Alex Hurrell no pic unless file pic>

HUNTING, Britain's EC membership, religion in all its guises, the death penalty - over the years I've covered stories on all those highly-controversial subjects.

It's been fascinating to hear people's strongly-held opinions and then try and report them in a fair and balanced way.

There is one subject, however, on which I cannot remain objective - boxing.

As a junior reporter, I once spent an entire day recording, by hand, each of the hundreds of animals entered for an agricultural show, all the weird and wonderful show categories, and every single result. It was probably the dullest day of my career.

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But I would rather spend a week doing that than have to report on the opening of a boxing gym or some local lad's 'progress' in the ring.

Boxing is two human beings trying to beat the living hell out of each other. Is that any part of a civilised society? I don't think so.

Unfortunately for me an awful lot of people completely disagree and I know there will be many supporters out there of Cromer twins Ryan and Liam Walsh, whose careers according to the News earlier this month, look set to 'end at the top of the boxing tree', and their brother Michael, a former flyweight champion.

I realised just how out of kilter with the rest of humanity I must be when, to my complete disgust, Muhammad Ali was crowned Sports Personality of the Century at the BBC's final sporting awards ceremony of the millennium.

No-one will ever persuade me that purposely inflicting injury on someone else is anything other than sick.

We all get very concerned about the state of society when drunks punch seven bells out of each other outside the pub on a Friday night. I see absolutely no moral difference at all. Both are mindless, vicious, dangerous and destructive acts.

And don't you pro-boxing fraternity give me any of that: 'Rugby- players-get-seriously-injured-too' guff. Yes, they surely do. But that's an occasional and unintended by-product of a game whose aim is to score points with a ball. The sole aim of boxing is to deliberately thump an opponent into submission.

Back in the 1990s, the North Yorkshire paper I worked for regularly, and excitedly, followed the progress of local lad Paul Ingle, who was in Britain's Barcelona Olympics squad and became a world featherweight champion.

I was thinking of Ingle while writing this piece and, out of curiosity, entered his name into my computer's search engine.

I learned that in December 2000 he took part in a fight at Sheffield Arena during which his opponent rained blows so hard that Ingle suffered a blood clot on the brain and underwent life-saving surgery.

The Times carried a story just two months ago marking the eighth anniversary of that bout. It said: 'Ingle now lives in a three-bedroom semi-detached house with his mother and gets by on �56 a week of disability pension. His nine-stone fighting weight has become twice that, his speech is slow and his memory shot.'

It depresses me that a 'sport' based entirely on violence is legal and its champions revered. I doubt I'll still be around on the day it's finally banned but I predict that day will come.

Meanwhile, to anyone thinking of asking me to profile some local pugilist, as they say in boxing - count me out.