Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Boxing clever

Photo credit: Chris Royle

Last weekend was a big one for British boxing. But while the much-hyped stateside battle between Amir Khan and Zab Judah was a bit of a flop, the fight between underdog Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora this side of the pond was the exact opposite.

Fury really pulled something special out of the punch bag against Chisora. It was skillful, dignified and fascinating to watch, with both men working to their strengths: Chisora with his fierce, punishing blows and Fury with his fancy footwork and clever combos. Both fighters gave it their all and thoroughly thrilled the crowd.

But as a Christian, should I really be watching one man smack the living daylights out of another? Is this the “good fight” the apostle Paul talks about in his letters to Timothy (1 Timothy 6)?

Well it seems there are two schools of thought on this: namely the male and the female viewpoint. The men I talk to give me more or less the same answer. They explain that boxing is a sport, that it is good for the body and that it helps to focus the mind.

But what if you injure someone or give them brain damage, I ask? How is that good for mind or body? They look at me as if I’m a complete moron and reply that if that happens, one simply stands in faith and prays for the injured party. Besides, it hardly ever happens, they assure me.

Meanwhile, most of the women I ask seem to share my views. It makes for uncomfortable, yet compelling viewing (mainly watched from between our fingers, which are glued over our eyes as soon as the first punch is thrown). Just as long as no-one gets seriously hurt, we tell ourselves.

The debate becomes more interesting when we learn that there are several Christian boxers on the scene: Fury and Judah to name just two. Neither seems to have any problem reconciling their work and their faith.

In fact, Judah claims he is doing a “great job” of serving God in Sin City. Having earned himself quite a reputation over the years for street fighting, unsportsmanlike behaviour and promiscuity, he claims his life has radically changed since he became a Christian.

He told the Daily Mirror: “Maturity has come with age but I give all credit to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has humbled me and given me the mental standpoint of a man. I have finally grown up and come to understand what life is really about.”

Meanwhile, Fury entered the ring on Saturday wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “I found Jesus” and claims he prays for his opponents before he fights.

The regular churchgoer told the Daily Star: “I try to do everything by the Bible. I’ve read testaments in church and I pray a lot. It’s the most important thing to me, more important than boxing.”

With probably the most apt name in boxing history, it seems appropriate to let Fury have the last word. In fact he sums up the ‘Christians in boxing’ debate quite succinctly.

“I don’t have a problem reconciling my religion with boxing,” he says. “God gives me the strength and belief to win.”

Read the full Tyson Fury story in Sorted November-December.

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