The past week had been a time for mourning for most fans of boxing when Muhammad Ali, considered “the greatest” in his sport, was pronounced dead on June 3 this year. His performance in the ring proved him worthy for that title for he had defeated countless opponents in his time. Although he had passed away, his memory remains in the hearts of those who look up to him.
Today, we see Manny Pacquiao astound the world’s population whenever he plays in the ring. As a fellow Filipino, I couldn’t be more proud whenever he raises both his gloved-hands in the middle of the arena, wearing his championed belt, while the anthem of our country reverberates in the midst of cheering audience. He throws his punches in the rounds of his games and sometimes receives quite a number from his opponents. He may lose or win, but the world’s applause echoes even as he bleeds red or swells purple from his bruises.
In spite of their records and legacy, both Pacquiao and Ali may share something in common – causing and enduring pain for entertainment. The world seems interested to see them get hurt or to inflict pain to anyone who attempts to match against them.
Although boxing is a sport that is universally legal and acceptable, it may reflect the reality that has been particularly common in humanity’s history whether it is being participated or perpetuated. What is its difference from the historical gladiator matches — where men wore armors, wield spears, swords, or clubs, and, to the interest of everyone in the coliseum, strike each other to their deaths until only one stands victorious? Perhaps the difference lay in the end of both matches as far as life is concerned. For boxers, either of the opponents may be injured, but both still gasp for air. For gladiators, those who lose may end up in their graves.
To view this in panorama, these sports may vary in differences, but it’s undeniable that they are tinged with violence where pain is given and received. Although gladiator matches have long been extinct since the world entered modernization and human rights activists began to emerge from reality’s cruelties and parade the streets, it can easily be noticed that its rules and tradition are being inherited by boxing (except for the deaths and decapitations). We see players in the ring as the ancient Romans watch gladiators on the field. We see them defend themselves with their arms against their faces as gladiators covered their bodies in shields. We see them attack in punches just as Romans witnessed gladiators swing their bladed weapons. For most of the time, we cheer despite their injury in the manner that the Romans cheered regardless of the gladiators’ dismemberment.
In defense though, I am not against boxing, since it is part of the sports industry that can be good for the economy (besides the interest of many). It still has its major advantages in relation to tradition, business, pop culture, and fame – a reason quite applicable for any sports analysts, apologists, or athletes to stand for.
However, should violence still be condoned in a world where peace, equality, and the opportunity to live justly and well are being fought for? Do our cheers and interests in sports involving the infliction of pain among players reflect our desire to see others getting hurt? I guess HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has a reason for being one of the most-watched television series today with all its bloodbath and mass killings. We eagerly wish for our favorite character or player to win to the extent of hoping for those who stand in their way to face death or paralyze in severe injury.
But despite its theoretical involvement in these aspects, is violence an innate part of our being? Should it be a response to a form of disagreement? Should it be a tool to break barriers? Should it be done to ascend on the ladder of success and fame and greatness?
Perhaps it was a solution done by people who were considered great in their time. Kublai Khan conquered most of Asia by raiding villages and killing or enslaving most of those who resided in them. Herod, threatened by the arrival of the rightful King of the Jews, decreed the killing of children with the earnest desire to halt the possibility of his removal from power. Even Hitler murdered millions to fulfill his vision of seeing the world dominated by what he considered the master race.
Among these who practiced violence to get what they want may indeed achieve their heart’s utmost desires, but violence has its tendency to return to its source. Asia has survived in diverse nations, the Roman Empire fell into disgrace, and the Second World War ended with the abolition of Nazism.
Quite the contrary, those who do not condone acts of violence in human history have, to this day, influenced myriad of followers. Jesus Christ spread the message of love as this is His greatest commandment. Mahatma Gandhi led a bloodless revolution against colonizers in India through his salt march. Confucius’ philosophy still weaves the values we have today.
Although the possibility of repelling violence from the world is still far from reality, as humans, what separates us from most species is our wisdom. With wisdom comes our ability to choose. Through our choices and the choices those around us make, we may be able to determine the difference between right and wrong. And we also need to be reminded that our choices make us who we are.
Indeed, we can watch brutal TV shows or cheer for players in some sports that require them to knock each other down. We can’t do anything about that because the actors in the TV shows are paid to act for the plot of the story as much as the players in sports are trained to win the prize. Nevertheless, our choices do matter when we respond to some situations that might challenge us to imitate what actors do in their roles or what athletes do in the ring.
With so much violence happening in the world today, there’s enough proof to see consequences of its prevalence, particularly in war-torn countries. We’ve seen in the news how refugees were eager to leave their homes to escape terrorism. Some of them even drowned in the sea or their corpses washed on the shores of a foreign land. We’ve read about how an unconscious 23-year-old woman was raped by a student-athlete. We’ve witnessed how a musician got shot onstage in her concert without knowing that her life ended as suddenly as that incident. The list continues and will probably continue so long as we don’t do something about it.
There may be laws against these. But repelling something evil starts within ourselves. Before we even think about harming others, we have to know the consequences of our actions despite the reasons behind them. Better yet, we might as well imagine ourselves in the situation of those who had been victims of violence. By now, we should know how it feels to be the one who gets inflicted with pain.
It is true that not all of us can be athletes like Muhammad Ali or Manny Pacquiao. So, what gives us the right to punch someone? It is certain that not many of us can act in Game of Thrones and brandish swords to behead our enemies to intensify the plot. So, why do we still wage war? What is within the scope of our reality is that we are human beings that are capable of choices. As far as violence is concerned, we can repel it by choosing to unite with peace, equality, and the shared opportunity of a life well-lived in justice and compassion.