On boxing, free will and rules.

In today’s paper I read about the Swedish professional boxer Frida Wallberg who after a TKO in a professional boxing fight is in very bad condition. gp.se claims Frida is suffering from what they call cerebral hemorrhage and she underwent surgery at a hospital in Stockholm.

My thoughts are with Frida and I wish her a quick recovery, nevertheless I want to elaborate a couple of thoughts on safety and free will.

Boxing as a sport is to some extent hazardous in its nature. The aim is to cause damage to your opponent. The very specific word used for boxing matches is the word fight. Thefreedictionary.com defines fight as:

  1. To attempt to harm or gain power over an adversary by blows or with weapons.
  2. Sports To engage in boxing or wrestling.

This says something about the nature of boxing.

One thing I find peculiar is that there was another fight that started after that Frida had been injured. Imagine this as an accident at work. Then the Protection Officer probably should have stopped operations  to take precautions in order to avoid the accident from happening again. Especially if there were more work to be conducted of exactly the same sort.

Professional boxing is an occupation by definition but there seem to be another standard when it comes to occupational health and safety.

One can argue that the boxers know the risks and are aware of the conditions. It is their own choice. But what risks are we prepared to take within our society? It is against the law to drive your car unbuckled.  Here society has made a statement that you will be punished if you violate a rule which sole purpose is the protection of the individual. The seat belt is an example of paternalism but when does paternalism counter act its fundamental purpose of the greater good?

My intention is not to moralize about boxing but Fridas unfortunat accident made me come to reason a bit about rules, paternalism and safety.

In the context were I am, safety is of great importance. Safety probably is one of the fundamental values of the society I live in. The major trends to enhance safety in many cases are to introduce rules and regulations. There is no question about the greate progress that has come thanks to this development. On the other hand there are no free lunches. With a lot more rules and regulations the room for adaptation is decreasing and this might be a new risk in it self. The irony is that the more complex society grows the more we must rely on adaptations to be able to succeed under various conditions and to then answer with more constraints doesn’t seem as the wisest way.

I don’t think rules and regulations or paternalism is the sole answer. Depending on the values and priorities in the society in question safety might not even be desired and thus the question must first be understood from that perspective. Or else it we might impose a system on a group of people that is apart from their culture. This argumentation can be seen as a bit apart  it selves but when we are boiling it down to the law of use of seat belt and if professional boxing should be allowed it is in its place.

Another perspective is that man has a free will and is thus responsible for her own actions and should be free to make her own decisions. But when the impact is a lot more people killed in traffic by not using the belt, should it then be up to the end user to make that decision? One might have made a conscious choice to sacrifice some safety in trade for comfort.

Not many would argue against the law of using seat belt but there are many more risks that might be reduced by paternalism, rules and regulations. How do we find the point of balance, when are we enough safe but still free to make our own choices? The choises that constitute the ability to adapt.

Comments are as always very welcome!

/Fredrik Forsman


3 responses to “On boxing, free will and rules.

  • Jenso

    Such a big question – but a very interesting twist on the fact that she is a proffesionall boxer!

  • Frederick Grönvall

    Very well written and a discussion worth taking seriously! As far as I’ve understood this accident happened in a match that had been prolonged from the 12 minute match authorities have agreed on for safety reasons. We can only speculate as to whether this would have happened in a shorter match (it might of course) but it does certainly look bad when accidents happen during times when there had been exceptions to the agreed safety measures!
    Be that as it may but I find there’s often discussion about paternalism as long as things proceed according to plan but often the discussion after an accident has occured turn to questions of why “the community” didn’t do something to stop it! A hard nut to crack indeed!

  • alexanderfranding

    Well written Fredrik! I can’t help but to draw a parallel to another high risk profession, prostitution. Like boxing, as old as mankind. Free will? Maybe. No rules? Hardly. Legal? Well, in Germany they do get unemployment benefits. I do think it’s the obligation of government to manage risks for its people and maximize value of each tax dollar. This may mean banning prostitution, professional boxing and mandating bicycle helmets (like in Australia). Who is paying Frida’s hospital bills? Her manager?

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