Boys' fight in cage: Why the outrage?

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Media captionThe organiser of the event in Preston said it didn't breach any rules and insisted children's safety wasn't compromised.

A cage-fighting event which involved a bout between two boys aged eight and nine has generated worldwide headlines and outrage, yet many other people regard it as a healthy, harmless activity.

After seeing video of the boys' fight, held at a Labour club in Preston earlier this month, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it "feels very barbaric" and acknowledged that if children took part "some people will ask some questions".

Lancashire Police, however, will be asking no more questions - officers had "looked into this matter fully and there are no issues for us to pursue," they said.

The boys took part in a demonstration wrestling bout that involved submissions, but no punching or kicking.

Still, some readers of the BBC News website have written in to suggest the fight was "very disturbing" and that it is "macabre to watch children fighting like that".

Others, meanwhile, argue: "Isn't it more disturbing watching kids with zero fitness ability on computer consoles?"

Defending the event, promoter Marcus Holt said: "It's better them being here training, week in, week out, than running the streets and causing trouble on the streets."

'Discipline and respect'

Boxing has a long history of being seen as a tough sport in which tough boys, perhaps with anger problems, can channel their aggression productively and responsibly.

"Many of our clubs are based in areas of high social deprivation where boxing is being used to address issues such as obesity, crime and truancy," says Hannah McLafferty of the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE).

"Often, club coaches can instil discipline and respect in disaffected young people when schools have been unsuccessful."

But children under the age of 11 are not allowed to take part in bouts, and fitness sessions run by boxing gyms for younger children involve no contact.

When children are old enough to climb in the ring and fight, there are strict safety regulations in place, adds Miss McLafferty. "The safety of our athletes is of utmost importance to us."

The father of one of the boys who took part in the controversial caged bout insisted it had been safe.

"He loves the sport. It's not one bit dangerous, it's a controlled sport," said Nick Hartley.

"He likes to do it, he's never forced to do it, he wants to do it, so leave him to do it."

A spokesman for Sharefight, the company that filmed the event and broadcast it online, said: "What took place was safer than what happens in judo clubs and rugby training grounds up and down the country.

"People are reacting to the negative stereotype around cage-fighting," he added.


Shows put on by local clubs are many young amateur boxers' first experience of competition, says Miss McLafferty.

"These events are very much a family affair, with their family, club-mates and friends supporting them. Often boxers will take part in a 'skills bout' which is an introduction to competitive boxing."

This description of a supportive occasion, where the focus is on technique and athleticism, contrasts with many people's perception of a bloodthirsty cage-fighting event.

"We don't want to discourage children from doing sport, and particularly young boys, with all the social problems that we were thinking about in the summer," the culture secretary told BBC News.

"Getting more young people doing sport is great, but I do ask myself whether it really does have to be in a cage."

Could it be that much of the negative response is simply the snobbery of the chattering classes to an event they consider brutal and unpalatable?

As one BBC News website reader suggests: "For me the problem isn't that they were wrestling, it was the setting - in a cage in front of a crowd of cheering adults, who no doubt had wagers on the outcome. That is what is wrong."

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