There’s no denying it – boxing can be a violent, dangerous sport. In a recent article, one rabbi does a fairly good job of summarizing the history of Jews in boxing. Medical conditions that have been known to result from frequent, intense boxing are also well fleshed out in the article. The rabbi also brings a unique spin by discussing the religious ramifications of boxing. He cites various sources to come to the conclusion that, according to Jewish law, boxing is forbidden.
The rabbi chooses to emphasize all of the negative aspects of boxing, which generally only happen in the most extreme cases. Not everyone gets into boxing to become a full-time professional, going from title belt to title belt and cashing large checks. Boxing can also be used for strength, conditioning, discipline and self-defense. For certain members of society, better they take out their anger and aggression in a gym than on the streets.
Cardio exercises in the form of boxing can be some of the best in the world, and they don’t always need to involve hitting another person. The training and regiment alone can put anyone into the best shape of their lives, without ever having to step foot in a boxing ring. Boxing-style workouts can involve punching bags, jump ropes and weight training.
And for those who wish to actually step into a boxing ring and face an opponent – protective gear can be worn to minimize the risk of damage. Facing a real opponent can teach people how to think on their feet and react to certain situations. Like with all things in life, a person can either learn to fail, or fail to learn.
For those that actually make it to the professional level, long-term injuries don’t have to be a guarantee. Each boxer has to know their own limits, and throw in the proverbial towel when it’s time to quit. Consulting with a medical professional on a regular basis, especially before even taking up a particular sport, is always recommended.
I’m no rabbi. All I can say in response to the sources that this particular rabbi cites is that those who hold by these kinds of traditions should consult with their own religious leader. Explain why they wish to take on a sport like boxing. Explain what they hope to gain from the experience. Nothing in the world is solely black or white. Perhaps their rabbi can help them to find a way to take on the sport, while still remaining in their religious comfort zone.
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