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TIGHTER RULES ON BOXING NEEDED

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Ideally, boxing ought to be outlawed. It is the only sport whose main objective is to hit one's opponent in the head and otherwise inflict as much suffering and insensibility as possible. The upshot is to brutalize boxers and spectators alike, legitimizing violence in the process.

But public apathy and political lethargy are so great that more-modest restrictions are the best that can be expected.One such restriction was suggested this week by Dr. George Lundberg, editor of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. He called for boxing to be banned from the Olympics and eliminated as an amateur sport from branches of the U.S. military and other arenas.

Frankly, Lundberg is too optimistic. He thinks such bans would dry up the pool of talent for professional boxing. More realistically, as long as poverty persists, there likely will be those desperate enough to risk death or permanent injury in the ring. But if the quality of the talent deteriorated enough as a result of the bans suggested by Lundberg, maybe the public would finally tire of this sick spectacle - and then boxing itself might go the way of bear baiting.

Meanwhile, an even better suggestion is for tighter regulation in an effort to make boxing safer.

As it is now, boxing is regulated by no league like basketball, football and baseball. Instead, it is in the hands of 48 different state commissions plus three different sanctioning organizations.

As a result, boxers who have been knocked out in one state can avoid rules that forbid them from fighting for a certain time by going to another state. Some states don't require CAT scans, even after a fighter has been knocked out two or three times. Some do not even require ambulances to stand by outside the arena for quick use in an emergency.

When other Americans go to work, they are covered by national health and safety standards. But not a professional boxer. The very least that should be done is to require professional boxers to wear padded head gear as is done in college boxing.