Norway boxing ban shocks Holyfield

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Former four-time world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield has expressed surprise at Norway’s ban on professional boxing, as a number of opposition parties in the country tried to overturn the ban this week.

Holyfield, who famously had part of his ear bitten off during a fight by Mike Tyson, was surprised to hear of the Norwegian law banning professional boxing. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

The Christian Democratic Party and the Liberal Party have now joined the Conservative Party in supporting a Progress Party bill that would have ended the ban, which is the only one of its kind in Europe. The governing parties nonetheless voted against the suggestion in Monday’s debate, ensuring that the ban remains in place.

‘Illegal?!’
Boxing legend Holyfield, who continues to compete at the age of 48, was interviewed by newspaper VG before he watched Norwegian female boxer Ceclia Brækhus take on Jill Emery is Herning, Denmark, on Monday. Brækhus, who holds three world titles as a welterweight, must train and compete outside of Norway because of the ban.

“Illegal?! I did not know that,” Holyfield replied when he heard about the issue. He added that he would therefore “not be going to Norway” because he “is a person that follows the rules.” “I am sorry that people in Norway do not get the opportunity to see me box. That’s the only reason that I wouldn’t come to Norway,” he said.

He nonetheless promised to “show up” if the law was amended.

Government and opposition clash
The members of the Red-Green coalition government, who voted to keep the ban in place, pointed to medical studies that show that “boxing has large potential injury consequences for contestants.” They also quoted reports that suggest that of 65 deaths connected with boxing between 2000 and 2006, 80 percent involved professional boxers. Speaking to VG, a Labour Party member of parliament, Gunn Karin Gjul, said that “there is a big difference between professional boxing and amateur boxing,” rejecting comparisons between professional boxing and other sports because boxing involves opponents aiming their attacks at the head.

Opposition parties remained unconvinced. Øyvind Korsberg of the Progress Party, which authored the suggested law change, commented that “if one only allows injury-free sports, we are presumably left with chess and snooker.” A spokesperson for the Christian Democratic Party, Øyvind Håbrekke, told VG that while “there is no doubt that there are health-related risks connected with professional boxing” and that it “has sides that we do not exactly want to encourage,” they did not believe that politicians “can forbid grown people from exposing themselves to risks that do not affect third parties.” In addition, the Conservative Party’s Olemic Thommessen stated that “the arguments that have been put forward are not serious enough to maintain the ban,” suggesting that “it should take a lot more for us as legislators to interfere in the sporting sphere.”

Views and News from Norway/
Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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