Thank you for a well-written, timely and important special report on boxing (Too Many Punches, Too Little Concern, April 11). The impartiality of the authors, Robert H. Boyle and Wilmer Ames, was refreshing, and the information given was clear and to the point. I have long enjoyed boxing and I don't think it should or ever will be banned, but medical questions such as the ones raised cannot be ignored. While all the evidence may not be in, enough has been found that the sport should consider more seriously how it can better protect its athletes.
I found it quite disturbing to read in Jeff Wheelwright's conversation with Muhammad Ali that Ali said, "Why do you want to check my brain? How about white boxers...?" Race is not the issue. The health of men who choose to be boxers is. That most boxers in the U.S. today are black, if racial terms must be used, should be all the more reason for Ali to be concerned with their welfare, in and out of the ring. Ali should realize that everyone's brain is the same color.
I take issue with your statement, "But CAT scans and full neurological exams before and after fights aren't practical—nor, at $300 apiece, cost-efficient, given what the average boxer earns."
To cover the costs of these tests, boxing should set up a general medical fund to which a certain percentage—maybe 10%—would be contributed from every purse, so that every boxer could be tested before and after each fight.
RONALD J. ROGACKI
April 24, 1983
I have enjoyed your publication for years, and the only thing that has bothered me is the constant coverage you have given to boxing. Intentionally or not, you glorify the "sport" of trying to inflict brain damage on another human being every time you print an article on a boxing match. If enough people can become informed about the impact of boxing on many fighters—i.e., permanent brain damage—I think boxing will cease to be a popular sport.
BRONSON T. SWANSON
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Why would the politicians [Congress] want to take over boxing? They can't even balance the budget; how can they balance a fighter's brain? Come on, now, I've heard old boxers talk, and believe me, they make more sense than some politicians, James Watt, for instance. A man who has chosen to fight is like somebody who has chosen to smoke—he knows what he's getting into.
There is something, however, that needs to be looked into that your EEGs and CAT scans can't see. It's the King-Arum-WBC-WBA-TV executives' mismatches.
As a law student I have been taught to seek the truth. I have also learned in the course of my short life that the truth is at times better left unspoken.
I consider Muhammad Ali a great hero. He taught a whole generation a compelling lesson in courage, desire and achievement. It seems clear to anyone who has seen him recently that he is not the same man that he was. And yet he continues to stand tall among the great athletes of our time. I, and I suspect many others, would prefer that his image remain as untarnished as possible. Boxing has problems, and articles like yours are most necessary. I ask only that you consider allowing me to keep my memories of Ali. I much prefer to recall him floating like a butterfly.
New York City
Recently my wife and I enjoyed the privilege of watching Muhammad Ali dance and shuffle his way through a six-round boxing exhibition. We had a memorable evening and were thoroughly entertained by his skill, his agility and, most of all, his sense of humor. Our good time seemed to be shared by all in attendance. Therefore, you can imagine how surprised I was to find out that Ali may have brain damage. Of course, until a CAT scan confirms a 50% reduction in his neurological capacity, this great champion will still enjoy an unfair advantage when it comes to matching wits with his critics.
San Jose, Calif.
BENJIE AND LOUIS
After reading Frank Deford's article on the Benjamin Davis-Louis Wade bout (An Encounter to Last an Eternity, April 11), I began thinking about boxing and the article's last line, "What a shame it was that the two boys...never knew each other except for two minutes and 57 seconds one night in a boxing ring, pummeling each other's face in the haze, for the roar of the crowd and something dark in all our souls."
I have always loved boxing. When I was a little boy, I used to read stories about boxing's legends—Johnson, Dempsey, Louis, Robinson, Marciano, Ali—and they became my heroes. However, it is absolutely disgusting to me that six boxers, some of them only two or three years older than I, were killed in 1982. Your article showed me the true sport of boxing. It's not the glamorous million-dollar fights we see on television. It's a dirty, cheap "sport," improperly controlled and supervised. Too many people get killed and no one seems to know or care! If a doctor had examined Benjie before his fight, he probably would not have been allowed to fight and might be alive today. If radical changes are not brought about to regulate boxing and make it safer, I think that without question it should be banned.
Chevy Chase, Md.
Your story about Benjie and Louis was not only tragic, but also unfortunately too real. You noted that both were wearing protective headgear when Benjie was fatally injured. This proves that no matter how many precautions are taken, boxing can still be a terrible sport. Although boxing has had its great champions, I fail to see the good in purposely trying to harm another man, especially when there is the danger of actually killing him to please a crowd.
SI, you've done it again. In the same issue, you've given us a scientific view of boxing (Too Many Punches, Too Little Concern) and an emotional, live view of the sport (An Encounter to Last an Eternity). You have taken a stand—not "for the roar of the crowd," but for something bright within all our souls!
As a Houston fan, I commend Curry Kirkpatrick on his coverage of the Cougars' loss to North Carolina State in the NCAA championship finals (State Had the Stuff, April 11). What no one expected to happen happened. Houston lost—and in a most painful way. After reading the sports pages, I was afraid to open SI and read more "lynch Guy Lewis" articles. But Kirkpatrick's simple questioning of Lewis' tactics and his giving credit to the Cougars' outstanding performance in the semifinals reflected respectable sports journalism. Also, thanks for not putting a big picture of Jim Valvano on the cover. He's a Wolf (pack) in sheep's clothing.
After seeing your good cover, I was surprised to read an article that told more about how Houston lost than about how North Carolina State won. It was hard for me to see N.C. State defeat so many fine opponents and yet receive only half the credit it deserved in many newspapers across the country. It was even harder for me to believe Curry Kirkpatrick's statement, "Even the most rabid Cinderella lover had to recognize that Houston gave away this championship just as surely as the Wolfpack took it."
Kirkpatrick should know that games are never, ever given away; however, opportunities are given and N.C. State did have to make baskets at its end to come back from a seven-point deficit and win.
BARRY L. PENNELL
Curry Kirkpatrick's suggestion that N.C. State was given the game is a great disservice to the State players and Jim Valvano, whose coaching was brilliant throughout the tournament. I believe SI owes the team and the coach an apology.
Shhhhhhhh! One of the best-kept secrets in college basketball has yet to be revealed: Teams from the South have been steadily taking over the Final Four. In 1980, only one Southern team, Louisville, made it. In 1981, three-fourths of the teams were from the Sun Belt: North Carolina, Virginia and Louisiana State. And in the past two years every team has been Southern: North Carolina, Louisville, Houston and Georgetown—a Southern school to me if not to everyone—in 1982; and North Carolina State, Houston, Georgia and Louisville in 1983.
ELSON ARMSTRONG JR.
In discussing the addition of Vin Scully to NBC's Game of the Week telecast and the reassigning of Tony Kubek (TV/RADIO, April 4), William Taaffe stated, "The decision to demote Kubek was made by network executives in concert with agents," adding, "Kubek didn't help his cause by having Joe Garagiola Jr. as his agent." In fact, I had ceased to represent Kubek in the fall of 1981, many months before there were any reports of Scully possibly moving to NBC. Taaffe's implication that I was actively involved as Kubek's representative when NBC began its efforts to sign Scully is totally false.
JOSEPH H. GARAGIOLA JR.
•In an interview with Kubek by SI on Feb. 15, 1983 Kubek said, "During the World Series, during the Scully thing, I really didn't know what was going on. I was letting my agent, Joe Jr., find out these things." It was on this, and other statements by Kubek, that SI based its comments. Last week in a letter to SI, however, Kubek confirmed that Joe Garagiola Jr. has not actively represented him since September of 1981 and therefore had "no bearing whatsoever on NBC's decision to pair his dad and Vin Scully, and Bob Costas and me."—ED.
Letters should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.