Combat sports: It's a waste of breath calling for their extinction | OPINION

I can trace the solidification of my love of boxing to my youth and a TV that was ridiculously small, and reception that was absurdly poor.

It mattered not. Because even on such a limited canvas, Mike Tyson was implanted in my consciousness, and the consciousness of millions, as an almost mythical force who blasted poor Trevor Berbick into submission with murderous precision, power and ferocity. The sight of Berbick staggering around the ring like an inebriate, forlornly trying to regain his legs and senses, is an iconic boxing moment.

But to anti-combat sports advocates, it is an appalling spectacle, a man savagely beating another man for the amusement of others. 

I recently published an article on a Muay Thai fighter who won via knockout, the photo showing the opponent seemingly unconscious on the floor. A reader said the article should not have been published because Muay Thai was not a sport. It was, the reader said, a showcase of violence detrimental to a child's desired development, and I should be “ashamed” of myself.

The rise of the UFC has intensified the din of those who want combat sports banned. Because something in which the optimal outcome is to knock out an opponent is not a sport, they argue – it is a barbarism, no better than long-outlawed duelling, and has no place in civilised society.  

Watching an unconscious fighter receive more blows from an opponent kneeling over them, as often occurs in the UFC, is hard to defend.

But as much as someone may loathe these sports – pointing to the devastating brain injuries linked to them as further proof of their undesirability – the masses will continue enjoying them and the media will continue covering them.

And here's the nub: The only thing worse than watching a boring fight is missing a knockout because, I don't know, an annoying boss wanted you to turn off the work TV.

That was the dilemma I had faced when I watched the Tyson-Berbick fight. It was a Sunday morning and I was the sole employee at a drive-through bottle shop in Gladstone, Queensland. Under the threat of being sacked, my boss told me to stop watching the fight. 

I chose the fight. And to this day I don't regret it. Because I watched an athlete, born of a poor urban black experience in New York City, harness fabled natural attributes and years of training – under the tutelage of an ageing father figure skilled in the sport's old ways – to beat another highly skilled athlete senseless, and it was beautiful.

Mark Bode is a Fairfax journalist.