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Boyfights: Are Kiddie Cage Matches Disturbing?

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By James Furbush on September 21, 2011

The ten-minute cage match features a scantily clad ring girl parading between rounds, two combatants putting their mixed martial arts fighting skills to the test, and the blood-thirsty crowd at Greenlands Labour Club in Preston, Lancashire hooting and hollering. No big deal, right?

Except that the two combatants are children, they’re not wearing pads, and they’re probably not seeing a dime of the collected gate money at the sold-out, ticket-only event.

To further enrage the outraged masses, the club decided to film the cage matches and put them on YouTube on the Sharefight channel. When questioned about the impropriety, Michelle Anderson, owner of Greenlands Labour Club, who attended the event, defended the boy fights:

“There was nothing wrong with it…The kids were there to fight, they have fought before. The parents were there. Would people rather these kids were out on the streets with guns and knives?”

Touché. Would the public rather these boys not be menacing chavs out on the street with guns and knives? Sure. But some of the boys barely seem old enough for street crime. At one point, one of the youngsters in the video appeared to be crying, and medical staff was brought into the ring to assess the boys, who were not wearing head gear or padding. Watch the video and decide for yourself:

A spokesman for the British Medical Association, who viewed the video, said: “The BMA is opposed to boxing and cage fighting. This example of cage fighting among young children is particularly disturbing, especially as they are not even wearing head guards. Boxing and cage fighting are sometimes defended on the grounds that children learn to work through their aggression with discipline and control.”

Ultimately, though, it’s hard to distinguish what is so disturbing about this. Little kids participate in karate and boxing clubs all the time. Is it because it’s MMA? Because it was filmed and treated like a professional UFC fight? Because the kids don’t wear appropriate protective equipment?

If the kids were wearing foam gloves, helmets and shin guards in the video (to be sure, it does look like they are wearing mouth guards) and the fights weren’t taking place inside an actual octagon with a huge crowd cheering the fighters, would we be as disturbed? It’s hard to say. Then again, if this were a similar video taken at a local karate academy or a boxing gym, it might not produce the same visceral and angry reaction that it does. And maybe that’s the point.

The Lancashire Evening Post notes:

There is no suggestion any of the bouts at the Reps Retribution night, which included semi-professional bouts, breached any rules or licence laws.

Other cage fighting events have taken place at venues around the city featuring adults.

Today Timothy Lipscomb, the Vicar of Preston, said: “It is not the way we want children to be brought up.

“Up to a certain age they need protection, they do not need to see the senior side of life.

“It should not be a public spectacle to see them bashing the living daylight out of each other.

“Do you not think it encourages bullying and trying to use force to get your own way?”

To which Steven Nightingale, 28, a professional cage fighter who runs the Reps MMA gym, countered: “Competitions start from the age of five, it is definitely a big up-and-coming sport. It is all based around martial arts. The kids are not getting hit or anything at all when they are under age. We do not let them strike – punch and kick – until the age of 14 or 15.”

That’s evident in the video as the two kids are mostly just wrestling with one another. Nightingale said the boy who ends up crying towards the end of the fight did so because he’s used to winning all the time.

Still, there’s something tawdry about watching this.

Mostly, it’s just amazing that George Bluth’s “Boyfights” concept finally took off in England.

So what say you? Are you disturbed by this? Or is this just another sport for kids in 2011?

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