If a person bites a chunk out of another person's ear, the usual course of events sees the munching malefactor before the courts and, if there is any justice, behind bars. Not in the United States, especially if you happen to be a hulking convicted rapist licensed to beat, thump and hammer other people inside a boxing ring. In the wonderful world of heavyweight boxing, you gnash a sizeable lump out of someone's acoustic organ and a nice man gives you US$27 million (about HK$209 million). This adds public insult to the revolting spectacle of boxing injury. It is a most dubious pastime mistakenly referred to as a 'sport'. There is nothing sporting about two grown men smashing each other in the face; the addition of padded gloves and television companies paying millions of dollars for the rights to air the disgusting exhibition of blood lust is mere cosmetic frippery. Now, taxpayers are partially footing the bill to teach our young people this revolting avocation. The uglier side of boxing (is there an attractive side to this prehistoric savagery?) was shown recently when Mike Tyson chewed off a section of the ear of his opponent. It was only when he sank his incisors into the second ear and spat it on to the ring that the fight was cancelled. He has been given a symbolic smack over the wrist and 10 per cent of his winnings have been forfeit. Naughty boy! It was a good example of what is wrong with boxing. It is a barbaric throwback to an earlier, uglier, age. It should be banned. Instead, it is glorified. So thinking people owe a debt to the unlovely Tyson. His appalling behaviour while fighting to reclaim his ludicrous boxing 'crown' shone the spotlight on this dreadful lingering remnant of the age of prize-fighting. It belongs in the historical cupboard, safely latched away with contemporary 19th century activities such as bear-baiting, flogging, the stocks and public execution. Boxing is an archaic savagery practised by barbarians, like hunting foxes on horseback and seeing the terrified animals ripped to shreds by hounds. Those who enjoy watching such pastimes are as guilty as participants who strap on heavy gloves to box or don red coats to celebrate the horrid deaths of farmyard predators. I believe there is more to this than an individual's ambiguous 'rights'. It is a genuine social evil. Traditionally, boxing has provided a tricky and rickety ladder on which the tough and the desperate could clamber from poverty to cauliflower-eared prosperity. In the US, the Irish took this route, then Italians, Puerto Ricans and blacks. Locked out from mainstream routes to advancement by prejudice and lack of opportunity, generations of newly arrived migrants climbed into the ring with stars in their eyes. For many, that was what they saw when they were carried out. Even the most talented, the most graceful, skilled and brave could not win every fight. It caused lasting medical harm, often with unseen scars; witness the pitiful state of Muhammad Ali at the 1996 Olympics. It is sickening. In Hong Kong, thankfully, where brutes and brute strength are not as appreciated as nimbleness and knowledge, boxing has never had anything more than a miniscule toehold in our sporting world. There is, however, a Boxing Association which happens to be headed by the former deputy head of operations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Alex Tsui Ka-kit. This is mostly made up of adherents of Thai kick boxing. Although an aggressive martial art, this is considerably more graceful and less brutal than the slug-it-out Western variety, although still distasteful. Karate, jujitsu, judo, taekwondo, kung fu and the other Asian self-defence disciplines are all potentially as lethal, probably more so, than boxing. But, like Greek wrestling, these carry the potential of grace and even beauty in rhythm and order. Boxing is a pastime for louts. Any notion that this is a 'gentlemanly art of self defence' went out the window generations ago. This is not how the Broadcasting, Culture and Sports Bureau sees the biff-and-bash caper. Amazingly, this generous government agency has dished out $86,000 (via the Sir David Trench Fund for Recreation) to the Hong Kong Boxing Association. The Urban Council (remember this is the squeamish mob which falls into pallid shock if people sing too loudly) this year will subvent - that means 'give public money' in plain language - $160,000 to the association to organise boxing programmes. This is done through the Urban Council's Sports Promotion Office. Do they not have something more worthwhile to support? Is there not a youthful pastime more valuable for the public to encourage than teaching teenagers how to smash each other in the teeth? The Hong Kong Boxing Association was formed in 1955 and has 2,000 members with an average age of 23. About 600 of these adherents follow the Western version, the 'rules' of which are similar to those so familiar to Tyson. Asked if the Department of Health promoted boxing as a sport, a spokesman said healthy lifestyles included exercises appropriate to an individual's physique. The 'nature of the game' meant boxing had a higher risk in sustaining injuries, including the 'punch-drunk syndrome' of professional boxers as a result of repeated concussion. I reckon someone on the Urban Council may have received too many uppercuts; you would have to be brain damaged to pour public money into boxing.