Hello Rosary Lovers! In this post we will turn our attention to being Catholic and Boxing.

I’ll come clean in this post. It may surprise you to hear that I am a boxing fan. But I’m only interested in one area of boxing: the American Heavyweights of the classical era of boxing.

The era of boxing I enjoy ranges from about the era of Joe Louis through to the era of Rocky Marciano.

Why I enjoy boxing

I enjoy boxing largely for nostalgic reasons. My father was a keen fan of this era of boxing. We had some special times watching some of his videos of legends of the ring: Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano.

I was brought up to believe that these guys were the best of the Heavyweights in history. Later, I added a video of Muhammad Ali to this collection, but it was always Louis and Marciano who my dad and I enjoyed watching the most.

When I was 14, my father introduced me to the Rocky films. He had all 5 films (at the time, there were only 5) on video. I borrowed them and watched them with total awe, one after the other, night after night. It took about a week. I was never the same.

Over the years, I would watch the Rocky films over and over again. I’ve seen them all many times, and know many of the words by heart.

I also really enjoyed ‘Million Dollar Baby’, ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Cinderella Man’.

In 2011, my interest grew even more when I purchased a 90s video on the greatest knockouts ever, partially hosted by Mike Tyson.

Around this time, I got very interested in Muhammad Ali, watching videos of him on Youtube. For a while, he was my favourite. I bought into the hype, and was fascinated with his speed, endurance and how he beat many of the top boxers ever.

In 2017, my interest in boxing was rekindled as I purchased a collection of DVDs on the greatest Heavyweights ever, hosted partially by boxing historian Bert Sugar.

This collection also included extensive footage of Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson. It was a wonderful collection, many hours long.

Lastly, one of my favourite all time books is ‘The Boxing Kings‘. I listened to this, utterly gripped from start to finish, at the beginning of 2022.

I never took up boxing as a sport. To this day, I have absolutely no idea if I would have been any good. I like to think I may have been able to train hard, have a lot of stamina, take a punch, and perhaps dish one out. Who knows.

So all my experience with boxing comes from watching it and reading about it.

As for today’s Heavyweights, I don’t know what’s going on. I hear about Tyson Fury and the Klitschko brothers, but to be honest it holds no interest for me at all.

My small knowledge of Fury and Klitschko comes from watching the finale of their title fight and I found myself miserably disappointed. It wasn’t even the 15th round, I think it was only the 12th. They could hardly hold their hands up or punch.

Neither was going for a knockout punch because neither had anything left. It made them look like amateurs compared to the classical boxers. A sheer disappointment and I just can’t see the attraction.

To me, boxing today is in many ways a different sport than it was in the era I am interested in. Perhaps they are just two different sports.

I really like Mike Tyson, I think he was a wonderfully gifted boxer and he’s perhaps my favourite of the boxers from the modern era. I love Ali also (how could anyone not?).

So boxing has been a keen interest for me, and has played a significant role in my own life.

What does Boxing have to do with Catholicism?

One of the questions I asked myself when I was listening to ‘The Boxing Kings‘ was: does the Catholic Church permit Catholics to box? Does the Church permit an interest in boxing?

I always seek to be faithful to the Catholic Church and her teachings. So if the Church disapproved of Boxing, then I would have no choice but to temper my fascination with it and move onto something else.

I did some research on this question and discovered a couple of things.

Firstly, and by far most importantly: the Church has NEVER issued any kind of an authoritative view on Boxing. In other words, Catholics are free to make up their own minds on this issue, at least until the Church speaks about it.

Boxing has been around now for many decades, and it is unlikely the Church will disclose an authoritative statement on it this late in the game. But if she does, Catholics will be bound to that decision, whether she approves of it or disapproves of it.

At present, and for the foreseeable, the Church remains neutral on the issue. She judges it not to be an important matter.

Secondly, a number of moral theologians believe that boxing is immoral if the aim is to knock the other guy out.

Please keep in mind that the Church gives no real authority to the views of Catholic theologians. They are free to theologise all they wish, but they have no power to bind the consciences of Catholics.

The logic of some moral theologians is as follows:

  • It is immoral to seek to knock someone out, because this is to intend harm to someone
  • The aim of boxing is to knock someone out
  • Therefore: boxing is immoral
  • (Boxing may not be immoral if the competitors wear headgear and appropriate protection)

This seems like sound logic, but it is important to recognise that – at present at least – this logic has no authority because the Church doesn’t back this view. Yet, anyway.

Many Catholics may be persuaded by this view. But I am not.

My main issue with this logic is twofold:

  1. The Church doesn’t endorse this viewpoint with her authority
  2. Is the sole aim of boxing to knock someone out, that is, to hurt someone?

This second point is where the real battle is over the logic.

What about all those boxers who do not aim solely to knock their opponent out, but to win on points and by technique?

There are a number of ways to win in boxing and only one of them is by knockout.

And what about this question:

Does intending to knock out an opponent automatically mean that one is seeking to harm an opponent?

And in what sense are they seeking to harm them?

Surely few would disagree that it would be sinful if a boxer actually intended to put his opponent into a coma out of malice or hate or revenge.

But the amount of boxers who have been of this kind are few in boxing history.

There are knockouts and knockouts. Some knockouts are intentionally brutal, and others are simply the result of outstanding accuracy and technique, with no malice involved whatsoever.

Many boxers throughout history have been keen to head straight for their opponent after knocking them out and they help pick them up and hug them.

And what about the issue of consent, that two adults have consented to undergo this kind of harm?

And what about the fact that the harm they choose to undergo rather rarely has a long-term impact?

How are we to view Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:27, saying that he beats his body into submission?

From this text, many in Catholic history have been inspired to flog themselves. In doing this, they are intentionally hurting themselves, but to aid them in salvation.

So, strictly speaking, perhaps not all causing of harm is strictly wrong.

These are all open questions, and as can be seen, it is not quite so straightforward as: you want to knock a guy out and harm him, which is sinful and therefore boxing is sinful.

Other things to consider

What are we to make of St John Paul II wanting the autograph of Muhammad Ali?

Or the fact that many boxers have been Catholic, such as Floyd Patterson, Rocky Marciano or James Braddock?

In the case of Braddock, he seemed to have had the full support of his priest and parish.

In the case of Marciano, when he knocked out Carmine Vingo and put him in a coma, a priest was called to administer last rites. But that priest never condemned Rocky.

Even Tyson Fury, the current Heavyweight Champ, is a devoted Catholic!

For instance, the Catholic Herald magazine have interviewed Tyson Fury about his faith, highlighting the fact that he prays for his opponents.

The Catholic Herald is a Catholic magazine approved by the Catholic Church in the UK. It is unlikely this magazine would have interviewed Fury if boxing is immoral.

These pieces of evidence seem to suggest that the Church views Boxing as a morally neutral sport, which agrees with the fact that the Church doesn’t authoritatively condemn or approve of it one way or the other.

How I benefit from Boxing

Personally, I have gleaned a lot from Boxing.

For one thing, I find the history of boxing simply enjoyable history. It is vital history, especially with regards to American history in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Boxing was ENORMOUSLY influential in breaking down the racial barriers. Joe Louis was the first major black superstar who was embraced by America and the Western world and this was in the 1940s.

In the case of someone like Rocky Marciano, I learn from his awe-inspiring steel-heartedly determination. He’s someone I frankly look up to, a man who sought to be the very best he could be at his vocation in life.

Rocky put so much effort into being the best Heavyweight boxer in the world that he trained relentlessly, far more than any other boxer in his division. Experts say Rocky was easily the most conditioned boxer ever in any weight class or division.

Rocky claimed his legs would carry him 40 rounds in a fight, because he would run 10 miles a day for months before a fight.

I find this kind of iron will very attractive and inspirational.

There are a lot of similarities between boxing and life. Life hits us with many knocks.

The last few years have been really hard for me. I lost my dad, which hit me like a sledgehammer, nevermind a human fist. From there, things went from bad to worse.

But when I look at someone like Marciano, or Ali, I’m reminded to never give up, to somehow get back up again, to somehow win the fight.

Even the apostle Paul compared being a Catholic to boxing! Paul writes, again in 1 Corinthians 9:26, that he fights, not as one beating the air.

In other words, Paul says he boxes in a spiritual sense, making sure he hits the target in his own salvation.

Ironically, the target seems to be his own body, as we saw earlier: I chastise my body and bring it into submission (verse 27), so that I won’t be disqualified.

Jesus talks of the need for us to be willing to pull out our eyes or chop of a hand so as not to go to hell. Obviously, we are not to take this literally, but where are we to draw the line?


Ultimately, at this point in history, Catholics are perfectly free to make up their own mind and follow their conscience on the issue of Boxing.

In fact, my philosophy is always to only go where the Church goes, and to not go where the Church does not go.

The Church has not disapproved of Boxing, and therefore, it may be wise if we don’t either. We might not like it, but we perhaps shouldn’t condemn what the Church hasn’t condemned.

Neither should we argue for Boxing’s morality. The Church doesn’t teach it is moral. The Church only implies that boxing is morally neutral, given the Church’s agnosticism on the issue.

If the Church is agnostic about whether boxing is moral or not, we perhaps should be too.

Personally, I don’t actually know whether boxing is moral or not. I remain agnostic on the issue, because the Church does.

But for my part, since I enjoy it, I’m going to keep enjoying it until I lose interest or until the Church issues a formal statement of disapproval.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Rosary Lovers constantly promotes the glory of Mary and her Rosary. As such, we often direct readers to this gorgeous collection of long-lasting paracord rosaries.

God bless you!

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