Who Killed Benny Paret? was written in the year 1962 by Norman Cousins as an investigation of the cause of death of a boxer. Norman, born in 1915 in Union City of New Jersey, graduated from the Teachers College of Colombia University in 1933 and began his journalism career with the New York Evening Post. He also worked with the Current History magazine. Cousins was a social columnist and strongly backed nuclear controls; he had so much interest in world matters and lectured extensively concerning this at the U.C.L.A Medical School where he was an appendage professor in the Psychiatry and Biobehavioral science department. He also published many books including; Anatomy of an Illness, An Autobiographical Notebook, Healing and Belief, The Pathology of Power and his last book being The Biology of Hope which he published in 1989 before he passed on in 1990. In this 1962 essay, he demonstrated a very firm stand against incorporating violence in sporting activities (The Famous People, page 1-5).
Norman Cousins wrote this essay in condemnation of prize fighting in boxing activities. The question of who really is to blame for a boxers death is one that he clearly tries to breakdown from one stakeholder to the next. To begin with, Cousins held an interview with the prize fight promoter, Mike Jacobs around 1935-1936. It during this interview that he learnt that people or the so called fans of the boxing game enjoy seeing a killer game, one where blood is shed, and a man is completely laid down helpless. Norman states that Jacobs was a very prominent and formidable figure in the boxing industry that was straight forward and passionate in the industry even from the way he spoke about it; Cousins quotes that he sounded the way Napoleon must have sounded when he reviewed a battle. Furthermore, according to Mike Jacobs, the most important aspect of the industry in gratifying the crowd was putting killers in the ring to fight instead of nimble men who fight so carefully; this is the factor that made the arena full in every event. Therefore promoters hunted for fighters and sluggers, those men who could hit without adamant force.
In relation to this, Normans essay particulate the fight that involved a young man by the name Benny Paret who was killed from a match that millions watched, in the presence of a referee, promoters, fellow fighter and even the crowed. He died nine days after the brutal beating he got from Emilie Griffith. Paret was a Cuban native who inhabited the US where he was in pursuit of a successful career in boxing despite the wavering relationship between Cuba and USA at the particular time. Looking back into Bennys life, he was born in Santa Clara, Cuba where he grew up with his parents and worked as a manual laborer most of his life. He began fighting in the streets with his peers at the tender age of thirteen when Manuel Alfaro, his manager, noticed him while they were on a scot trip to Havana (Christina 2011, page 97).
One of the stakeholders, those who make the game complete, had to take responsibility for the Parets killing, but who? To get to the root of this, every stakeholder has to be scrutinized singly. At that time, Governor Rockefeller even allotted a committee to judge the responsibility of the happenings. Additionally, the concern came from the District Attorney and the New York State Boxing Commission.
Digging deep into the referee, to begin with, many questions arise; where was he? How efficient was his timing in stopping the fight? It is in the line of duty for the referee to control the game and every action taking place. With every blow, there is the watch of the ref, and in the Paret fight, he must have missed the last blow or he clearly never saw this kind of end coming. Additionally, in his analysis, Cousins decodes that it is rather pointless to blame it on the neither referee nor try to determine whether or not he should have interposed in the fight. The ref suffers to be booed at by the rowdy fans eager to see bloodshed or a man lie helpless.
Moving forward, the person or people in charge of medical examination deserved questioning. Could he or could they have certified an unfit fighter? However, even in the analysis of the doctors, credit can still be given to them in that they have overseen certification of many other fighters, this particular one could not be any different.
Earlier before the fight, Benny Paret was in yet another fight and was not completely convalesced. What was the role of his manager in this if not ensuring adequate preparedness of the fighter in all dimensions? However, an argument could still be raised in what if the fighter himself feels prepared and really wants to fight for their personal reasons. Benny Paret who was also known as Kid, had previously fought Griffith twice before he got the angry pounding from him (Christina 2011, page 96).
Moreover, in his essay, Cousins states that the real reason Paret died was not within anyones responsibility but rather due to the impact made by the fists he got form Griffith against the head. The beating he got created colossal hemorrhage in his brain putting in mind the delicacy of the human brain. He also goes ahead to add that a man cannot die from just one blow though, instead of by continuous hits, the brain is damaged. Prize fighters are able to withstand the blows, but the damage to their brains remains permanent and eventually causes death.
The crowd is yet another important part of the boxing industry that played a core role all together. They want to witness a knockout rather than a showdown. They pay for deadly and enjoyable events to them. Therefore the rest of the stakeholders have to do whatever pleases the crowd. The sponsors have a lot to gain from every player or boxer. Nobody wants to loose. The game became a bout for fame, money and power; the reason that would make even an unfit fighter gets into a boxing canvas ring. Norman Cousin blamed it on the traditions that regard this form of fighting to be a business to be ventured in, a pool for collecting money and entertaining people who enjoy watching them.
In conclusion, Parets death created a lot of controversy within and out of the USA which triggered immense investigations to his case from local to the federal government. The integrity of the sport was also questioned along the line which elicited them to impel for reforms in the industry. Additionally, a lot of criticism followed after the Paret fight which prompted promoters and broadcasters to dissociate with the sport and even threaten its ban from the United States (Christina 2011, page 98). There is a need for ethics in games that could endanger a mans life like boxing. Regulations and legislations should also be formed and reviewed gradually with a lot of strictness to ensure human rights are also upheld in such cases; that is what Norman Cousin would also vote for.
A., Howard and M.D. Paret: A Pragnosis. NYT, April 1962, page 52.
"Burns'" Prize fighting is only sport stressing 'Killer Insticts'." Ted Carrol'"Do fans make brutality?". June 1962 pg 20-22, 45.
Christina, D. A. "The Story of Benny "Kid" Paret: Cuban Boxers, the Cuban Revolution, and the US Media, 1959-1962." Journal of Sport History (2011): 95-113.
Sammons. "Beyond the Ring." (n.d.): page 236.
Version, English. "Jamas Pidio Que No lo Enterraran en Cuba." La Prensa (April 1962): page 3.
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