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Baltimore mayor suggests boxing bouts could help reduce city’s violent crime

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Mayor Jack Young is considering creating public boxing rings for people to settle disputes.

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An aerial view of Baltimore City skyline on December 1, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After an especially violent weekend in Baltimore, MD — a deadly stabbing and eight shootings — city leaders are calling for outside-the-box thinking to help solve the city’s violent crime rate.

WBALTV reports that one of the unconventional ideas being discussed, by city Mayor Jack Young, is letting people fight — with their fists — to solve their issues.

“Gun violence has been plaguing this city for the last 10 years,” said Young to reporters. “The murder rate in this city and non-fatal shootings have increased. I’m not happy with it and neither should the citizens of Baltimore.”

Young spoke to reporters while attending a National Gun Violence Awareness Day event that sought to connect young people with employment resources and thus discourage them from picking up guns.

City States Attorney Marilyn Mosby quoted American philosopher and abolitionist Frederick Douglas when commenting about the event, saying that it’s, “easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.”

In the shootings that occurred over the weekend, one of the fatalities was a 17-year-old boy. Mayor Young, who lost a nephew to gun violence, spoke about why he boxing matches could help the city.

“If they want to really settle them, we can have them down at the civic center, put a boxing ring up and let them box it out,” said Young. “Those kinds of things, you know, and the best man wins and the beef should be over. Those are some of the things I’m thinking about.”

Mosby added that, in order to stop violent crime, the city can’t “just count on the police” or the mayor’s office or City Hall. “The biggest and most important stakeholder in all of this is the community.”

WBALTV asked Baltimore residents what they thought of the mayor’s idea to have young people fight each other as a remedy to violent crime.

“That is the best idea ever because right now, the kids don’t even know how to fight,” said Larry Wallace.

Yolanda Pulley did not agree with Wallace or Mayor Young. “For you to promote a boxing ring for our city streets, one, are they going have to pay to get in, or, two, this is going to be like Athens all over again. I understand it’s history repeating itself, but that’s by far the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life.”

City Council President Brandon Scott is also not keen on the idea. “I am not the person who wants us to go that route. I understand what the mayor is saying, and I understand that there are people across the city who remember a time when disputes used to be handled that way.”

David Sewell, the co-owner of Charm City Boxing, was also asked about the proposal. “If you fight someone in the ring, you get rewarded for it, but when you fight somebody in the streets, you get rewarded, but you’re in prison. You know what I mean, so which route would you rather go?” Sewell said.

Using boxing to curb violent crime isn’t a new idea. The concept has been suggested in the United Kingdom, which is enduring a dramatic rise in knife crime. However, though academic research has shown punitive approaches to violent crime and gang activity often further alienate young people, there is a lack of evidence that boxing or any other combat sport can make a tangible difference.