Letters on Liberty: Boxing – Don’t count it out

Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Saturday 28 October, Church House, London


Open debate has been suffocated by today’s censorious climate and there is little cultural support for freedom as a foundational value. What we need is rowdy, good-natured disagreement and people prepared to experiment with what freedom might mean today. Faced with this challenge, the Academy of Ideas decided to launch Letters on Liberty – a radical public pamphleteering campaign aimed at reimagining arguments for freedom in the twenty-first century.

In his Letter – Boxing: don’t count it out – writer and boxing enthusiast Chris Akers argues that boxing, more than any sport, has a unique way of tapping into the consciousness of the poor, the disgruntled and the forgotten. For all its flaws, he writes, boxing has been the vehicle by which people in poverty have escaped to better surroundings. From Muhammad Ali to Lovemore N’dou, boxing’s greats have often used the sport to highlight political injustices and social issues.

Join Chris and respondents to look at boxing’s contemporary challenges – with new scientific research around head injuries and ‘punch drunk’ fighters calling for greater safety measures in the ring. From rules on gloves to ever-decreasing limits on bouts, should boxing modernise to protect its heroes? Or will we lose the glory of the knockout by introducing more red tape? Does boxing ‘save lives’ – teaching ex-offenders and troubled teens discipline and strength? Or is the commercialisation of violence producing bad role models for young people? And if grown men and women want to go toe-to-toe, who are we to stop them?

Chris Akers
sports writer; ghost writer, King of the Journeymen: the life of Peter Buckley; podcaster, The 286 Project

Max Barragan Segre
regional club support officer, England Boxing

Luke Gittos
criminal lawyer; author, Human Rights – Illusory Freedom; director, Freedom Law Clinic

Geoff Kidder
director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, AoI Book Club