top of page

'Damage' Review: The Untold Story of Brain Trauma in Boxing

On Saturday, September 11, Evander Holyfield, who turned 59 in October, was knocked out in the first round by the 44-year old former UFC champion, Vitor Belfort, in a commission sanctioned bout in Florida.

If the promoters or the people who lined their pockets working this event or, for that matter, the viewers who shelled out fifty dollars to watch the degrading spectacle, had read Tris Dixon’s Damage, maybe they would have passed on this so-called fight. Then again, I doubt it.

For all the hand-wringing about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the NFL, there has been scant media mention or public concern about brain trauma in boxing. And yet, as one of Dixon’s interviewees framed it, “Boxing is American football head injuries on steroids.” Maybe the silence voices the widespread belief that men and women who climb through the ropes, especially to make a living, do it of their own choice and know the dangers. If nothing else, Damage informs us that professionals in the stylized warfare of pugilism really do not grasp what they are getting into, either because they are uninformed or self-deceived.

Written by a quondam amateur boxer and celebrated ring scribe, Damage is a fluid combination of medical history, scientific facts, and personal narratives. Half of the gracefully written text is focused on the connection or, much more commonly, the lack thereof between the medical and boxing communities. As Dixon reveals, for over a century, doctors, who were not necessarily opponents of the sport, have been trying to tell us, “beating each other’s brains out” might be an apt image of what transpires in the prize ring.


bottom of page