New Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has offered an unorthodox and controversial solution to resolve the high rate of homicides in the city: Invite gang members who want to kill each other to put down their guns, lace up a pair of boxing gloves, step into a referee-controlled ring, and duke it out old school.
“If they want to really settle them, we can have them down at the civic center, put a boxing ring up and let them go and box it out,” Young told The Baltimore Sun. “Those kinds of things, you know, and the best man wins and the beef should be over.”
It’s a bold idea that has received mixed reviews in the community – and I’m not completely sure it will work.
But I will say this: Give Young credit for trying to quell the non-stop shootings on the streets of Baltimore where gun violence among young African-American men has become a troublesome way of life. Baltimore is now one of the nation’s most violent cities where guns are an integral part of inner-city life. Baltimore has surpassed 300 homicides for four straight years. Over 120 people have been killed so far this year.
This kind of rampant violence can’t continue. Baltimore is losing a generation of young black men every day.
“If they want to really settle them, we can have them down at the Civic Center [now Royal Farms Arena], put a boxing ring up, let them go and box it out, those kind of things,” Young said at a rally against gun violence.
Young’s spokesman Lester Davis told The Baltimore Sun that “Baltimore has a rich boxing history” and “a number of people every year pick up the sport,” making it a solution worthy of discussion.
So what are the answers to this complex problem? Many young black men don’t seem to have any remorse for taking a life and murder has become a twisted rite of passage.
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For Marvin McDowell, president and founder of UMAR Boxing and Youth Development Center, he is open to Young’s idea.
McDowell works with young Black men in the boxing ring every day and while many young men learn discipline and solid boxing techniques, it’s not clear that members of gangs will be able to resolve their violent differences by turning to more violent methods.
Safety, of course, would be of utmost importance. And there would be clear rules: On the day of the fight, for example, the fighters would sign a waiver that would end the dispute no matter who wins to bout. Some are already calling Baltimore a “war zone” and claim Young’s boxing plan could plunge the city’s gang problem deeper into chaos.
Is there honor among hoodlums?
“It gets the kids or the people to understand their will, how far they can go, what they can take,” McDowell told The Baltimore Sun. “I think it’d be worth further study.”
Would gang members honor the boxing decision? Would the boxing bout lead to more violence after the fight? Would the loser retaliate on the streets with guns?
Last weekend was another particularly violent weekend for Baltimore. There was a deadly stabbing and eight shootings — 11 people were injured and two men were killed, including a 17-year-old.
“Gun violence has been plaguing this city for the last 10 years. 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 said.
Baltimore States Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who attended a National Gun Violence Awareness Day event, quoted famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass to make her case about saving a lost generation of young black boys.
“Frederick Douglass said it best,” Mosby told reporters. “It’s easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men, and so we have to focus on our babies before it’s too late.”
Only time will tell if Young’s idea to throw young Black men in the boxing ring to resolve their deep-rooted differences can actually work. Would a close decision instead of a TKO be honored among gang members?
What do you think?
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