Q. I know that there have been famous Jewish boxers. But since boxing involves mauling and hurting another person, is it actually allowed by Jewish law?
One, Daniel Mendoza in 18th century England, is considered the “father of scientific boxing”. A plaque to his memory in the East End of London reads, “Daniel Mendoza, 1764-1836; Pugilist, British Champion who billed himself ‘Mendoza the Jew’ lived here while writing the ‘Art of Boxing’.” The Jewish Museum in London has a Staffordshire jug which depicts a fight between Mendoza and Humphreys in Hampshire in 1788. The upper cut used to be known as “the Mendoza”.
In contemporary times, Ukrainian-American Dmitriy (“Star of David”) Salita has become famous not only in the junior welterweight division, but also for being a Lubavitch chassid who refuses to fight on Shabbat and yom-tov.
Mendoza, Salita and other Jewish boxers presumably do something for Jewish public relations, but it is difficult to find a permissive stance towards boxing in halachah, even though boxing seems to have been known in the Talmud (Sanh. 20a, etc.).
Not only does the Torah forbid us to hit one another, but, despite some authorities who hold the contrary view, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav rules that it is “forbidden to smite one’s fellow even if he gives him permission to smite him, since no human being has ownership of his body” (Hilchot Niz’kei Guf VaNefesh).
There is also a moral dimension to the question – is it really a “noble art” to celebrate brute force and aggressiveness?
If a person has energy and quick reflexes, there are surely other ways of using them than indulging in activity that by definition seeks to catch someone off guard and to hurt them.