THE DEATH of any young person, particularly in a season of joy and celebration, is always a tragedy. But when the loss seems, in retrospect, to have been avoidable -- even predictable -- family and friends must suffer even more.

Hayes Singletary Jr. died on Monday, according to a preliminary report by the D.C. Medical Examiner, as the result of a blood clot suffered while boxing. He had a lot going for him. He was a handsome young man who had graduated from high school, and he had not just one job, but two. He knew that boxing could be dangerous, even if he hadn't read the continuous and ever more insistent warnings from the American Medical Association. He didn't have to have mastered the details of how repeated pounding causes irreparable brain damage. He knew firsthand, because just last year a friend died in the same ring. But like many young men, Mr. Singletary probably believed he was immortal, that he could go on taking the risks that killed his friend and that somehow he would just grow stronger.

Sports accidents happen all the time, sometimes ending in death or permanent disability. But boxing is different. There, injury is the objective, death occurs regularly, and permanent disability among professionals is a high probability. Why it is still referred to as a sport is hard to understand. It is bad enough that people choose to pay large sums to watch two men trying to beat each other senseless. It is pitiful that so many young men from impoverished backgrounds are lured by the one-in-a-hundred-million chance that they will achieve fame and fortune in the ring.

Boxing is not all a matter of guts and glory. It offers no guaranteed road to fame and fortune. Young men with strong bodies and promising lives, like Mr. Singletary, should not be led to believe that it does or that it is a glamorous, as distinct from brutal and destructive, business.