Immoral. Ruthless. Tantamount to legalized murder.

That "punch against prize fighting," as the newspaper Corriere della Sera called it, came from an unusual corner -- an influential Jesuit magazine close to the Vatican.

Civilta Cattolica (Christian Civilization), in its edition scheduled to come out today, called professional boxing a "legalized form of attempted murder."

The article -- titled "The Immorality of Professional Boxing" -- compared the sport to the bloody gladiator contests in ancient Rome. It also criticized the business of boxing as equally ruthless, with the fighter "only a machine to make money."

The magazine provided advance copies of the article.

Boxing is a "legalized form of attempted murder, in the short or in the long run," the magazine said. It also noted that fighters who don't die in the ring often suffer long-term physical and psychological injuries. The article cited the deaths of hundreds of fighters in the last century.

The secretary-general of the Italian Boxing Federation, Riccardo De Girolami, said it sounded as if the magazine printed "cliches" about boxing, perhaps influenced by such films as "Million Dollar Baby," about a woman trying to become a prize fighter.

"They don't really know the sport," De Girolami said. "The competitive level is like any other sport."

-- From News Services