Death in the Ring

By WBA 15/02/2009

This topic comes to me as the result of some restlessness I get in Light of the numerous deaths occurring in boxing and that have led boxing to a dramatic polemic situation. We have all reached the conclusion that boxing is a sport of strong actions thus requires a lot of preparation. What motivates this research that I am presenting today for its analysis on behalf of the referees, judges, directors, trainers, promoters, boxers and even the medical board? What is it good for? I consider it will be very useful, and it will lead us to other researches that will benefit boxing. What are we studying? It studies a universe of 112 commissions and federations. A total of 100 people of those commissions are touched to know their impressions on the subject. Besides those commissions, there are also other people and entities helping with this research, universities, ONG interested in submitting some solutions to boxing.

At present, boxing has to analyze and draw some real conclusions that help straighten up its path. I am sure that the self analysis I mention, will lead us to take some measures that will allow us to keep boxing on the top.

According to the statistics, what controls are failing? The control system in every commission and federation are universal. Every commission or federation is responsible for the issuing of the permission of their boxers whenever they are travelling abroad to fight for a title or elimination. Before the boxer travels he must get medical check up to guarantee his good physical state. He should get MRI, CAT scan, sight test, blood test, and a document of his training for the fight for the last two months. However, in our research, we found out that some regions do not do anything of what we mentioned above. But it is in that moment when the death route begins for boxer, or saying it other way, the Russian roulette in boxing. The permission is responsibility of the boxer’s hometown commission, and it should be delivered to the commission where he is going to fight. The host commission has to run a minimum medical check up, of the brain to know the exact situation of the boxer to prevent the deaths we are talking nowadays.

Now those people who take boxers abroad, avoid tests and present the boxers as fit to fight and they do not inform of the real physical state of the boxer. We found there is a lot of cheating and also a lot of irresponsibility, not only on behalf of the trainers and the boxer but also on behalf of the commissions and federation that take part.
Now, let’s look at something important, our research goes from 1997 to 2004. We began the deaths of Benny Kid Paret with Emile Griffith in 1997. Also, on February 22, 1997 Hiroyuki Iranuma dies at the age of 22 from a cerebral hemorrhage; on October 19, Akira Taiga from Japan dies after a coma. Those people were not older than 24 years. For 1998, on October 27, the Japanese Kan Katagiri dies from a brain hemorrhage, he was 25. In 2000 Robert Benson, 26, died after a hard beating the referee allowed. In 2001, the Australian Ahmad Popal suffered a brain concussion and died on April 9, and he was 28 years. On January 4, Cresencio Mercado from Mexico died from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 19. On July 3, the North American Beethaeven Scottland died. In 2002, the Thai boxer Chatchai Patsilon died to low pressure suffered during the bout, at the age of 28. The Japanese Yosihiro Irei suffered a brain hemorrhage at the age of 22, after a fight. On June 26, the Filipino Manuel Sayas went into a coma on the ring after the fight, at the age of 21. On July 24, the Panamanian Pedro Roquero Alcazar died 36 hours after the fight, at the age of 26. On November 24, the Argentinean Daniel Espindola suffered brain damage after a fight. On February 19, Jack Ryan from Indonesia went into a coma after being defeated, at the age of 26. On December 7, Carlos Menza from Colombia died 3 days after being knocked out in Panama, at the age of 26. On July 4, Martin Bombero Sanchez, from Mexico died a day after losing his title, at the age of 26. Then we have Levander Johson who lost with Jesus Chavez and died later.

From this information, we can gather that most of the deaths happen before the athlete is 30 years of age, and they were suppose to be physically and technically fit to be a boxer. That is a question that I am sure will induce to another investigation. For example, in this research, we have the following results. First, 83.3% do not make brain tests before the fight, they just make a regular physical test at the weight in, they do not make blood tests, sight tests, and in the women case, they do not have pregnancy test and menstrual test. Some women fight while they are pregnant and two months alter the fight they give birth. We have also have cases where women get to the ring while menstruating and they bleed in the ring, which is a very unpleasant situation.
Second, 75% of the legislation have the brain and blood tests as mandatory; now, 46% do not comply with it, 29% do it unwillingly and the other 25% do it but say that if they apply the regulation strictly, there will be no boxing events.

There are boxers with ear and nose hemorrhage, they are treated as normal cases, and they are sent to a specialist. Then you take a fight, and there comes the accidents.
The other we gather from our research is that 92% of the commissions or federations wish and request that they be given courses, clinic or seminars about symptoms, preventions and treatment of brain injuries.

Another point has to do with promoters. 71% take boxing as a show and a way of making money, and when they were asked about the physical and health care of the boxers, they said it was not their responsibility.

Next point has to do with commissions. 76% say that if the enforce their regulations, there will be no boxing. This leads to an ethic issue on the compliance of the tolerance regulations, and the human part of the boxers. Le salio la pelea, no le damos permiso, lo dejamos ir, sabemos que va a tener un mal momento, quien es el responsable.
Next; I will give you the result but I will not comment. 69% of the boxers and trainers suggest that the referees should have paramedic training, to analyze and make decisions in important critical situations, on the physical state of the boxers.

There are 20 points and we are still receiving answers to our questionnaires. With this, I finished the objective part and will move on to the subjective part, where I will make some comments.

A very painful issue touches all of us, is that in many occasions the commissions or federation members, referees, judges, trainers and managers take the boxing as a show and disregard the welfare of the boxers. Then comes another question in our research and that is, the most controls you apply to boxing, the fewer fans will attend the show, because there is no blood or knock out.

We found someone who said the he remembered the amateur World titles in San Pérez, Finland, where there were 258 fights and only 24 ended in Knockout and the number wounds was minimal, unfortunately the press considered the championship a fiasco by the press, because there were not significant injuries and no many knockouts.
The pros and contra of boxing that people are talking about, like in other sports. For example, just like in parachuting and mountain climbing, there are accidents in boxing. In most cases, boxing is the only alternative young people have to overcome poverty because it is one of the cheapest sports. As of the contras, we find that every year, at least one boxer dies during or after a fight. Ever since boxing has been look at as a profitable sport, the boxers’ life is calculated in dollars. Another issue is that boxing commissions and federation do not enforce effectively the medical controls to protect boxers.

The question is: Could we be more demanding? Will we be able to communicate better to avoid cheating and deception of what I call the merchants of boxing, that take boxers to other countries an exploit them and earn a few bucks? Could we demand the tests and legal documents to avoid so many sad situations? Can we be stricter? Can we, the members of the World Boxing Association, help to avoid those cases wherever our name is? There is too much to talk about. At present, we are contacting Dr. Bill Smith from Las Vegas, in light of all the deaths occurred there, because Las Vegas has the record in the United States of death during and after the fights. Dr. Bill Smith promised a report of what has been going on, what they think is happening, and what their plan of action would be to enforce the regulations to boxers of other latitudes. This research will take some time, maybe December or January.

I am happy to say that the Directorate accepted my concern and we created a committee that will allow us to be up-to-date on this kind of things. These are contributions that are reality and valuable concepts, and that we all can use. These are very serious and objective questionnaires, they are not subjective so they cannot harm. I want to leave my concerns to all of you, and I wish that little by little we would reach our goal of enforcing the safety regulations on every commission or federation. I believe that only united and with communication we can reach that goal. Thanks God the WBA has not have the problems other organizations are having, but we must not be happy all the time, we have to be aware that it is very difficult to accept defeat, but it is harder to accept victories. We have work day by day for the WBA to be the best. Let’s hope the commissions and federations comply with everything, so that our face will be as clean as always.