Boxing, one of the most followed and loved sports across the world has been hit hard. The sport cannot be abolished because of the perils associated with lurking in the ring but the ‘double horror’ death in recent times calls for introspection and the introduction of reforms.Pugilists Hugo Alfredo Santillan and Maxim Dadashev who suffered various degrees of head injury resulting in their deaths four days apart after boxing bouts should be a wakeup call for boxing authorities. There is the need to protect any fighter who climbs through the ropes into the squared perimeter where one can easily get killed.
From Daniel Marshall in 1926 to Dadashev In 2019 many professional boxers have lost their lives due to serious injuries sustained in fights. This is a worrying situation that certainly can be mitigated like the International Boxing Association or AIBA (the body that sanctions amateur Olympic style boxing) proactively introduced the use of headgears in 1984 largely in response to the death of Kim Duk-koo, a popular boxer who died following a world title fight with Ray Mancini in 1982. A move many objected to because fans wanted no holds barred action and the trauma on the face of boxers. But the safety of boxers must come first always no matter the financial reward or the excitement fans derive.
Only on two occasions did the use of headgear raise questions with regards to safety in the Morocco 2006 and Beijing 2008 Olympics where two boxers suffered cranial bleeding but did not lead to death. And that in itself has recorded some success in the crusade against “fight deaths”.
Deaths due to head injuries and future brain damage to boxers is a major cause for concern and must be addressed urgently. In fact, legendary Muhammad Ali believed taking jabs to his head during sparring sessions could build up resistance to shots and also held the view his brain wouldn’t be affected by the thousands of powerful, crippling blows he received from opponents but that was his undoing later in his career as he suffered serious neurological damage.
Case in point, the future of boxing heavily relies on the availability and well-being of boxers and their safety is paramount to the continuous growth and sustainability of the sport. Now may be the best time for reforms. Headgears or bust! Professional boxers must speak out!