Boxing can be beautiful, it can unfortunately also be brutal and as always at times like this when there has been a tragedy there are the usual calls of something has to change or in this instance the brain injury charity Headway calling for it to be banned altogether.
Recently the tragic death of Scott Westgarth has again called boxing into question. Do people boil down too much to make the weight which in turn reduces the amount of fluid protecting the brain? Does it leave them with less energy or prone to gassing out near the end of a fight or suffering from exhaustion and dehydration?
The answer to all those questions could quite possibly be yes. The boxing world is filled with talented brave young men, some of them too brave for their own good. In the last 5 years, we have lost Mike Towell, Tim Hague and Michael Norgrove along with Scott.
As tragic as any loss is there have also been other incidents where the quick thinking or response of the medical attendants have saved a fighters life. The fact that that it is mandatory to have an anaesthetist, as well as two teams of paramedics at each bout, has gone a long way to making things safer and to help get a fighter the attention they need as quickly as possible.
What we never seem to focus on is how boxing can change lives and also how important it is that we do have the medical procedures in place and how many lives this has saved over the years. In many ways, the most important man (or woman) at a fight night is the one you don’t want to share a ring with.
Nick Blackwell, Erik Skogland and Gary Murray were all placed in induced comas after their fights with Nick and Erik still recovering whilst Gary Murray is now fully recovered and although he won’t fight again is back in the gym in a coaching role.
In addition to this, how many young men has boxing saved from a life of crime, drugs or both? How many boxers over the years have admitted that if it weren’t for the boxing gym they joined and the discipline that is instilled into them that they would have strayed down a path into the darkness of depression, or in some cases be living on the streets?
Boxing is a business, it might be called the fight game but a game it is certainly not. I’m not the first person to say you don’t play boxing and I won’t be the last. But whilst it can be tragic it can also be the difference to someone changing the way they live their life. So whilst the sport will always make the headlines when something as terrible as this happens let’s not forget all the good positive things that comes from the boxing community and whilst it can be a brutal sport it also helps increase, confidence, improves overall health, brings lower crime rates in some cities and generally gives people a sense of belonging and a purpose. The principles of hard work and respect your opponent at all times are echoed in gyms up and down the country and for that and the medical procedures that the British Boxing Board of Control put in place for fight nights these days we should be very grateful.
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