Challenging Boxing Myths - The Fans Respond
By DoghouseBoxing Readers Compiled by Jim Cawkwell (July 23, 2004) 
In this penultimate edition of our discussion series on the many myths abound in the boxing world, we have been fortunate to receive some very insightful replies.
Our readers have touched on some very delicate matters regarding the safety of professional boxers and in justifying their opinions, they have provided some compelling reading. Read on as readers offer an examination into the shortcomings currently rampant in boxing today.

A Barbaric Profession

Dear Jim:
Any sport which involves potential contact between it's participant and another immovable object comes with risks. Whether it's auto racing, football, downhill skiing, basketball or boxing, participants are bound to get injured.
Boxing is years behind other professional sports in only one critical aspect. "The Health Care Entourage." While some boxers like to surround themselves with entourage's of other kinds, the only one they truly need is one of the health care kind.
If we look at an average NBA, NFL or NHL team, we will find that the team provides a Medical Doctor, Surgeon, Chiropractor, Athletic Therapist, Massage Therapist, Acupuncturist, Naturopath and Nutritionist. This is what makes up the average "Health Entourage".
This "Health Entourage" is not only missing in boxing, but is critical to the safety of a professional boxer. If a boxer does not re-hydrate properly after a weigh-in they may be more susceptible not only to dehydration and poor performance but also to brain injury. Often drinking water is not enough. There are critical elements that must be replaced and in certain dosages to ensure optimal performance and optimal safety.
There is also the aspect of injury prevention. Often it is the boxer with the fewest injuries who wins in the later rounds not necessarily the better boxer. But as a fan, all you can see is that your favorite fighter has stopped throwing their jab or left hook and you simply can't figure out why? Are these boxers walking into a fight already injured?
Kirk Johnson lost a chance to fight Lennox Lewis due to a tear in his chest muscle just weeks before the fight. Vitali Klitschko lost his fight against Chris Byrd due to a shoulder injury after the 9th round. Joe Calzaghe lost his chance at IBF light-heavy weight Glencoffe Johnson due to a back injury. Now we hear Tyson's back is giving him problems. There are too many examples and they continue to appear.
Injuries are going happen no matter how much preparation you do. But the fact is that "boxers" more then the sport of boxing, lack the proper health care support to keep them safe and to give them the best fighting chance.
With Millions of dollars at stake, it is incredible to think that promoters and managers are not taking the time to insure the safety and success of their boxers. Surprisingly, it is not the cost involved to keep these boxers healthy, it is more a function of time and education.
A ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold of your World Championship Belt!
Dr. Paul Biondich
Boxing Performance Specialist.

Do you think that boxing is truly as safe as it can be? 

How do the safety measures and testing procedures used in boxing measure up
to those used in other mainstream sports?

What measures do you feel could be introduced in order to ensure that boxers are as protected as possible?

Would you support your child or family member's participation in boxing?

1.  Nope.  Incompetent refs and incompetent commissions do not always act timely or appropriately.  Gerald McClellan and Randy Carver would have benefitted from someone at ringside jumping in.  I don't feel that refs watch or know how a fighter fights, and cannot tell when something is wrong. In these cases, someone from the outside should be observing.   These injuries were caused by headbutts, and most folks should have been able to tell from the physical lethargy and constant eye blinking that something was wrong.  There is a distinct difference between the way these fighters normally fought and what was happening on their tragic nights. 

2.  Other sports are better because they are organized and the individuals are cared for by their teams, or they make enough money to get help.  Pete Sampras has the bucks stashed away to see a doctor about tennis elbow, and Ray Lewis can get an MRI on demand, but you can rest assured that the 4 round prelim fighters can't get much medical attention for $250. This also goes back to the promoter/manager/trainer/etc thinking that 33% is fair. Bull.  The fighter's life is on the line, and they should be able to keep 90% of the paycheck.

3.  Yearly Cat Scans.  This way a doctor could compare the neurological damage being done year by year.  I do not know a "good" percentage, but if there is a way to measure the decrease in brainwave activity, then a ban from the sport could be imposed by capping the amount of decrease in this activity.  JC Chavez with his thick skull and awesome skills might last 15 years, but the Midwest circuit fighters with low skill and a propensity for catching punches with their heads may only last 3 years.  I think this would also weed out the number of participants in boxing (on the low end) so that only the better fighters would be in a ring.  I don't need to be in one, but Floyd Mayweather does.

Donovan Leonard

I think for starters it should be mandatory that every fighter wear the new shock type of mouth pieces. It helps reduce shock to the brain.

Your recent article on Doghouseboxing made me think and I figured I'd take your invitation and send you some brief thoughts.

Boxing is not as safe as it could be.  If fighter safety were the paramount concern, then professionals would use amateur rules and the amateurs would be reduced to hitting each other with pillows.  As long as one of the objectives in boxing is to knock the other boxer out, it will be a dangerous sport.  Without knockouts, boxing is like a point karate tournament.

Boxing will never be safer than most other sports because of its very nature.  That isn't a problem with boxing, just a defining characteristic.

- Ben

Thank you to all of the readers who contributed to this discussion and please look out for the final installment of the current series of 'Challenging Boxing Myths’, which will be available soon.

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