Glitz, Glamour and Death In The Boxing Ring

By Ikenga Chronicles December 8, 2019

Glitz, Glamour and Death In The Boxing Ring

–By Epa Ogie Eboigbe

The euphoria following British boxer Anthony Joshua reclaiming his the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles from American-Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr has put the dazzle and glitz of the fight game on the front burner once more.

Many of us who have followed boxing revel in the sight of two grown men or women pummelling themselves to submission, even with no previous quarrel or argument.

It has always been all about fame and money. Very few sportsmen earn in their life time what a boxer earns in 12 rounds of three minutes each. So by exchanging devastating blows for 36 minutes only, a boxer like Andy Ruiz Jr or Anthony Joshua will go home with $10 million dollars, whether he wins or loses.

The likes of Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Joe Frazer, George Foreman, and Nigeria’s Obisia Nwakpa, Hogan Bassey, Dick Tiger and Dele Jonathan, to name a few, made their names and money from battering opponents ‘in the spirit of sport’.

But there is another side to this enjoyment, money and fame that boxing brings – death.

It is said that the late Muhammad Ali, ‘The Greatest’ (1942 to 2016) got the deriorating Parkinson’s disease from blows to the head during his boxing career. He is not the only one.

But death in the ring is real for many boxers!

Every boxer knows the inherent risks that he faces when he walks into a boxing ring. It could be his or her last walk.

Ok, so there is risk in everything in life – that drive could be your last drive; this flight could be your last; that walk down the road could be your last; even this meal could be your last!

But boxing seems more dangerous because you have signed to go into that ring, hoping to win but not knowing the outcome. You could have chosen something else to do because it seems very difficult to explain away or justify the dangers of boxing, even though several steps have been taken to reduce the dangers, including bringing down the maximum number of rounds from 15 to 12.

Between 1890 and 2019, 1,876 boxers died as a direct result of injuries sustained in bouts. Prior to that, there were 266 documented deaths from 1740 to 1889, the era before gloves were introduced and boxers fought bare-knuckled.

Each year, it is reckoned that 13 boxers on the average die in the ring or immediately after a fight.

US Boxer Patrick Day died on Wednesday October 16, 2019 aged 27 – four days after suffering a brain injury in a fight against fellow American Charles Conwell.
Patrick Day was knocked out in the 10th round of his super-welterweight bout in Chicago five days earlier.
He had won 17 of his previous 22 fights, with four defeats and one draw.

Day was stretchered off from the ring at the end of his fight with Conwell which was an undercard in the Oleksandr Usyk’s heavyweight victory over Chazz Witherspoon.

He was as at that time boxing’s fourth recorded death in 2019, that has come as a direct consequence of injuries sustained in the ring.

The previous month – September – 21-year-old Bulgarian Boris Stanchov died while fighting in Albania.

In July, two boxers died days between each other. Russian Maxim Dadashev, 28, died on July 23, four days after his light welterweight fight in Maryland, USA while Hugo Alfredo Santillán, 23-year-old Argentine, died on July 25, five days after collapsing at the end of a lightweight fight in Buenos Aires.

Along with these four fatalities, many other boxers in different parts of the world were rushed to the hospital as a result of injuries suffered in the ring.

Italian Christian Daghio also died in November 2018. The 49-year-old was in a World Boxing Council title fight in Thailand when he was knocked down twice in the 12th and final round of the match. He was taken to hospital where he died a couple of days later.

There is no officially recorded death in the Nigerian boxing ring but that is to be expected in our environment where record keeping is not our forte. But there is no doubt that the deaths of several of our boxers can be linked to the ring.

Because of these deaths and life-long injuries in boxing and other fight games, should boxing be banned?

It is a tough call because apart from the fighters themselves, promoters, sponsors, advertisers, betting companies and individuals make huge amounts of money from the fight game.

Are there other measures that can be taken to minimise the dangers in ring? Of course there are.

Apart from the reduction in the number of rounds, boxers use mouth guards and cups to protect the groin area. Recall that in earlier days, there was no limit to the number of rounds. It was fight to finish until one fighter gave up.

Head and face guard were introduced to amateur boxing some years ago. During amateur competitions like the Olympics and All Africa Games, boxers wear head guards to minimise the impact of blows to the head. But this does not apply to professional boxing.

While we revel in Anthony Joshua’s victory over Andy Ruiz Jr, let us spare a moment to remember boxers who have died this year in the ring or from direct boxing bouts. We also need to urge the various boxing and fight game promoters and regulators to think of more ways to make the game safer for fighters.

  • Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.