Has boxing become a game of Russian roulette?
When San Antonio news reports surfaced saying hometown favorite welterweight
Last week, Diaz faced a competitive
As the referee approached Diaz to assess his condition, the 25-year-old fighter screamed in pain, clutching his head and keeling over from right-body paralysis.
Current medical reports are cautiously optimistic that Diaz will survive. Now, media coverage of his injury fades and boxing breathes a sigh of relief at the diminishing negative attention.
This is not a Texas issue, but something that should affect the entire sport. Sadly, we wouldn't be discussing ring tragedies if the Diaz fight had not been televised. Too many serious injuries go unheralded. But with no pressure from the media and the lack of federal oversight, boxing counts on the public's short memory to excuse the rare tragedy as uncontrollable inherent danger.
Boxers deserve more vigilance than this.
Few understand the sport as well as famed HBO commentator
"It's this simple: If you can't live with Leavander Johnson's death, then you ban boxing, because this one came right out of the culture of the sport," Lampley wrote, claiming the best option is to honor a deceased fighter's memory by "... continuing to work on systems to make fights as safe as possible..."
As a neurologist, former ring physician and medical regulator with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, I have seen boxers survive and die from serious brain injury. To improve fighter safety requires a lessening of the risk factors during training and during fights. This may sound simple, but if it were, such tragedies would have been prevented years ago.
Research conducted in 2007 by West Virginia University Neurosurgeons,
Miele and Bailes also examined video analysis, along with Compubox, the computerized punch scoring system, to compare fatalities in fights, "classic" bouts (ones designated "Fight of the Year" by the media) and "average" bouts (ones that resulted in no significant neurological injury).
They found little difference between fatal and classic matches. In fact, contrary to logical thought, classic bouts lasted an average of 1.7 rounds longer than fatal fights.
Before we throw up our hands, there are factors we can control.
Former Nevada commissioner and chief ringside physician,
"You need the boxer to undergo a baseline brain MRI, echocardiogram [test using sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart], a complete passbook [record] of all his fights -- including those overseas, and an available record of every serious injury," he said. "No passbook, no fight."
Real improvements can only come through the formation of a federal commission as promised by
Today, it is absurd that boxers step into a ring and leave a fight without documentation they have a normal brain. An MRI before every fight may not be cost-effective, but it could save a life. And low prices can be negotiated. Every commission needs to require such testing or, Dr. Homansky said, they shouldn't hold fights.
If any set of factors could contribute to a ring tragedy, it is undisclosed injuries. A history of tough fights, gym wars, knockouts or knockdowns in the gym can potentially produce small unhealed hemorrhages on the brain's surface that can eventually result in ring death. And that's where the responsibility of trainers holds the utmost importance.
Being a great trainer involves more than simply teaching the game, showing a boxer how to avoid a right hand. No, a great trainer is someone who knows when enough is enough, when to cut off sparring sessions. A great trainer knows which weight class is the right one for their boxer so as to avoid profound weight gains, losses and dehydration. A great trainer can educate a boxer on recognizing the signs and symptoms of a brain injury, and acknowledge head gear protects only against cuts, not head trauma.
And, most important, a great trainer stops a fight when the boxer has no chance of a win.
Furthermore, pre-fight and post-fight examinations need expansion. It is unacceptable for a ring doctor to spend five minutes at the weigh-in with a boxer they have never met and adequately assess his neurological status during a bout.
No one is perfect, but hiring referees and doctors without training them rigorously is not only foolhardy, but also places the fighters at undue risk. In the event of a serious knockout or collapse, officials must adhere to mandatory safety protocols, along with a no-tolerance policy regarding official performance.
Diaz was lucky to have a quick-acting referee and aggressive medical team that performed immediate assessment and emergency transport to a nearby trauma center.
This is in sharp contrast to the ringside care provided at the recent
When serious boxing injuries do occur, they are often too severe to save a life, but adequate pre-fight medical assessment -- including an MRI, expeditious ringside diagnosis and emergency transport could make the difference.
This is something Oscar Diaz will, hopefully, be able to attest to one day.