In just the last one month, the sport has claimed the lives of two boxers – American Patrick Day and Australian Dwight Ritchie.
The 27-year-old Day died four days after suffering head injuries in a fight with his compatriot, Charles Conwell. Ritchie, who was also 27, died during a a training session with his sparring partner Michael Zerafa.
Another four boxers had succumbed to injuries sustained in the ring this year alone.
Statistics compiled by the late Manuel Velazques and continued by his successors, states that between 1890 and 2019 almost 1,900 boxers have died as a direct result of injuries sustained in bouts. And from 1740 to 1889, before the advent of gloves 266 boxers were said to have died in bare knuckled boxing bouts.
In recent years, the annual average number of documented boxing related deaths is about 13 per year. All the fatalities in boxing this year has been those below 30 years old. Twenty-one year-old Bulgarian Boris Stanchov took a £350 appearance fee for his fatal bout against Ardit Murja, illegally using his cousin Isus Velichkov boxing licence.
Two months before that in July, two boxers died just days between each other. Russian Maxim Dadashev, 28, died four days after his light welterweight fight in Maryland while 23-year-old Argentinian Hugo Alfredo Santillán died five days after collapsing at the end of a lightweight fight in Buenos Aires.
This does not include hundreds of others who have suffered serious and life changing injuries. It also drastically affects the lives of those close to the boxers, families and friends alike.
Velazquez, who started the boxing death statistics, was himself affected by the suffering of his close friend, Pete Nebo, who was committed to a mental hospital, a condition the later was afflicted because of all the blows to the head he had received in the ring.
Velasquez, was a strong exponent of getting boxing banned. Like him many also feel that boxing is just too dangerous to be a sport. Others believe that boxing should not be vilified as there are many other sports that were also inherently dangerous.
Motorsports is another sports that sees regular fatalities. Indonesian Afridza Munandar was the latest victim, losing his life after crash during the Asia Talent Cup in Sepang, Malaysia. The legendary Aryton Senna died during a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.
In September, Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubart, 22, died after a crash during the Belgium GP feature race. Last Sunday, Melanie Coleman, a 20-year-old nursing student from the Southern Connecticut State University died of spinal injuries she sustained during practice on the bars.
There has been numerous cases of players dying after suffering cardiac arrests on the field – in football, baseball, American Football, cricket and basketball.
A study commissioned by the English Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association found that former professional player were 3.5 times more likely to die with dementia and other neurological diseases.
The 22-month study by the Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group confirmed the suspected link between brain injuries caused by repetitive heading and collisions in the game and neurological diseases.
Unlike, the other sports, boxing is a sport that requires the participants to intentionally injure their opponents. It is the same with mixed martial arts.
This is seen by many as the negative aspect of boxing that should be disqualifying, although the sports has been putting in safeguards to make it much safer.
The World Boxing Federation (WBF) has a set of rules aimed at protecting the health and safety of boxers. It includes annual medical examinations before they are issued a license to fight.
If a boxer is knocked out, he may not box or engage in contact training for at least 60 days. The number of rounds a boxer had to go through in a professional bout was also reduced from 15 to 12 in an attempt to limit injuries back in 1983 following the death of South Korean Duk-koo Kim.
AIBA, the governing body for amateur boxing, decided to drop the use of protective headgear for men after research was found that those who competed without headgear were less likely to experience acute brain injury than those who wore head protection.
The 2016 Rio Olympics was the first time that men competed without headgear in three decades at the Games. However, women boxers are still compelled to use headgear as it was still being researched and looked into.
Such safeguards has not satisfied the naysayers, who still feel that measures taken were minimal because the number of deaths has not reduced by much and that head injuries were still prevalent.
A recent study by the University of Stirling found that even sparring could do damage to the brain. Various studies have also found that repeated repeated concussions can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which in turn could cause dementia.
Boxers receiving repeated punches to their head, the chances of getting concussions is definitely much higher.
With boxing being a high risk sport, why do so many youngsters still take up the sport?
One good reason is that the sports also promises financial stability if the boxers make the grade. It is an opportunity for youngsters coming from the lower income to break away from poverty.
It is for the exact reason as to why Muay Thai sees so many teens taking up the sport. The death of a 13-year-old Muay Thai exponent last year has not stopped the exploitation of kids taking part in competitive bouts in the country.
In the USA boxing is also seen as an avenue to get disadvantaged youngsters off the street and away from the gang culture and drug abuse. Some of their best boxers including the likes of Mike Tyson, would have never been discovered if not for the boxing programmes being conducted in problematic areas.
As in other sports, boxing has its positive and negative impact on society in general. Banning boxing because of the numerous deaths and injuries may not be the right way forward.
Boxing is a billion dollar business worldwide and is also closely associated to betting, both legal and illegal. Banning the sport would only create clandestine bouts.
When Prohibition was introduced in the 1920s, it practically created organized crime in America. Organized racketeers dominated the illegal “bootlegging” industry and it basically financially empowered the gangs including the Mafia.
Putting a stop to legal boxing, could also be start of unregulated event with chances of deaths and injuries increasing multi fold.
For now, the best way forward for the sport, is to continue looking into ways to make it safer for the boxers, amateurs or professionals.