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How are Deaths Prevented in Boxing?

These are the measures that are taken inside and outside the ring to prevent the deaths of boxers.

Two boxers in a fight

Reducing the number of rounds has been a key factor in reducing mortality in boxing. Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post| Juan Manuel Londoño

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Leer en español: ¿Cómo se previenen las muertes en el boxeo?

Recently, Mexican boxer Jeanette Zacarías Zapata passed away as a result of injuries sustained in her fight against Canadian Marie Pier Houle. Obviously, this is an atypical result, which should not happen in any combat sport. However, this made us wonder, how can deaths in boxing be reduced?

What has already been done?

Between 1890 and 2019, 1,876 boxers died in the ring. This statistic counts deaths that occurred after gloves for sport became popular. Before 1890 you fought without gloves, which was much more dangerous.

According to a 2009 American Medical Association report, for every 1000 participants per year, there are 0.13 deaths. However, this number has dropped periodically. This is due to various adjustments that contribute to reducing mortality in the ring.

Less combat time

Reducing the number of rounds has been a key factor in reducing mortality in boxing. In the early days of the sport, boxers used to fight until either of them couldn't take it anymore.

Eventually, a fixed combat time was established, which was divided into rounds. For many years, these rounds were 15 in total, until the death of Korean boxer Kim Duk-koo in his fight against Ray Mancini in 1982. After that event, the World Boxing Council reduced the number of rounds to 12.

The shorter combat time reduces the probability of brain damage, as well as dehydration and the possibility of heart problems.

Weight classes

Believe it or not, there was a time when there were no weight classes in boxing. In other words, a 200-pound man could easily take on a 65-pound man. This resulted in extremely uneven fights, in which one boxer had more destructive capacity in his fists than the other. The introduction of weight classes in 1920 was a key factor in reducing injuries and mortality in sport.

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What can be done

Despite all these changes, it is critical to understand that there are still many things that can be done to further reduce fatality in boxing. These include:

  • More requirements to fight: Professionals undergo MRIs to detect the possibility of brain damage before each fight. Amateur boxers should have similar requirements.
  • Make the fights fairer. Federations sometimes pit undefeated boxers against boxers who have negative fighting records, in order to attract more public for the possibility of a knockout. The fights should be fairer to prevent the less talented person from taking massive damage.
  • Further, reduce the number of rounds. MMA fights last 5 rounds, while boxing fights a maximum of 12. As we already mentioned, reducing the number of rounds would reduce the probability of brain damage, as well as dehydration and the possibility of heart problems.