Concerns about brain damage and weight fluctuations, among other issues, are front of mind for boxing groups in the wake of two recent deaths of boxers just days after matches.
Two tragedies in the world of boxing this summer have the sport’s major organizations considering changes.
At the recent annual meeting of the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC), officials took a close look at the sport’s rules, with the goal of improving safety. The discussions come after two fighters, Russian Maxim Dadashev and Argentine Hugo Alfredo Santillán, died within two days of one another last month as a result of injuries sustained in the ring.
In a speech at the meeting, World Boxing Council (WBC) President Mauricio Sulaiman noted that boxers are incentivized to take dangerous risks.
“Any boxer who goes to the ring is willing to do whatever he has to do to win—whatever he has to do to be successful and make money for his family,” Sulaiman said, according to The New York Times. “If you ask him to fight 20 rounds, he will do whatever it takes. They’re warriors. It’s our duty to protect them from themselves.”
ABC and other boxing organizations are considering increased use of protective equipment as well as the role body weight plays. Many boxers experience significant weight fluctuations before a fight in order to meet weigh class requirements, but such swings can be hazardous. Rapid weight loss, for example, poses severe dehydration risk.
The WBC is currently testing a weight-management program that increases the number of weigh-ins before a fight, knowing that some athletes attempt to bulk up after the final weigh in, leading to rapid weight gain. The program limits how much weight a fighter may gain in the immediate run-up to the bout.
The groups are also looking closely at how medical attention is provided during a match. In Santillán’s case, a delay in medical attention may have contributed to his death, according to the Times.
Meanwhile, at its annual meeting, ABC unanimously approved a change in a rule for mixed martial arts matches. It modified the “grounded fighter” rule, which defines the when a fighter is considered down and therefore can’t be kicked or kneed in the head. State commissions around the country had used inconsistent versions of the rule. ABC expects all state commissions will adopt the new language.
“It’s a fighter safety issue. … Being unified is important enough to rewrite the downed fighter rule,” ABC President Mike Mazzulli told ESPN.
“People are going to get hurt, and people are going to die,” Dr. Michael Schwartz, who cochairs ABC’s medical advisory committee, told the Times. “But we’re here to do everything we can to minimize those risks.”