More Safety for Fighters by Loyiso Mtya

The Trainers

The resistance of trainers to stop fights starts with a conflict of interests and ends with the boxers themselves. Trainers naturally have so much confidence – sometimes misplaced - in the abilities of some of their boxers that they elongate their stay in the fights and expose them to too much punishment believing that something is still going to happen. The confidence ranges from the boxer s ability to soak up punishment, killer punch, and or the trainer’s belief in himself to turn things around for the fighter. Those abilities in both cases are sometimes overrated.

The trainers themselves must not only be able to teach, condition and advise the boxers, but also to detach themselves from the boxer and look at the situation in a holistic manner. This is very difficult indeed because of firstly, the confidence they have built in the boxers, and secondly, the bond that has developed between them and keeps them together. Countless hours of physical interaction, exchanging words, sweat, blood and takes the boxing partnerships to levels beyond your normal father and son relationships people usually talk about. They become like lovers. They will not let each other down. They also become very jealous.

The Boxers

The boxers themselves are to blame for what happens to their lives by not disclosing previous injuries. A lot of boxers go into fights with injuries known to them but no to their managers and trainers. They know that telling could result in the fight being postponed or cancelled. The reasons for not telling are purely economic. Cancelling the fights denies them of opportunities to make money. We have cases in point that will not be mentioned now where boxers have injured themselves severely in life outside boxing while preparing for fights. They take these secrets to the ring, and sometimes beyond the ring.

What To Do

Maybe Boxing SA must allocate more manpower in the authority to assist the referee stop fights. The fight Supervisor is the person delegated the powers by BSA to take direct control of the whole tournament, including the referee. That person, by virtue of his/her powers, knowledge of the game and experience, should be given the added responsibility of indicating to the referee when the time to stop the fight has come.

There should be interaction between the two each time the referee collects and delivers the scorecards during rounds especially in a heated fight. The referee should be reporting in a word or two to the supervisor just to ensure that he/she is still focused and in control of not only of the fight s activities, but also his/ her own.

The boxing ring is a hive of activity to the referee. Not only has he got to keep his/her eyes on the two boxers who are very experienced and sneaky sometimes, but also on the seconds at opposite corners of the ring. Besides that the referee has to contend with very noisy crowds that can deviate the mind of your most experienced official. If you have been at the Orient Theatre you will know what I mean. The referee needs to be protected from the atmosphere.

Maybe the agreement signed by Boxing SA and THETHA to train BSA’s licensees i.e. officials, boxers, trainers and ring officials in First Aid will go a long way towards alleviating this challenge. The trainer will be able to identify the symptoms in the gym especially in sparring sessions where a lot of these injuries happen but fail to be identified. The referee in the fight will also be equipped.

The doctors must also be given greater powers to intervene and stop fights. It is traditionally known that they are at all tournaments as a rule, but their role is really for cuts and later checking the medical condition of the boxers after the referee has already stopped it. It may be too late.

They can only recommend to the referee after they have been invited to inspect cuts. Other than that their role is next to nothing. They can only sit there and watch helplessly. As the most qualified people in the venue, their opinion should be stronger than anybody else.

They can only recommend to the referee after they have been invited to inspect cuts. Other than that their role is next to nothing. They can only sit there and watch helplessly. As the most qualified people in the venue, their opinion should be stronger than anybody else.

Boxing South Africa has a rule that all boxers for title fights must be tested again no less than five days before the fight. One of the medical rules is that if a boxer is more than five percent over the weight limit, strict measures must be taken to monitor the reduction of that weight as the short space of time to the weigh-in may be cause for dehydration and exposes a boxer to injuries especially to the head and kidneys.

Boxing South Africa regulates that fight matches and contracts must be must be lodged with the office about a month before the fight itself. This could be very effective for the new ruling as all boxers in the tournament, not only title contestants, would be known and tested before hand. All boxers in a tournament would now have to be medically examined. This could also give rise to medical advice where needed. Twenty five days examination before the fight would give everybody enough time. Provisions for late minute substitutes, which would be very rare with this kind of ruling, could be made for genuine replacements.

The first challenge here would be for promoters to actually deliver fights in the prescribed time frame. This has proved to be very difficult over the years. Maybe time has now come to take punitive measures. Fights are changed and substituted everyday leading up to the fight for reasons ranging from boxers pulling out due to sickness to promoters themselves changing the dates. This makes the exercise long and indecisive.

Some of you may wonder why we are considering these new measures. They may regard this exercise as a case of locking the gates after the horse has bolted. On the contrary we will be embarking on the tightening of measures and compliances that already exist.

Like all introductions before them, these new precautions may not be the final screws to put the breaks on the unfortunate incidents besetting boxing, but they will go a long way towards slowing them down and making our boxing safer and all of us a lot more comfortable.