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Safety of sportsmen far more important than performances : On November 9th , 2008

How many athletes in the world adhere to safety regulations? That was the question Dr Paul Wallace, chairman of the WBC Medical Advisory Board raised at the 46th annual convention of the World Boxing Council on Friday. He stressed that in boxing when fighters get knocked out they don't even adhere to safety rules before they return to the ring.

How many stay away from contact training for 45 days? And how many refrain from taking part in contests for 60 days and get a total medical clearance before they return to taking part in fights? These were some of the questions he directed in an excellent address he made to members of the convention which was attended by 468 delegates from all over the world.

These are valuable points for our pugilists and Muay Thai fighters in Thailand. There are many fighters who take part in competitions to earn a few thousand baht to keep their home fires burning but they ignore these basic safety rules.

I remember well, witnessing a fight where a participant was mauled and suffered injuries, which to me were too severe and grave.

When I pointed out that the referee should have stopped the fight early on without allowing the boxer to be carried out of the ring, virtually senseless, some laughed at me claiming that I was chicken-hearted. But I never saw the fighter return to the ring.

He could have been easily saved for another day.

There are many fighters who get knocked out and return to the ring, having well recovered and rested, to continue their fighting career. There are others who, as Dr Wallace pointed out, should have waited for medical clearance, but go on fighting without stopping even contact training.

Not many years ago, boxers from Mexico who got knocked out in fights at home went to the US and fought under different names and tried to earn money. Similarly there are many ruses which boxers adopt to hoodwink officials while forgetting the fact that they are endangering their own safety.

Dr Wallace also made a valid topical point connected with old fighters all over the world who are trying to make a comeback. He said an age-limit on boxers should be mandatory. That is very important, especially in this era, when we read frequently of old-timers planning to return to boxing, claiming that they are still young and able to make a comeback to the ring..

He said that the maximum age for boxing should be 40, over that special medical tests, treadmill tests, full neurological tests and impact neuropsychological tests must be passed before allowing them to fight. Without which he said it would be very harrnful both to the fighters and the sport.

He pointed out that ring officials, especially referees should undergo physical examinations, including dialated eye exams, 20/60 with correction, fitness tests and blood pressure of 150/100. They should also undergo weight tests to ensure they aren't overweight which would hinder their mobility in the ring.

He also touched on the use of aspirin and related products, 15 days prior to sparring or before fights.

He said all boxers must undergo annual medical tests before fights are approved.

He pointed out the safety of not only boxers, all athletes, is far more important than anything else in the world. Which is quite true. A victory or defeat in any sport should come only after the safety of athletes are adhered to.

Another important topic Dr Wallace addressed his mind to was weight reduction, which always happens among Thai fighters, both among Queensbury Rules pugilists and Muay Thai exponents.

I have heard many managers and boxers claim, when a fighter is 12 pounds or more overweight before a weigh-in - a day before the contest - they could easily reduce well in time to face the scales.

That is very harmful. Besides reducing weight, they will naturally be weak when they get into the ring and cannot give their best. Instead of gradually reducing their weight they suddenly take off several pounds overnight which is harmful to their health and it happens every day in Thailand. It must be discouraged. Dr Wallace stressed these important problems and many others when he spoke on the safety of the sport.

The WBC President Dr Jose Sulaiman agreed that next year, the issues which Dr Wallace has pointed out in his report, will be taken into consideration and would be enforced.


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