New York City - The prayers continue for heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov. He continues to be in a coma at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City after a stroke sustained from surgery removing a blood clot and part of his skull to reduce swelling on his brain. The boxing community is also raising money for his family to help with the medical bills.
For boxing, this is another blow even as we pray. Thoughts are with Abdusalamov who gave fans an interesting and compelling heavyweight fight at Madison Square Garden this past Saturday night. The 32-year old Russian lost to Mike Perez by decision on the HBO televised card.
It was what every fighter looks for, opportunity and the big stage on HBO and in New York City. The risk of course was not just for Abdusalamov, but for every fighter who steps in the ring. There has never been any doubt that the sport of boxing is detrimental, however, when looking at how many take that risk, Abdusalamov is one of the few who sustained serious or a life threatening situation.
So with that, and not taking away our thoughts and prayers for Abdusalamov and his family that remain at his bedside, there are those who say again that boxing should be banned.
To the contrary, are these same calls made when another NFL football player is sidelined with a concussion or is near paralysis because of a hard hit to the head? Not many, but this is boxing and that once again opens up the debate.
For years, those looking to make a statement have conducted their studies. And, yes it is known, persistent hits to the head will cause trauma. The issue of brain damage and other medical symptoms associated with being in the ring have been documented. However, every fighter, including Abdusalamov, took that risk and realized the implications when they signed a contract to put on the gloves and compete.
The injuries, some fatal, are few and far in between. Consider that with all the medical safety standards the sport has in place, the ratio of injuries or deaths in boxing are the lowest when compared to other contact sports, or every competitive sport.
And boxing has always been ahead of the NFL and Major League Baseball as it pertains to a blow to the head, or more recently the stepped up awareness of post-concussion syndrome. More and more there are efforts with medical personnel involved with boxing to see how the safety of a fighter is a major priority.
That has always been the situation for boxing, safety, but the sport because of a previous and continued negative stigma will always be on the defensive side. Unfortunately when rare situations occur, and similar to the one at hand with Abdusalamov, it becomes another call for those calling to ban the sport.
But for those who have been in the ring, and in fights of a similar magnitude that Abdusalamov had, they have first-hand experience and an opinion that needs no debate. Knowing the risks and what it takes to be in the ring are important as they continue to pray for one of their own.
“I thought his (Abdusalamov) nose was broken by asking his trainer at the time,” said former super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy who was knocked down in the 12th round in title loss to Joe Calzaghe at the MEN Arena in England on March 5, 2006.
That was a fight seeing lacy take several punches to the head. When he left the ring there was concern.
“It really should have been looked at,” he commented about the nose, “or the fight even being stopped at the time. We as fighters are very, very tough minded when in actions. It most times takes our trainer or a loved one to make an aggressive decision.”
Tiger “The Tiger” Lopez the three-time super featherweight and lightweight champion can also understand the risks. In 1988 he had the fight of the year with a decision over Rocky Lockridge and lost a memorable fight to the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez in 1994. Another case of brutal punches to the head and boxing safety then was a concern, and measures to improve the wellness of a fighter have advanced since that time.
“Boxing is on a list of five, six, or seven when on the list of dangerous sports,” commented Lopez, now 50 years of age and running a successful bail bonding agency from his home in Sacramento California. He also does some occasional acting in feature films.
Lopez added,” I was in a few battles and have no side effects from boxing. It’s always a bad day when a fighter is hospitalized to any degree. But we as fighters know the risk we take every time we enter the ring. But we continue to do it for the love of the fight. May God bless him (Abdusalamov) and his family.”
The boxing community is concerned, and they offer support to the family. Organizations that support retired and current fighters with financial support such as Ring 10 in New York, and Alex Ramos, the former professional with the Retired Boxers Association are contributing funds to defray medical costs the Abdusalamov family has incurred.
And the concern for safety of the fighter and the sport of boxing will continue. Ramos, Lopez, current fighters, some promoters and organizations such as Ring 10 are always in the fight to make this sport better along with the WBC, a major sanctioning body.
On Tuesday, The World Boxing Council at their annual convention in Thailand pledged over $51,000 in medical expenses to the family.
But by no means should this latest incident to a fighter stop the great sport from continuing to make champions. All sports can be dangerous. But for some reason boxing is always in that category of being more detrimental over the others.
And that is not fair, especially with all the excellent safety measures in place before and after a fighter gets in the ring.
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