DO GYMS NEED TO FALL UNDER REGULATIONS?

BY Charles Jay ON May 25, 2002
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Fighters who suffer KO or TKO losses are commonly put under a medical suspension by a boxing commission, with those suspensions, as a rule, upheld by other state commissions. The lengths of these suspensions vary, according to the severity of the situation.

Take a look through the record books. You'll probably find plenty of situations where a fighter who is stopped in one fight comes back and fights less than 35 days later, or a fighter who has been knocked out (60-day suspension) has come back in 65 days or less. You don't think he just rolled out of bed and stepped into the ring for those fights, without any preparation?

No, of course not. A fighter who is called for a fight and accepts it is not going to be sitting at home waiting for that suspension to be lifted. He is going to be in the gym, working out, and in many cases, going through sparring sessions. If the purpose of the commission's suspension is to prohibit any physical contact that may be detrimental to the fighter's health during such suspension period, isn't there something in this picture that doesn't make a whole lot of sense?

You don't have to be a doctor to know that sparring can obviously create certain head trauma that can be harmful for the fighter, and which in fact can aggravate any injury that already exists. And if you think headgear effectively prevents it, think again. In truth, this is a SERIOUS safety issue that has very rarely been explored, and is not likely to be addressed unless some people step forward and speak up.

It can't be stressed strongly enough that fighters need to be expressly prohibited from engaging in any kind of sparring activity during their suspension period. And maybe even more importantly, trainers should be forbidden from putting suspended fighters into sparring sessions.

For this reason, gyms and the people who are responsible for them, need to be subject to some kind of regulation by boxing authorities, whether they be local, regional, or national.

And gyms should be required to have proper emergency equipment installed, along with someone on hand at all times who has a working knowledge of that equipment, not to mention first aid and CPR, when sparring sessions are underway. At least SOME of the precautionary apparatus that you see in an actual fight should be present.

I don't care what kind of gym it is or where it is - adherence to specified safety guidelines should be mandatory. After all, since fighters may spend 40 days or more in a gym for every day they spend in an "actual" fight, doesn't this kind of policy make sense?

We're well aware that there's a logistical problem in enforcing any kind of regulation. Admittedly, representatives of boxing commissions can not be expected to monitor all gym activity. And we are not suggesting that they do. But spot-checks certainly can be made, and whistle-blowers should be given protection.

To offset the fact that the law is hard to enforce, but recognizing that transgressions could have very serious health consequences, you're going to need a strong deterrent. Therefore, the penalties for an infraction should be VERY severe - up to a one-year suspension of license, fines, and possible jail time for those parties who are determined to have been responsible.

And that's not the only matter that deserves attention as far as boxing gyms is concerned. Here are some others:

For example, there is nothing to prevent an amateur with virtually no experience from getting into the ring with a seasoned professional in a sparring session. Of course, in an encounter like this, the amount of actual punishment doled out is entirely up to the more experienced fighter's discretion. The potential for health risk is there. The amateur could get hurt - badly. The trainer's behavior in this regard should be subject to ongoing review.

And think about the concept of sparring itself. Naturally, sparring is something which is considered necessary for all fighters in preparation for a bout. No argument there. But let's face it - when a fighter is getting hit in the head everyday, head trauma is suffered. And, as we mentioned, the headgear worn during the sparring sessions does very little to prevent this from happening.

Something else to think about - if a fighter trains six weeks for a ten-round fight, and finds himself sparring one hundred rounds for that fight, that is, at least in theory, the equivalent of fighting ten fights, with actual contact; perhaps not as much punishment being absorbed as in an actual fight, but punishment nonetheless. And some fighters have sparred on back-to-back days - something that can potentially bring about harmful long-term effects. Doesn't this kind of activity, in and of itself, warrant some kind of regulatory oversight, with dire consequences for those who don't comply?

And there is a hidden problem that has never been addressed - obviously a trainer is going to look out for the best interests of his own fighter during a sparring or workout session. But what about the other fighter? You see, in an actual fight, there at least is a referee present, to look out for the welfare of a fighter from a safety perspective. Such a person doesn't necessarily exist in the sparring atmosphere.

As a result, everyone should take great care in order to operate responsibly.

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.

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