A Sad Time For Boxing

It’s been an incredibly miserable week for the world of boxing, what with the tragic deaths of two young fighters and the scourge of doping making headlines once more.

Argentinian Hugo Alfredo “Dinamita” Santillan sadly passed away on Thursday, due to the injuries he sustained in his draw last Saturday evening. He was only 23. His death follows that of 28-year-old Russian Maxim Dadashev, who died on Tuesday following his IBF eliminator in Maryland on Friday evening. Either death serves as a truly heart-wrenchingreminder of the danger’s each fighter faces each time they step into the ring.

It is their deaths, coupled with a number of other tragic instances over past few years such as the deaths of Scott Westgarth and Mike Towell, along with the life changing injuries sustained by boxers such as Nick Blackwell and Eduard Gutknecht, that have led to fresh calls for the ban ofboxing.

Those calls are quite rightly dismissed and come solely from those ignorant of the value and benefit of boxing. Along withother contact sports like martial arts and rugby, boxing shows people the benefits of hard work and fitness. It teaches discipline to those who would otherwise struggle to master it outside of the gym. It provides a proper environment for people to channel their anger and aggression. It brings people of all races and religions together, no matter their background, just look at Northern Irish boxers such as protestant Carl Frampton and catholic Paddy Barnes. United by their common love of the sport and the respect it taught them, theyhave become best mates. Boxing transcends politics in a way quite like nothing else.

As a compulsive gambler myself, boxing has been invaluable for my recovery – I’ve been boxing for just over three years and have had seven bouts. It’s provided me with a focus andrelease like nothing else; something to truly commit to. If you visit any boxing gym across the country, you’ll find several people just like me, who categorically owe their lives to boxing. It’s an indisputable fact that boxing saves thousands more lives than in takes.

Every amateur boxing gym in the world is filled with kids from tough backgrounds, who would otherwise be spending their times on street corners and estates getting into trouble. It’s no secret that there is a serious issue with knife crime across the country at the minute. Just think how worse that would be if we didn’t have boxing. It’s a beautiful, yet undoubtedly brutal sport, that allows young men and women to learn how to live their lives in an honourable and noble fashion. Sadly, some boxers are not that noble. Some cheat.

The use of PEDS (performance enhancing drugs) hit headlines once more last week, when it was reported on Wednesday that Dillian Whyte failed a drug test a few days prior to his fight with Oscar Rivas, which he won by way of unanimous decision. The details of this test and the alleged substance involved have been murky to say the least. This is due to legal cases submitted by team Whyte, currently preventing more details from being released. What is clear however is that Dillian Whyte had something show on his test and was subjected to a hearing in front of an independent panel, where he was subsequently cleared to fight. It’s because of this clearing, the legal challenge by team Whyte and the fact Whyte pays around £40k a year form VADA testing that leaves me confident Whyte was not cheating, and there has been some legitimate mix up.

Whyte himself is a testament to positive results boxing can generate. He got in trouble when he was young and was actually shot and stabbed and lived to tell the tale. He turned his life around with boxing and dedicated his life to the sport. He come from nothing, and through sheer discipline and persistence, has ground it out without help and established himself as the number one heavyweight contender. I truly hope and believe Whyte will be cleared of any wrong doing in the coming days.

Whilst it is too early pass judgement on Whyte’s result, there are a number of concerns that have emerged from this whole episode. Firstly, there is the fact that team Rivas was not informed of an adverse finding before the fight, as there is no legal obligation for this. Secondly, Rivas himself has also been accused of failing a test, and Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn stated if that was the case, they also would not have yetbeen informed by the doping agencies.

Am I missing something here?

I fail to see how a fighter should not have this information disclosed to them. Surely, a fighter should be made aware of any adverse findings in an opponent’s test as soon as q failure has been confirmed, even if in Whyte’s case he was cleared to fight? Rivas should have had the option to fight or not, which of course he will have done as he knows Whyte was cleared to fight and because otherwise, he would he would have lost his opportunity and earnings from the fight. What’s more early notification would avoid any of the controversy or suspicion that has since emerged to be avoided? Every fighter should have it written into their fight contracts; they are able to withdraw from a fight if an opponent has failed a test without penalty. They are laying their lives on the line. They deserve that choice.

The deaths of Santillan and Dadashev, and the latest doping scandal serve as a stark reminder there simply has to be a number of changes in the world of boxing. There has to be.

I was even more alarmed after watching an interview with Hearn this week, when I found out some American states do not even require boxing events or have paramedics or oxygen available. How can that be? The boxing boards of each country and each state has to sit down with the governing bodies and standardise their rules. The same safety precautions need to be in place at each fight and they need to be improved, with the implementation of head scanners for on the day brain scans to clear fighters to fight. We need every fighter drug tested before fighting and we need the same substances banned and under the same conditions. Too many boxers have come out this week and said they have only been tested once or twice in their career for alarms not to be raised. Things can’t carry on as they are, because more people will cheat, more people will get away with it and more people will die, It’s that simple.

I’m sure these extra measures will be costly, and some will say promoters should foot the bill for such measures. That’s fine for the likes of Hearn and Arum, the big boys, but not for small hall promoters. This is evidenced by the fact Little Vs Browne at York Hall had to be cancelled just days before the fight was due to take place because of financial constraints. It’s sad, but small events are often cancelled if fighters cannot sell the right amount of tickets, and small promoters often lose money on their shows. It should not be the promoters that pay, it’s the governing bodies. Let’s be honest, you never heard that the governing bodies are struggling financially, do you? I mean take a look at the WBC and the ‘money belt’ commissioned for Mayweather vs McGregor. They can do more, and they need to.

It’s not just the rules that need to change, it’s attitudes to. Fans are cruel and unforgiving. Whether it’s slating fighters like Dave Allen for ‘quitting’, or attacking trainers like McGirt for pulling their fighters out, or even judging fighters like Whyte for cheating without fact. As a collective we need to stop and think what it is we are actually saying. It’s a demanding sport and we must be a lot more understanding.

I’m a realist, I don’t think these things will change straight away, if ever. What’s more, there will be more deaths and there will be more doping scandals. They are impossible to remove completely, but there is so more than can be done and there is no reason why it cannot be.

Weeks like this serve to emphasise the fact that boxing is no game, it’s serious stuff and we all need to be mindful of that, especially as a sign of respect to the likes of Santillan and Dadashev, may they rest in peace.

By Aaron Ludford for SimBoxx

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