From the beginning of the sports long history it has never been able to rid itself from tragedy and serious injury, many other sports have this connection as well but in their cases it is usually the result of the war between man and machine. Boxing is different two men in the ring with the ultimate goal to knock the other down, boxing is a violent sport and the need for safety is paramount, only the ignorant and incurably naive among us can argue it leaves fighters unscathed. When a fighter receives a blow to the head pressure is put on the small vessels which supply blood to the brain, on occasion causing a degree of irreversible brain damage, the truth of the matter is hands are not genetically designed for hitting, neither is a human head for being hit. Blows to the body play their part as well as they make breathing difficult, which creates pressure within the brain. Some fighters hang up their gloves and retire unharmed, but most are affected to some extent.
The first recorded fatalities in the spot were Walter Croot who died in 1897 after being knocked out by Chicago’s Jimmy Barry in a Bantamweight title fight. Less than a year later Tom Turner (1898) followed by Mike Riley (1900). The first to lose his life this centaury in a title fight was Jimmy Doyle who never regained conscious after being knocked out in round eight by Sugar Ray Robinson in Cleveland, Ohio in 1947. When Benny Paret died in 1962 it was as if the entire country went into mourning, Paret died during his title defence against Emile Griffith in New York, this was the third time the men had fought each other in a Welterweight title bout. In the twelfth round Paret was unable to free himself from the ropes where he found himself tangled up, and was defenceless as Griffith unloaded on him, this was the tragedy that led to the introduction of the four roped ring. Davey Moore was the next fatality in a title fight, less than a year later and during the seventh defence of his title against Cuban Sugar Ramos in Los Angeles. The fighting pride of Wales, Bantamweight Johnny Owen died 46 days after being fatally injured challenging Lupe Pintor in Los Angeles for the WBC title in 1980, in the same ring three years later Mexican Kiko Bejines died of a blood clot in the brain , three days after losing to Albert Davila.
In 2004 after winning a three round amateur bout in the Philippians, Ryan Panrones complained of dizziness, he passed away the following day. Martin Sanchez a 26 year old Super featherweight died in 2005. Two months later another sad chapter was to unfolded, this time in front of a PPV audience, when 35 year old IBF Champion Levander Johnson was rushed to hospital following his first title defence against Mexican Jesus Chavez. Johnson underwent two futile operations to remove blood clots from his brain, five days later Johnson lost his fight for life. Chavez was reported as saying “If I knew I would be going through this, I would have thought twice before lacing up the gloves”. Chavez would go on to fight again and donated his purse to Johnson’s family. Many men lose their taste for the game once their punches have caused the loss of life. Gabe Ruelas career crumbled after his bout with Jimmy Garcia; during one bout he claimed to see the ghost of Garcia in the ring. As long as men compete in the ring the casualty list will grow, this is the real price of boxings transient glory, as the articulate and former Irish Featherweight Champion Said “This is the price we pay and we budget for it”. If every brave man who lost his life had it another way and lived a long life, part of which was boxing, Im sure they would say, boxing was the best part.