Death of Queensland Boxer Should Encourage Greater Dialogue

braydon smith

23-year-old Queensland boxer Braydon Smith died in hospital yesterday after a bout on Saturday night at Rumours International Convention Centre in Toowoomba. Smith lost in a unanimous points decision after a 10-round match against featherweight Filipino John Moralde.

He was alert as he praised and congratulated the winner before returning to his dressing room and collapsing 90 minutes after the fight. The boxer was airlifted to a Brisbane hospital and placed in an induced coma to help relieve swelling on his brain.

Smith’s life support was turned off on Monday afternoon at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, surrounded by family and friends. Family representative James O’Shea said the last few days have been very tough for Smith’s family.

Smith was in his final year of law at the University of Southern Queensland and was the son of prominent Toowoomba boxing trainer Brendon Smith.

O’Shea said Braydon was passionate about changing the image of boxing. “A big goal in his life was to show people it’s not [a bad sport].”

#prayforbrayd

People have been flocking to social media using the hashtag #prayforbrayd to show support to the boxer’s family and detail the way Braydon had touched their lives. People call Smith an “inspiration”, a “true gentleman” and an “admirable sportsman”.

Doctors Urge Boxing Ban

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Shaun Rudd believes boxing is a sport that can never be made safe, and thinks it should be banned nationally.

“It’s particularly sad when somebody dies playing a so-called sport when the whole idea of the sport is to try and knock the opponent out, or at least try and do enough damage to the head as you possibly can,” Dr Rudd told the ABC.

Sports lawyer Tim Fuller says subsequent Queensland governments have done nothing to regulate combat sports in the state, forcing them to regulate themselves.

“I think it’s disgraceful. It’s bordering in negligence,” he told the ABC.

He said there had been injuries and deaths in the state, but authorities were not taking responsibility to ensure the safety of athletes.

Future of the Sport

While one isolated and freak accident in a match should not be exaggerated to jeopardise the future of a sport, this is not the first death by head injury in boxing. 20-year-old Billy Ward was killed in 2013 in Gladstone and 18-year-old Alex Slade passed away after an amateur bout in Mackay in 2010.

A team of German researchers in 2013 reported that there have been an average of 10 boxing deaths per year since 1900. Apparently over 80% were due to head and neck injuries suffered in the ring. Boxers who have been knocked out also tend to perform more poorly in visual-spatial and mathematics exercises.

Such statistics demonstrate real dangers for participants of such a violent combat sport. Although there has been significant research into the health concerns for boxers, there appears to be a large void between researchers, governments and sports clubs/regulators.

Rather than inciting fear in boxers and triggering hyped up comments from doctors, this incident should encourage in-depth dialogue between researchers, sportspeople and regulators. All parties involved need to come together to bridge the divide between research and boxers’ safety to ensure a happy medium can be found.


 

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