Doctors were last night monitoring the condition of the boxer, Gerald McClellan, who remained critical after a blood clot was removed from his brain in the aftermath of a brutal title fight which provoked a new round of calls demanding the sport be banned.
John Sutcliffe, a neurosurgeon who conducted the operation in the early hours of yesterday, said it was too early to say whether the 27-year-old American super middleweight would survive or suffer any disabilities as a result.
However, Mr Sutcliffe said new medical precautions introduced by the British Boxing Board of Control following the injuries suffered in the ring by Michael Watson in 1993 and the death of Bradley Stone last year had improved his chances greatly and had saved his life.
Watson, now confined to a wheelchair, was at the ringside during Saturday night's World Boxing Council super-middleweight title fight against Britain's Nigel Benn, 31, and saw McClellan, the favourite, knocked out in the tenth round.
Yesterday a devastated Benn said he might end his boxing career following his "empty" victory which had left him brooding at the plight of his opponent.
A television audience of around 10m and a capacity crowd of 12,000 packed into the London Arena, in Docklands, watched the defeated boxer being led back to his corner where he slumped on his haunches before slipping flat on his back.
An anaesthetist and paramedics, on hand because of the BBBC's guidelines, immediately put McClellan in a neck brace and gave him oxygen for 20 minutes before he was taken to the nearby Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. After the boxer's condition deteriorated, Mr Sutcliffe removed the 6cm by 8cm clot from the front right-hand side of the brain.
McClellan is expected to remain sedated for between 48 and 72 hours in an attempt to control the swelling of the brain. Only when he is brought round will they discover the extent of any injuries.
The tragedy prompted a coalition of doctors, MPs and safety campaigners to renew calls for either a total ban on boxing or a modification of the rules.
A British Medical Association spokesman said: "How many more cases do we need of boxers playing roulette with their brains before the Government and the board of control take seriously what we say about the cumulative dangers of boxing."
Benn contemplates retirement, risks to the brain, page 32
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