Boxing stands accused after tragedy in ring

Fatal contest: Grief at Jim Murray's death after title fight is followed by fresh questioning of the sport's future
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The Independent Online
Jim Murray always wanted to be a boxing champion, but on Friday night he collapsed in round 12 of a British title fight and yesterday morning at 8.50 he was declared dead.

During his ferocious encounter with Drew Docherty, Murray's stamina and determination appeared to be sufficient for him to secure the British bantamweight title in Glasgow. However, he faded during the last three rounds and collapsed with just 34 seconds left.

Now boxing will have to answer some serious accusations; not just about Murray's death but also about the mindless violence that took place inside the banqueting suite at the Hospitality Inn just seconds after Murray was counted out.

It is impossible to point the finger of blame at anybody for what happened on Friday night outside the ring or for a young man's death yesterday morning at the drab hospital in the Govan district of Glasgow. However, the public will want answers and the British Medical Association, and other critics of the brutal sport, will seek once again to ban it. Boxing must prepare itself for a confrontation during the weeks ahead.

Murray's manager, Alex Morrison, left the hospital in tears yesterday, but in reality he had started to mourn 24 hours earlier. "The doctors were brutal and held nothing back from the family," he said early on Saturday morning. "It was obvious there was no hope, but Jim's parents are determined people and they kept on praying." Yesterday his grief was complete. "I feel guilty but Jimmy wanted to fight," he said. His former trainers confirmed Murray's dedication to his chosen profession.

On Friday as the bloody and exciting rounds passed there was nothing that could have prevented the fight's disastrous outcome. For Murray to have survived the fight would have to have ended in round six because it is probable that by then a vein inside his skull had already started to leak the blood which later formed a clot which in turn caused pressure on the skull which led to his collapse.

Earlier this year, American boxer Gerald McClellan collapsed in his world title fight against Nigel Benn. The Board's safety measures were in place and McClellan was resuscitated in the ring and taken to hospital where a massive clot was removed from the surface of his brain. He is still alive but is in need of constant care.

On Friday, when Murray went down his body was twitching but it was still possible that he was suffering merely from dehydration. The severity of his injury only became apparent when he arrived at the hospital and was transferred from casualty to the neurological unit where he underwent the two-hour operation.

"By late yesterday [Saturday] all signs of neurological activity were extinct. We performed a set of criteria then to establish whether that was the case. I again carried out a set of brain death criteria this morning [Sunday] and pronounced Mr Murray dead at 8.50," said consultant neuro surgeon Garth Cruickshank, the man who performed the operation.

Late last night Docherty was said to be inconsolable and is now considering his future. Before the fight the pair had shown no animosity towards each other. It was a straightforward British title fight between two boxers, neither of whom had made that much money from the sport, to determine who was the best bantamweight in Britain.

In the Newmains area on the outskirts of Glasgow many were still shocked by the death of Murray. It is a run-down, tough area and according to Murray's first boxing coach, Ally Gilmour, the boxer used the sport to "get himself off the streets".

As the rounds passed on Friday night and Murray looked set for victory it looked like he had achieved his goal. With it there was the possibility of a European or even a world title fight next year to look forward to. "Jim was very confident and he was really looking forward to winning the title, defending it a few times and then looking for some big money fights," said Morrison.

Now the British Boxing Board of Control will once again consult with the neuro surgeons on their Neurological Advisory Panel to see if anything can be learned from Murray's death.

Nicky Piper, the chairman of the Professional Boxers Association, called for renewed and improved neurological examinations before fights. "Boxers have to have the expensive but crucial MRI scan," he said.

"We need regular medical monitoring and MRIs have to be introduced for all boxers," the London promoter Frank Warren said.

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