Minister rejects calls for a ban on boxing

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The Independent Online
LOUISE JURY

The Government yesterday rejected calls for a ban on boxing in the wake of the death of the fighter James Murray.

Iain Sproat, the sports minister, said it was a "terrific sport" and added: "It would be a great shame if this tragic death were to weigh too heavily."

Dismissing Liberal Democrat demands for an immediate Royal Commission on the sport, he said the British Boxing Board of Control was already investigating Friday night's fight, which ended with Murray, 25, collapsing unconscious as fierce brawling broke out around him.

However, Mr Sproat did not completely rule out a Royal Commission to examine the issue at some time in the future.

But as news emerged from the Philippines that a 19-year-old boxer also died on Sunday from injuries received in the ring, Labour MP Peter Hain stepped up the pressure for intervention.

He said the Government should insist that any public money given to the sport was conditional on a "root-and-branch" reform. "Perhaps this should include a ban on punching to the head, stopping dangerous dehydration ... to put safety first, otherwise boxing should be banned altogether."

Murray was pronounced dead on Sunday, two days after his bantamweight title fight at the Glasgow Hospitality Inn against Drew Docherty. Restituto Espineli died the same day in Manila of a brain haemorrhage.

The British Boxing Board of Control inquiry will also examine whether new crowd control measures are needed to prevent the kind of violence witnessed at the Murray-Docherty fight.

Simon Block, the board's assistant general secretary, said there were very strict regulations for normal public fights and similar rules for "dinner fights". But on Friday, 300 spectators were allowed to stand behind the 400 guests who had paid pounds 50 each for a four-course meal.

Mr Block said this was very rare, although not unheard of, but said: "One of the problems of any governing body is the type of events change. You make legislation to cover the events you're controlling then comes something that doesn't come within the guidelines."

Strathclyde police, who are investigating five reported assaults at the match, are to examine photographic and video coverage to identify offenders.

Former super-middleweight champion Chris Eubank yesterday said there were limitations on how much more could be done to make the ring safer.

Speaking as he announced his retirement, he insisted it had nothing to do with Mr Murray's death, but added: "As long as there is fighting, there will be injuries. How do you make something safer when it involves hitting another person?"

Fight goes on, Section Two

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