Boxing ban ruled out after fighter's death: BMA calls for inquiry, but Government says safeguards are in place and defends individual's right to choose any sport

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The Independent Online
THE Government yesterday ruled out a ban on boxing despite demands from the British Medical Association for an independent inquiry into boxers' safety after the death of a British title contender on Thursday night.

Bradley Stone, 23, collapsed at his girlfriend's flat hours after being stopped in the tenth round of his fight last Tuesday against Richie Wenton for the new British super-bantamweight title. The east Londoner had a blood clot removed from his brain, but never came out of a coma.

At the East End gym where the boxer trained, a Union flag flew at half mast yesterday. 'Not a solitary person is training here today. Everyone is sitting round in total disbelief and shock,' a spokesman said. Meanwhile, Mr Wenton, 26, is reported to be considering his future in the ring.

The death has once again raised concerns over whether boxers are adequately protected when they enter the ring. Dr Jeffrey Cundy, of the BMA, said: 'When you box you aim to hit your opponent's head. In doing that you cause permanent damage to the brain. People should not be engaging in boxing. We are not moralising about this. We are talking about the medical effects.' The British Safety Council also called for a ban and criticised the sport's administrators.

But Tom Pendry, Labour' spokesman on sport and a steward of the British Boxing Board of Control, said calls for a ban were a knee- jerk reaction. 'Where there is room for improvement, there should be improvements. But you cannot wrap up the nation in cotton wool and say you cannot have any contact sports.' He defended the board, describing British boxing as 'the best controlled in the world'.

Iain Sproat, the minister for sport, said: 'The Government's line is that as long as there are proper medical safeguards anybody is entitled to pursue the sport that they wish. We have done something about it, which is to see that proper medical controls should be in place.'

According to figures released by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, three boxers have died in action since 1986. The society concluded that the most hazardous activities were mountaineering with 72 deaths, motor sports with 91 and horse riding with 92.

The Professional Boxers' Association will meet the board of control next Tuesday, and although the meeting was arranged some time ago, discussions will be dominated by the implications of the tragedy.

Colin McMillan, a former world featherweight champion and the association's secretary, said: 'The British Board is doing as much as it can, but we feel there are still measures that can be introduced.'

One would be to extend the period between the weigh-in and the bout to allow boxers who dehydrate to reach the correct weight enough time to replace liquids. The PBA will also recommend the introduction of ring-side anaesthetists to sedate and stabilise boxers in need of urgent attention.

In particular, Mr McMillan said the PBA would be pushing the board to explain why it sanctioned Stone's title tilt just 53 days after he was stopped in his previous fight. 'Having been stopped before, Bradley would not have been in the best condition to take on a title bout.'

Simon Block, the board's assistant general secretary, said it had sent for reports from medical officers at last Tuesday's fight and would be conducting an inquiry. 'Few other sports, if any, are as strictly controlled as boxing, but our regulations are not set in stone,' he said.

John Sutcliffe, the neuro-surgeon who operated on Mr Stone, said: 'It is a terrible waste of a young man's life, but it does not make me want to ban boxing any more than I would want to ban car driving or climbing trees. We see about 100 patients a year with very similar injuries to Bradley Stone's. Very few are due to boxing.' He does not support a ban on the sport but argued for a tightening of regulations to make it as safe as possible.

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