Boxing: Death sharpens safety debate

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The death last night of Bradley Stone from brain damage after his unsuccessful attempt to win the new British super-bantamweight title has given fresh impetus to the debate on the future of the sport.

Discussion on ways of further improving medical safeguards began before Stone died from injuries sustained in Tuesday's fight. Tom Pendry, the shadow sports minister and a steward of the British Boxing Board of Control, had already invited a group of neurosurgeons to meet the Board's medical advisory committee.

John Sutcliffe, the surgeon who operated on the 23-year- old East Londoner, said the boxer's death would not alter his opposition to the British Medical Association's call for a ban on boxing. 'I'm sure it will reopen the case on boxing but I don't see why this should change my views about it.'

John Morris, the secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, said the news of Stone's death came a shock to everyone associated with the sport. 'Boxing has suffered a great blow and no doubt we will immediately instigate the fullest possible inquiry into all the circumstances,' he said.

Earlier in the day, Morris and promoters made a strong defence of boxing at the House of Commons before a national heritage select committee considering sports sponsorship and television coverage.

Frank Warren, Barry Hearn and Mickey Duff, plus Morris, argued strongly that the sport should not be banned.

'If it doesn't take place under the auspices of the British Boxing Board of Control, it will go underground and there will not be the medical supervision and welfare the boxers get now, and that will be even worse,' Warren said.

Promoters pay into a benevolent fund, which helps injured boxers, and the Board finances life insurance on fighters.

Stone is the first British boxer to die as a result of ring injuries since the Scottish welterweight Steve Watt in 1986.

Three hours before Stone's life support system was switched off, another casualty of the sport, Michael Watson, spent an hour at his bedside.

Watson, like Stone, suffered a blood clot in his world title fight with Chris Eubank in 1991 and spent 40 weeks in a coma. The 28-year-old is wheelchair-bound.

Evander Holyfield has a tiny hole in his heart in addition to the faults in his left ventricle that doctors discovered after he lost his world heavyweight title to Michael Moorer last week.