Boxing: Inquiry reopens security debate

Danny Hicks discusses the bleak lessons of a black-tie event
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The Independent Online
THE DANGERS that lie in wait for the men who ply their trade in the ring are well chronicled. But a more sinister side of the sport of boxing and its followers - in the form of the violence seen outside the ring - needs now to be dealt with swiftly and effectively by the British Boxing Board of Control inquiry.

It was not the first time that crowd trouble had flared during a domestic boxing promotion. There were riots, instigated by supporters of Rob McCracken, after Nigel Benn's title defence against Juan Carlos Giminez last September. Board secretary John Morris yesterday promised a thorough investigation into the scenes at Glasgow's Hospitality Inn and immediately requested written accounts from the Scottish area representatives who witnessed the incidents, as well as video footage of the violence.

The main focus of that inquiry must surely be upon ticketing arrangements and consumption of alcohol. Eye-witness reports of the trouble suggested that the disruption emanated from a section of fans admitted late to the black-tie event and allowed to stand at the back for a cut-price entry fee of pounds 20. Many, it seemed, had been drinking heavily for several hours.

Security at the venue was light, although the promoter Frank Warren was quick to defend the arrangements when he said: "I was told that there would be 20 security personnel at the fight and, with an attendance of between 500 to 550, that is twice the amount of security required."

Glenn McCrory, a former world cruiserweight champion and part of the television commentary team on Friday, was in no doubt as to what should be done. "They should ban alcohol at boxing venues," McCrory said yesterday. "Those were the worst scenes I've witnessed in 20 years in boxing. Chairs and bottles were flying and it went on for about 10 to 15 minutes while Murray was laying stricken in the ring."

The medical profession is again divided over whether the sport should be banned. Recent tragedies, including the death of the super-bantamweight Bradley Stone last year, have given notice that the sport is still dangerous. But the fact remains that medical precautions have never been more rigorous: Boxers must now undergo routine brain scans; a team of paramedics is on hand at all boxing bills; and boxers knocked out must go to hospital for observations and scans if necessary.

The former world featherweight champion, Barry McGuigan, reiterated his call for anaesthetists to be present at the ringside to make the sport even safer. Short of an outright ban, which many feel would drive the sport underground, bringing its own difficulties, there seems little more that can be done.

Protective headguards, advocated by many, would not have prevented the injuries sustained by Murray, Peter Harvey, a consultant neurologist at the Royal Free hospital in London, said yesterday. Brain damage is caused by the speed with which the head moves after receiving a blow.

"A helmet wouldn't have helped, it would have increased the momentum," Mr Harvey explained. "Brains are like jelly. When you twist the head, the brain doesn't keep up with the skull and you tear the blood vessels."

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