Boxing: New tragedy casts doubt on medical checks: Super-bantamweight collapses in a coma hours after 10th-round stoppage of his British title challenge. Nick Halling reports

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THE life of the boxer Bradley Stone was in the balance last night following his 10th-round defeat in the inaugural British super-bantamweight title fight against Richie Wenton at the York Hall, Bethnal Green, on Tuesday night.

Stone collapsed in the early hours of yesterday morning at his girlfriend's house, before being rushed to the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel. John Sutcliffe, a neurosurgeon, performed a two-hour operation to remove a blood clot from the left side of the boxer's brain. The 23-year-old from Canning Town, east London, is on a life support machine, and his prospects of recovery appear bleak.

'There is a significant chance Bradley Stone is going to die as a result of this injury,' Sutcliffe said. 'The damage is primarily to the left side of his brain, which controls the right arm, right leg, and most of the speech functions. The worst scenario is no movement at all on the right side of the body and no ability to speak or understand speech - a persistent vegetative state.'

Sutcliffe said: 'After the operation to remove the blood clot, a follow-up scan showed that the brain was swollen, and that the blood supply to the left and some of the right side was inadequate for some time. How long is not easy to say, but parts of the brain were dead or dying.'

It is the worst incident in professional boxing since Michael Watson sustained similar injuries following his world super-middleweight title fight against Chris Eubank in September 1991. Watson survived, but his convalesence has been slow and a full recovery remains unlikely.

After the Watson bout, the British Boxing Board of Control implemented an eight-point plan aimed at improving boxers' safety. Those measures were in place at Tuesday's promotion. Stone was cleared by a doctor before being allowed home.

It is unclear what happened during the hours prior to his collapse. 'We were chatting in the dressing- room, and he was talking about the chances of a rematch,' said his manager, Mickey Duff. 'Then I heard the news in the morning, it was completely out of the blue.'

According to Sutcliffe, however: 'Bradley was complaining of a headache immediately after the fight. Then he returned home and complained of an increasingly severe headache, nausea and vomiting before he slumped into a coma.'

The injury is the culmination of a dreadful year for the Stone family. His brother and father have died in the last 12 months, and earlier this year the Leeds bantamweight, Tony Silkstone, committed suicide shortly after losing to Stone, although Silkstone's family immediately absolved the Londoner from blame.

Whether Silkstone's death affected him is a matter for conjecture, but in his next fight he was stopped by the French-based Algerian, Boualem Belkif, the first blemish on his 19-fight professional record.

That defeat was eight weeks ago. Stone served a mandatory 28-day suspension before being cleared to meet Wenton. 'Bradley Stone was given a full medical after the suspension rather than just a clearance check,' said John Morris, the Board's general secretary. 'Everything looked fine after the medical and he went into this contest, as far as we know, perfectly fit.'

The fight ended after Stone was hit by a left hook, followed by four clean blows to the jaw. He was still standing when the referee, John Keane, stepped in.

Nevertheless the injuries sustained by Stone, after the near-fatal defeat of the heavyweight Michael Bentt by Herbie Hide in a world title fight last month and the enforced retirement of the former world champion Evander Holyfield on medical grounds earlier this week, will raise further questions over the safety of professional fighters.

Peter Hamlyn, the consultant neurosurgeon who treated Watson, said that had Stone been kept under observation - a recommendation he had made to the Board for all boxers stopped or knocked out - his chances may have been improved. 'Even I as a brain surgeon could not have said that he was going to develop a blood clot, I could only have said that there was a risk of it happening. He would have had a better chance if he had had a period under observation.'

Concern for boxers' health has also been expressed by the Professional Boxers' Association, who plan to meet next week with the Board to discuss, according to their secretary, Colin McMillan, the former world featherweight champion, the 'strengthening of medical supervision and the putting into place of emergency medical procedures'.

The PBA will find the Board receptive to their suggestions. 'We face a possible tragedy here,' Morris said. 'That means we'll examine all we do and the way we do it.'

As Stone clung to life last night, several of his fellow professionals were engaged in another promotion at the York Hall, where the London flyweight Mickey Cantwell was attempting to wrest the European title from Italy's Luigi Camputaro.

'I feel very deeply for Bradley Stone and his family,' said the promoter, Frank Maloney, 'but I feel the fight should go on. Fighters still have to earn a living, they are professionals and have bills to pay.'

The friends and relatives of Bradley Stone can be forgiven for thinking that the rigours of boxing exact too high a price from its participants.

(Photograph omitted)