Improvement in medical safeguards welcomed

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British boxing yesterday announced a series of safety improvements with the aim of giving boxers greater medical protection and, in particular, reducing the number of fatal injuries suffered by boxers in British rings.

The 12-point plan (see table) was approved by the British Board of Control before the recent death of James Murray, the Scottish bantamweight. The improvements are based on the recommendations of an independent panel, made up of neurosurgeons, neurologists and neuroradiologists, set up after the death of another British boxer Bradley Stone 18 months ago.

The new rules bring the weigh-in times forward by 24 hours, and give doctors a greater influence on whether a bout should be stopped. The referee, however, will still have the final decision on whether a boxer is fit to continue fighting. John Morris, the board secretary, said the new weigh- in rule had already been implemented three months ago when he first received the panel's report.

A special medical revision committee is now considering how to implement compulsory magnetic scanning, which will ban boxers who show serious abnormalities such as blocked arteries or clear fluid around the brain. A seasoned fighter whose brain shows worrying marks on the scan - compared to earlier scans - will be suspended. In each case an independent panel will examine the boxer's scan, and will have the power to ban a fighter for life, although he will be able to appeal.

Peter Richards, the chairman of the panel, said he hoped a worldwide reduction in the number of rounds would eventually be considered, but the board will look at this option only if a worldwide agreement is reached.

Barry McGuigan, the former world champion who is now the president of the Professional Boxers' Association, said: "This is the right way forward. There are a few points that I would like to talk to the BBBC about, but we are going in the right direction,"

"There will be criticism from people who will say we haven't gone far enough," Morris said. "But in my opinion they have blinkers on. They are not looking at what will happen, and they aren't looking at the rights of the individual."

Ken Jones on the new proposals, page 30

12-point plan for a safer future

1 The weigh-in for all championship bouts to be at least 24 hours before the fight. The rule will also apply to non-championship bouts, but under special dispensation the weigh-in can still take place on the day of the fight. In this instance a fighter failing to make the weight will not be given time to reduce his weight.

2 Brain scans to be compulsory for all boxers annually.

3 Scans to be MRI instead of CT. A panel of doctors to be set up in order to have consistency in interpretation of investigations.

4 Funding to be sought for research into psychometric testing.

5 Random drug-testing to be stepped up.

6 Post-contest medical checks to be tightened.

7 Suspension period for boxers knocked out or stopped extended from 28 to 45 days. No boxer stopped or knocked out to spar for 28 days.

8 Any boxer knocked unconscious or who, in the view of the doctor, has taken excessive punishment should go to hospital. Board can suspend any boxer ignoring medical advice either at the venue or at hospital.

9 Ringside medical requirements approved in general, but a special medical panel will assess further ringside resuscitation equipment.

10 Referee to be permitted to consult a ringside doctor during the contest. The doctor to be permitted to draw any matter of concern to a referee between rounds.

11 Doctors and paramedics at ringside to be clearly identifiable, and seated where they can see clearly and gain immediate access to the ring.

12 Doctors to enter the ring immediately at the end of all contests to check both boxers. The ring to be kept clear of all except specially designated people, particularly until the doctors give the all-clear.