A 16-year-old Philippine athlete died after a week in coma following a boxing match, triggering calls for the sport to be banned in schools, an official said Monday.
Jonas Garcia, a high school athlete, suffered internal bleeding after a boxing match in a regional sports competition and died on Sunday.
Boxing is hugely popular in the Philippines, which has produced many international champions, including Manny Pacquiao, once regarded as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter.
The death has sparked calls for the suspension of boxing from national school sports competitions, said Tonisito Umali, assistant secretary of the government education department.
“Requests are being made for the suspension of boxing. Other regions are also saying they will not continue boxing,” he told Agence France-Presse.
“We will not force them,” he said, adding that boxing would still be part of the national sports competition but regional teams will not be forced to send representatives.
Pacquiao, who has parlayed his sporting fame into a massive fortune and election to Congress, had previously expressed sympathy for Garcia but had also said boxing programs for the youth should continue.
“The answer isn’t to cancel boxing. This is where we get fighters for the Olympics. We just have to take the proper precautions,” he told ABS-CBN.
Pacquiao, who has won world championships in eight weight divisions, started as a teenage amateur boxer while living on the streets.