A 16-year old high school student dying days after an amateur boxing bout is a grim reminder of the dangers of boxing. Amid fans cheering pugilists to punch their opponents to dreamland, and also cheering their fighter to “get it on” in the ring, the fighters themselves forget the dangers in the ring before it is too late. And some take up the sport perhaps not knowing of its real dangers, like Jonas Garcia.
While boxing has been “sanitized” or made safer over the years by shortening championship fights to 12 from 15 rounds, mandating an eight-count after a knockdown or an unanswered barrage of punches, and weighing in fighters a day before the fight, there is still no doubt that boxing is a cruel sport. Mixed martial arts is even “kinder” since the combatants can use kicks below groin, locks, and submissions to end a fight. In boxing, the only dramatic way to end a fight is by a knockout or stoppage.
Yet boxing’s allure is still undeniable, and the millions earned by the sport’s greats inspire many kids, especially those from the poor, to take up the sport.
And Jonas Garcia, while not coming from a poor family, may have dreamt of becoming the next Manny Pacquiao or Nonito Do-naire. As for Donaire and Pac-quiao, both have proven to be very durable fighters, with Pacquiao getting his first real knockout loss only in December last year, and Donaire never getting knocked down yet.
The fact that Pacquiao, Donaire and all the present and future boxing greats have survived all the punishment from fighting in the ring shows that boxing is not for everyone. And perhaps boxing was not supposed to be the sport for Garcia.
So who is to blame for the death of Garcia?
News reports have it that Garcia’s training was not done by a professional, and that could have proven fatal, because a professional trainer would have taught Garcia how to defend himself better in the ring.
(Have we ever wondered why Cuban boxers like Guillermo Rigondeaux cold rack up more than 200 wins as an amateur and not show signs of slowing down as a professional?)
Likewise, there are certain exercises that could somehow toughen a boxer’s punch resistance like neck exercises, jaw lifts, and even striking limbs with a cane which only seasoned trainers know about. But even with those exercises, those who have “glass chins” can never last in the sport, or are forced to quit early.
Furthermore, when it comes to judging whether a fighter is fit to fight or continue fighting, nothing beats the judgment of a seasoned trainer. It is for this reason that trainers or cornermen are allowed “to throw in the towel” when they feel their fighter can no longer continue.
Since boxing is a brutal sport, a referee should also stop a bout very early if one of the fighters could no longer put up a decent resistance. That should have been done in the case of Garcia.
Also, there should be professional doctors during amateur fights involving young boxers who should carefully check the condition of fighters before a fight, after every round, and after a fight. This is to make sure that a boxer who just came off an amateur fight the previous day or night did not absorb so much punishment, and can continue fighting.
Such measures (and I hope such are in place) will lessen injuries and deaths in the amateur ring.
But let’s all face it—fistic brutality is part of boxing’s allure, and there is no way to sanitize the fate of a fighter who gets knocked out, bloodied, or killed in the ring.
Getting paid a fortune to dish out or receive fistic brutality can somehow be justified. But for those who do it for personal or national pride in the amateur ring, getting a dose of fistic brutality raises some serious questions.