Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making Boxing Safer

Heavyweight Mago Abdusalamov suffered a stroke after a fight Saturday night.

The Russian heavyweight Mago Abdusalamov had knocked out all of his opponents going into Saturday night's fight against Cuban Mike Perez. But as I sat in the crowd at MSG and watched Perez dominate, I thought nothing of the heavy beating the Russian took. He looked like one of the toughest guys I had ever seen and I had little doubt he'd be back to fight another day.

But the next day I learned that after complaining about a headache, Mago had undergone tests at Roosevelt Hospital and was found to have a small blood clot in his head. He was placed in a coma by doctors to keep the swelling under control and underwent surgery. After surgery, he suffered a stroke.

It's a sad story, and everyone is praying that Mago recovers. There is no blame to be leveled for the tragedy; not even for the referees, who in retrospect should have stopped the fight earlier. Boxing is inherently a violent and dangerous sport. The only question is: are there any ways to make the sport safer but still competitive? Here are a few ideas:
  • Softer boxing gloves - If the boxing gloves were softer, this would make the blows to the body and head less damaging. The punches will still hurt, but could potentially save a boxer's life.
  • Fewer rounds - People want their money's worth when it comes to a fight. But if fights were much shorter, the boxers could potentially fight more often. 
  • Points, not Knockouts: Everyone wants to see a knockout, but what if you couldn't win by knockout after the second round? What if the points for each round were determined by total punches landed, with no extra credit given for power shots? The fights would be more about the sweet science -- of dancing, ducking, and connecting -- than about killing your opponent. Ultimately, it's the tactics, not brute force, that make boxing so much fun to watch. 
In the meantime, if you would like to help Mago's family with its rising medical costs, you can donate via PayPal to or send a check made out to Magomed Abusalamov to BakanayAbdusalamova, PO Box 90174, Brooklyn, NY 11209.

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