There are no simple answers for the tragedies that have occurred inside the four ropes of a ring. It’s a sport that can be a matter of life and death. The very fabric of the sport is entertainment, but behind the bright lights lies dark, horrifying truths consisting of life-threatening injuries and death.
This is a frightening reminder of the danger at hand any time a fighter climbs through the ropes, and this is the only venue in society, with the exception of war, where a person may be killed but not legally murdered.
Patrick Day’s death is one that has been clearly voiced over the past year, the 27-year-old was knocked down three times and later died in the hospital to a traumatic brain injury. His death sent shivers through the boxing world but there were many before him that suffered the same fate after stepping into that fateful ring of death.
Boxers Who Have Died In The Ring In The Last Two Decades
The specter of death has loomed over the prize ring throughout history — from its inaugural recorded origins as a popular spectator sport in ancient Greece and Rome to the bare-knuckle resurgence in England. Boxing is inherently a dangerous sport and competitors die and succumb to life-threatening injuries.
Pedro Alcazar’s death was as confounding as it was surprising. The Panama boxer was forced to retire in the sixth round by Fernando Montiel, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas 2002, and his demise was almost unbelievable. The intervention by referee Kenny Bayless seemed perfectly timed and Alcazar showed signs of being dispirited but by no means seemed disoriented when leaving the ring.
The next day, a Sunday, Alcazar went sightseeing and was clearly fatigued but did not appear to be in any pain or discomfort. Yet on the Monday, a mere 36 hours later, he collapsed in his shower and died. An autopsy later showed his death was caused by significant swelling of the brain.
Becky Zerlentes was the first female boxer to die in a legal fight since the US boxing authorities admitted women to the sport. Reports suggested that Zerlentes had planned the fight against Heather Schmitz to be her last before retirement. The former regal champion died after being knocked out by one punch to her left temple during the third round.
Zerlentes, who was wearing protective headgear, fell to the canvas and even though she received immediate treatment, the Denver native never regained consciousness.
Patrick Day’s death is transparently the most prominent in the sport over the last two decades. Day was knocked down three times in the fight by Charles Conwell, but the third hit in the tenth round was the punch that ended the 27-year-old’s life. Day was caught by a huge left hook and his head hit the canvass with tremendous force.
The American was stretchered from the ring and lapsed into a coma, reportedly having seizures in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Day died four days after the fight, aged 27.
Maxim Dadashev entered the ring at the MGM in July 2019, having never lost a professional boxing match. But after a grueling 11 rounds, in which his opponent, Subriel Matias, landed a flurry of destructive and heavy blows that unmistakably were hurting Dadashev. Dadashev’s trainer urged the Russian to accept defeat, eventually signaling to the referee the match was over.
Dadashev collapsed as he was leaving the ring. Minutes before collapsing, the Russian was sitting in his corner shaking his head as his trainer implored him to throw in the towel. The St. Petersberg native refused to surrender until it was clear that he was unable to continue.
The Russian was rushed to hospital in the hope that brain surgery would save the boxer’s life. The 28-year-old died four days later from the injuries that he sustained in the ring.
Professional boxing suffered its second death that same week after Argentinian fighter Hugo Alfredo Santillan died from injuries he sustained from the ring. Santillan’s death came only days after Dadashev’s and rocked the boxing world to its core, the double horror was an unsettling reminder that boxing was sending fighters to an early grave.
The Argentinian, a super lightweight, was fighting Uruguay’s Eduardo Javier Abreu in Buenos Aires. The 23-year-old’s nose was compromised in the fourth, as it started leaking blood, and after some words from his camp, he finished the fight.
Shortly after the fight was called, the young boxer fainted and was rushed to the hospital. Santillan had surgery for a clot found on his brain but died after a cardiac arrest. Another boxing death added to the long list of names.
Brad Rone’s death was another reinforcement that boxers’ deaths in the ring were not to be taken lightly. Rone reportedly took up this retirement bout so he had enough money to fly to his mother’s funeral ($800), but ended up being buried next to her instead.
Rone fought his last fight out in an outside ring in Utah, where fans roared at him to get off the canvass after he collapsed in the first round. The punch didn’t kill him, boxing did.
The 34-year-old was a journeyman in boxing and had a miserable record of 0–27–1 in his last 28 fights. The man got hit and that final bout with Billy Zurbrun was the boxing veteran’s end. At the end of the first round, Rone turned and collapsed. He had not been hit or hurt, he had just collapsed and died instantly. He suffered a heart attack and perished in the ring.
Las Vegas, Nevada — Mexican boxer Martin Sanchez was plying his trade against fellow competitor Rustam Nugaev on a Friday night under the bright lights of a Las Vegas casino.
Nugaev let his hands fly in the ninth round finding Sanchez’s head knocking him to the floor. The Mexican left the ring that night but did not appear seriously injured. A short while later his team noticed that Sanchez was walking strangely and decided to rush him straight to the hospital. The super lightweight fighter died in hospital from injuries he had sustained.
How Dangerous is Boxing?
Boxing is inherently dangerous and has its stigma surrounding the sport. Boxing’s popularity has been waning for decades, in large part because of the athletes’ risk of injuries, long-term brain damage or death. The deaths and serious injuries that boxers succumb to often lead to clamors for the sport to be banned and dissolved. Boxing, unlike other sports, has had its fair share of tragedy. In all honestly, accidents occur in all competitive sports. Playing competitively at the top-level invites a degree of risk.
Athletes get hurt in all sports and boxing is not immune. The fact is, boxing has no more risk than any other contact sport and in some surprising cases is safe than many non-contact sports. The problem is how boxing is depicted. Boxing has been portrayed for centuries as a brutal, primitive moronic sport that sends fighters to an untimely end. Boxing is one of the most regulated sports on the spectrum and will continue to receive the best medical care that is available.
Death in the ring is statically rare and questions often jump to the subject of mixed martial arts safety. Some believe that the MMA presents a higher risk of death because of the different attack options that a fighter can utilize.
Is Boxing More Dangerous Than MMA?
MMA fighters wear smaller four-ounce gloves that are less conducive to defence and more prone to ripping skin and causing cuts. What many do not realize is that the extra padding on boxing gloves exists not to protect the face but the fist, allowing boxers to throw punches without fear of rupturing the bones in their hands.
The prolonged punishment and longer fight time invite a higher rate of head trauma, broken bones and even death. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has recorded no fatalities since its promotion was launched in 1993. Around thirty boxes have died since then.
Researchers have discovered that MMA is statistically safer than the sport of boxing. Boxers are more likely to receive injuries that’ll affect their long term health and Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is linked with the sport heavily.
There are more deaths in boxing but it is predominantly down to the age of the sport, the nature of the sport, and its slow development of safety regulations. Organized Boxing has been present for almost 130 years compared to organized MMA being less than 30 years old.