It’s a tragedy that boxer Maxim Dadashev died Tuesday of injuries he suffered in the ring, but it’s a part of the sport.
It’s natural to wonder whether anything could be done to prevent future boxing deaths, but there isn’t. Not unless you want to outlaw the fight game, altogether.
It’s a grim reality, but it’s something you have to acknowledge and come to terms with if you love, participate in, report on or earn a living off of boxing.
It comes up in every generation.
Benny Paret died after fighting Emile Griffith. That was 1962.
Duk Koo Kim died after fighting Ray Mancini. That was 1982.
Magomed Abdusalamov could have died after he slipped into a coma after fighting Mike Perez. That was 2013. (Abdusalamov suffered permanent brain injuries and still can’t walk or talk.)
Deontay Wilder said he wanted to kill Dominic Breazeale. That earlier this year.
Wilder’s comments triggered a conversation over whether he should have been suspended or fined.
He wasn’t. And he shouldn’t have been.
In other sports, concussions and catastrophic brain injuries are byproducts of competition.
In boxing, they’re the goal.
Wilder’s comments were abhorrent. They don’t fit in polite society. But “polite society” is often a façade.
Part of the appeal of boxing is that there is no façade. It is what it is: two combatants seeking to bludgeon each other into unconsciousness.
Questions or reforms?
Dadashev had to have known the risks. And that doesn’t make his death after fighting Subriel Matias on Friday any less heartbreaking.
But the next wave of questions and calls from reform should center on Dadashev’s wife and son. Are they OK? What are his promoters or managers doing to support them financially and emotionally?
It should focus on other fighters. Do they have adequate insurance? Are they putting money away for retirement?
It should focus on Dadashev’s opponent, Matias. The men who’ve beaten the life out of their opponents before a bloodthirsty crowd are never the same after. Does Matias have a counselor?
It should focus on Dadashev’s trainer Buddy McGirt. He stopped the fight. But now he has to live with doubt.
“It just makes you realize what type of sport we’re in, man,” McGirt said, according to ESPN. “… My mind is like really running crazy, right now. Like, what could I have done differently?”
The answer is nothing. Not in boxing.
If we want to change things, we should seek better support networks around fighters outside of the ring.
Once they step inside the ropes, they know the dangers. We all do.
Maxim Dadashev’s death is a tragedy, but tragedy is part of the sport.
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