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The Inspiration Behind Fight Smart

Sparring | Wix Stock Images

Every once in a while, we’re served a chilling but pertinent reminder of just how dangerous the sport of boxing can be. The most recent and high profile of which was the tragic loss of American light middleweight Patrick Day, who died in hospital after sustaining a serious brain injury in a bout with fellow countryman Charles Conwell.

In the aftermath of Day’s passing, serious doubts were once again cast on the safety of boxing, and whether enough progression has been made to eradicate the recurring brain trauma’s that have plagued the sport and destroyed the lives of some of its greats.

And whilst sifting through the reaction from the public, the boxing community, and the press, I couldn’t help but think that every proposed solution was fairly one dimensional. Whilst we cannot keep expecting fighters to sacrifice their lives like gladiators in an arena for our entertainment, it just isn’t possible to make an inherently dangerous sport completely safe on fight night.

Something that really stuck with me was people’s obsession with the main event, but why can we not broaden our minds to find solutions that may actually have a chance of being introduced. To do so, I think we need to reconsider the way in which we perceive how injuries are obtained in boxing.

Is it not possible that Charles Conwell was not solely responsible for the death of Patrick Day, rather he was responsible for landing the proverbial straw that broke the camels’ back? In preparation for a fight, boxers spend countless rounds sparring, taking punch after punch as they try to perfect their skillset before the big night.

This got me thinking, why do we put so much onus protecting boxers during a bout, but almost completely ignore the fact that largely unregulated sparring happens day in, day out in gyms all over the world. Is it not logical to investigate whether fighters are stepping into the ring already carrying damage, like ticking time bombs waiting to be detonated by one final blow?

According to a study conducted by the University of Stirling, a group of 20 amateur boxers and Muay Thai fighters performed 52% worse on memory tests and saw a further decline of 6% in brain to muscle communication tests after a nine-minute sparring session.

Whilst sparring may not be as fast and furious as the main event, the research shows that it can still cause concussive symptoms that are likely to be missed in the build up to a fight. In a sport where a ‘never say die’ attitude is promoted as a key ingredient for success, ignoring and dismissing more mild symptoms of concussion could well be common practice in boxing gyms.

This reaffirmed my interest in better understanding whether changes to the way in which boxers at all levels train could genuinely help to safeguard fighters from traumatic brain injury. My goal is to also use Fight Smart to explore whether more regular testing could also be implemented to discover a concussion or trauma before it becomes potentially serious.

I'll be interviewing boxers, health professionals and neurologists to gain a broad understanding of not only the science behind the injuries, but the personal struggles that a fighter may face in a complicated recovery process.

Welcome, to #FightSmart.

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