In a sad week for sports in which Jean-Pierre Adams died after a long term coma, I am grief stricken as a female Mexican Boxer died after a fight in Montreal, Canada on Thursday. What is more heart breaking is the fact that she is only 18 years old and was at the start of her career. This calls into focus the safety protocols in combat sports such as boxing, MMA and pro wrestling. It is reported Jeannette Zapata had a match with Marie-Pier Houle. In the fourth round, Houle unleashed a series of heavy punches at a corner with one uppercut in particular causing damage followed by a right hook which sent Zapata’s mouth guard off. I am not sure if the referee was doing his job in protecting Zapata when it was clear she was in trouble since I do not have footage of the fight .Zapata appeared to suffer some convulsions and was unable to return to her corner. Her trainer husband and medical staff in the arena administered first aid and evacuated her to hospital. Doctors had to make her artificially comatose(medically induced coma) from which she never regained consciousness.
Boxing has been linked by doctors to neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s which have been linked to years of repeated head blows. These usually are chronic illnesses whose symptoms show up after a while. So these surely can’t be what Zapata was suffering from since she was just starting her career or at least that is what we are told. It could be that the blows made by Houle caused internal injuries which are pretty difficult to see. According to reports, the fighters did get a neurological exam, but I am not sure if all the other tests were also done. There is a tendency by fight organizers to want to cut corners in the name of cost cutting. I certainly hope this was not the case.
WWE were rocked some 14 years ago by the Chris Benoit saga in which there were allegations to effect that repeated blows to the head caused Benoit to lose his marbles. WWE to their credit banned chair blows to the head and other dangerous moves involving the head in response. Boxing and MMA needs to follow suite. I will put in a rule that says more than 6 unanswered punches to the head are BANNED, I am being honest here. In the clip you can see the ref taking his time to call the fight, asking the fighter how she is doesn’t help because sometimes they don’t know what is good for them. The refs need to protect the fighters more. I know the head padding is almost taboo in pro boxing but I think that needs to change. The risk to health is too much to be macho about this, I am for introducing them to pro fights. I must say in closing that all the tests could be done , all safety measures followed, it might not have changed Zapata’s fate. This is a high risk sport boxing and certain conditions are just hard to detect by a routine med exams thus we must not be overly harsh on the Houle, the med team and the organizers. It is just sad that it takes a tragedy to implement changes and rules in sports. FOR THOSE WATCHING THE CLIP I ADVISE DISCRETION.