‘Tragedy for ev­ery­one’

Boxer Hague’s death sparks calls for bet­ter pro­tec­tion for fight­ers in the ring

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - SPORTS - BY BILL BEA­CON

As an Ed­mon­ton el­e­men­tary school mourned the loss of a beloved teacher on Mon­day, Tim Hague’s death from in­juries suf­fered dur­ing a box­ing match sparked calls for stricter li­cens­ing re­quire­ments and bet­ter pro­tec­tion for fight­ers in the ring.

Hague, 34, was in­jured in a sec­ond-round tech­ni­cal knock­out loss to Adam Braid­wood in a heavy­weight bout on Fri­day night.

He was taken to hos­pi­tal after the one-sided loss. His friends re­ported on so­cial me­dia that he un­der­went surgery to re­lieve bleed­ing on the brain. His death was an­nounced Sun­day by his sis­ter Jackie Neil.

Hague, a for­mer kinder­garten teacher whose nick­name was The Thrash­ing Ma­chine, taught Grade 4 English at Ecole Belle­vue School.

“It is with deep sor­row that we must in­form our Black Gold fam­ily that Mr. Tim Hague, a beloved teacher and staff mem­ber at Ecole Belle­vue School, has passed away,” the school said in a state­ment. “This is a tragedy for ev­ery­one — his fam­ily, his friends and the school com­mu­nity that he was such an im­por­tant part of.

“Sup­ports have been put in place to help the school fam­ily dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time. We en­cour­age ev­ery­one to re­mem­ber the won­der­ful qual­i­ties Tim pos­sessed and to re­spect the fam­ily and school’s need for pri­vacy dur­ing this time.”

Hague’s death came less than a month after boxer David Whit­tom went into a coma with bleed­ing on the brain after a knock­out loss in Fred­er­ic­ton, N.B. The two cases have raised calls for im­prove­ments in rules to en­sure the safety of fight­ers in box­ing and mixed martial arts.

Hague (1-3 as a boxer, 21-13 in MMA), a heavy un­der­dog who ac­cepted the fight on only two weeks no­tice, was knocked down three times, while an­other trip to the can­vas was ruled a slip, in the first round against Braid­wood, a for­mer CFL player with an 8-1 record. Ref­eree Len Koivisto stopped the bout after two more knock­downs in the sec­ond round.

The Ed­mon­ton Com­bat­ive Sports Com­mis­sion, which reg­u­lates pro­fes­sional com­bat­ive sports events in the city, is­sued a state­ment that it and the City of Ed­mon­ton are “con­duct­ing a com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the in­ci­dent.

Braid­wood’s camp de­clined to com­ment on Hague’s death.

Vet­eran box­ing trainer Stephan Larouche said fight­ers of­ten have to be pro­tected from them­selves be­cause they won’t stop even if they are los­ing badly, and they want to con­tinue their ca­reers even if they’ve lost a few bouts in a row.

“A fighter al­ways be­lieves he’s OK,” said Larouche, who took Lu­cian Bute, Eric Lu­cas and other box­ers to world ti­tles. “They be­lieve that if they stop for a year or what­ever that they’re OK, but the punches they took re­main.”

When he was fight­ing for UFC, Hague once said: “You can turn my face into mashed pota­toes and I’ll keep go­ing.”

Whit­tom, who had not fought for more than a year and had lost 18 of his pre­vi­ous 20 fights be­fore he was in­jured against Gary Kopas of Saska­toon, would not have been al­lowed to fight in Que­bec, On­tario or many other ju­ris­dic­tions in North Amer­ica, Larouche said.

He said fight com­mis­sions need to be co-or­di­nated across Canada so that sus­pen­sions and med­i­cal records are up­held in all prov­inces and cities. In­di­vid­ual cities have their own com­mis­sions in Al­berta, while pro­vin­cial com­mis­sions gov­ern the sport in other prov­inces.

“If all the prov­inces fol­lowed what we do, it could save lives,” he said.

He also said ref­er­ees and judges should be tested ev­ery five years or so to keep their li­censes.

For­mer World Box­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tion mid­dleweight cham­pion Otis Grant of Mon­treal said box­ing com­mis­sions need strict rules in place that would bar fight­ers who have suf­fered a run of knock­outs from get­ting back in the ring.

“Some­times you’ve got to save the boxer from him­self,” said Grant, adding that box­ing com­mis­sions have a duty to “do a lit­tle re­search into who fights in their ju­ris­dic­tion and if they see a guy has two or (knock­out) losses in a row, then refuse him.”

A heavy­weight trained in ji­u­jitsu, Hague put his teach­ing ca­reer on hold to make his pro MMA de­but in 2006.

His first UFC fight came in May 2009 at UFC 98 — a sub­mis­sion win over Pat Barry in the first round. He com­peted on three more UFC cards by May 2010, drop­ping all three bouts. His last UFC event was a Fight Night show in Jan­uary 2011 and his fi­nal pro MMA fight was in July 2016. He com­piled a 21-13 MMA record be­fore switch­ing to box­ing.

He had been knocked out in his pre­vi­ous box­ing match in De­cem­ber.

CP PHOTO

Tim Hague poses at a weigh-in Port­land, Ore. in this 2009 file photo.

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