Appeal on boxing safety rejected ahead of death
Minister defends failure to act on warning that fighters were dying. Stacey Kirk reports.
The Government was asked to review corporate boxing two months ago, but Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin refused.
Following the death of Kain Parsons last week, she has done a u-turn.
National MP for Kaikoura Stuart Smith raised the issue in September, but Martin replied that a review of legislation was not high on the Government’s priorities.
Now a Christchurch family is mourning the loss of 37-year-old father-of-two Parsons, who suffered fatal injuries after taking part in a charity corporate boxing event.
Steve Wills, who referees a biannual charity fight night in Timaru, said organisers of that event spent considerable time on athlete safety, and that was the way it should be at all charity events.
Fighters in the events Wills refereed were given proper training, doctor check-ups before and after the fight, and had to wear headgear and mouth guards.
The bouts were closely monitored and called off if one fighter was gaining too much dominance, and uppercuts were not permitted.
In his letter, Smith cited the specific concerns of one of his constituents, Canterbury-based coach and referee Bob Halliday, about ‘‘the number of people who are severely injured or killed in corporate and amateur’’ boxing events.
‘‘The professional groups who host these events have very charitable intentions, and consequently their primary concern is making money for those involved,’’ Smith wrote.
‘‘However, Mr Halliday believes that this is at the cost of the health and wellbeing of participants, particularly with regards to their safety.’’
Smith was disappointed by Martin’s failure to act.
But Martin pointed out the Government had almost no control over corporate boxing events.
‘‘To be clear, as Minister of Internal Affairs I cannot stop these charity fights occurring. They would all stop, however, if all of the boxing associations did what Boxing New Zealand has done and cease their involvement with charity events.’’
Martin agreed the law needed updating, but said it would take time.
Halliday said there were stringent regulations at the professional and amateur levels, but not enough protection at the bottom tier.
‘‘My main concern is we’ve got individuals getting into the ring, who are not qualified and are incapable of becoming a boxer in a short period of time, and they’re not being looked after in the ring,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m asking the minister to stop corporate boxing until we get a full set of guidelines and a full set of rules, which govern it.’’
Referee Steve Wills says charity boxing needs close monitoring. Right: Kain Parsons.