Ap­peal on boxing safety re­jected ahead of death

Min­is­ter de­fends fail­ure to act on warn­ing that fight­ers were dy­ing. Stacey Kirk re­ports.

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

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.

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