BOX­ING SHAME

A Sun­day Times probe into the re­cent death of boxer Her­bert Nk­abiti sug­gests a crit­i­cal safety reg­u­la­tion was ne­glected by box­ing of­fi­cials and the pro­moter

Sunday Times - - SPORT -

THE re­cent death of a boxer has sparked a storm of con­tro­versy with claims that Box­ing South Africa (BSA) is flout­ing the reg­u­la­tions it is sup­posed to en­force.

Her­bert Nk­abiti, a Botswana na­tional, died on April 29, the day af­ter col­laps­ing in the ring at Car­ni­val City on the East Rand.

Pro­moter Steve Kalakoda in­sists he was fully com­pli­ant, while BSA of­fi­cials are de­clin­ing to com­ment un­til a re­port into the tragedy has been handed to Sport Min­is­ter Them­be­lani “Thu­las” Nx­esi.

But there is a cho­rus of dis­con­tent with in­sid­ers ac­cus­ing the reg­u­la­tor of break­ing rules, re­sult­ing in:

Box­ers not be­ing paid their com­pen­sa­tion of 10% of purse when tour­na­ments are can­celled at late no­tice;

For­eign fight­ers be­ing in­cluded in the South African rank­ings;

Box­ers be­ing li­censed de­spite be­ing too old or hav­ing suf­fered too many stop­page de­feats; and,

Too many mis­matches be­ing sanc­tioned, as well as far­ci­cal con­tests like a re­cent Gaut­eng wel­ter­weight ti­tle bout where, ac­cord­ing to statis­ti­cian An­dre de Vries, one con­tender had last fought in the divi­sion in 2008, and the other had fought only twice, get­ting stopped both times.

BSA CEO Tsholofelo Le­jaka con­ceded there had been prob­lems with li­cens­ing and rat­ings, adding the board had is­sued a di­rec­tive that for­eign­ers should be re­moved from the rank­ings.

He said box­ers in can­celled shows, whose con­tracts had been lodged at BSA, would get their 10%.

On can­celled tour­na­ments, he ex­plained BSA needed to be le­nient to ad­dress the chal­lenge of trans­for­ma­tion among pro­mot­ers.

Of the 75 shows staged in the past fi­nan­cial year, he es­ti­mated that fewer than 20 would have gone ahead if they’d stuck to the reg­u­la­tion de­mand­ing pay­ment 30 days be­fore.

But the is­sue caus­ing the great­est anger is the death of Nk­abiti, 36.

The stricken boxer was taken by am­bu­lance from the tour­na­ment venue to the nearby Net­care-owned Sun­ward Park hospi­tal where there was an ini­tial snag ad­mit­ting him.

The Sun­day Times un­der­stands that af­ter nearly two hours he un­der­went a CT scan which di­ag­nosed bleed­ing on the brain.

He was at the hospi­tal for more than six hours un­til be­ing trans­ferred to Thelle Mo­go­er­ane Hospi­tal in Vosloorus where he died sev­eral hours later.

In­sid­ers ar­gue that the facts of this case, par­tic­u­larly that he was bounced to a sec­ond hospi­tal, sug­gest a cru­cial safety reg­u­la­tion was not ad­hered to.

Pro­mot­ers are re­quired to give to BSA “con­fir­ma­tion that a hospi­tal close to the venue has been no­ti­fied of the tour­na­ment and that its neu­ro­log­i­cal depart­ment and all other med­i­cal di­vi­sions nec­es­sary will be on standby for the du­ra­tion of the tour­na­ment”.

The hospi­tal’s gen­eral man­ager, An­na­marie Richter, said in a writ­ten state­ment in re­sponse to Sun­day Times ques­tions there was no for­mal ar­range­ment with the pro­moter.

She said the hospi­tal “re­ceived an e-mail in the sec­ond week of April from an emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices provider en­quir­ing whether a neu­ro­sur­geon would be on call on cer­tain week­ends later that month when box­ing matches were to be staged . . . ”.

“The hospi­tal con­firmed to the EMS provider that a neu­ro­sur­geon would be on call for the hospi­tal on those spe­cific week­ends.

“No fur­ther ar­range­ments were made by the EMS provider or any other ex­ter­nal party with the hospi­tal re­gard­ing pos­si­ble emer­gency care or hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion of box­ers in the event this would be re­quired.”

At­tor­ney David Swartz of Phillip Sil­ver Swartz, who has had pre­vi­ous suc­cesses in cases against BSA, be­lieves the hospi­tal’s ini­tial con­fir­ma­tion “does not con­form with the said reg­u­la­tion”.

If BSA and the pro­moter had failed in their du­ties, they could face “a po­ten­tial case of cul­pa­ble homi­cide”, he said, adding that in­fring­ing the Box­ing Act car­ries a penalty of up to a year’s im­pris­on­ment and a fine.

Kalakoda said he acted by the book. “As a pro­mo­tional com­pany we did all the ar­range­ments through BSA re­gard­ing all the re­quire­ments . . . When you do your com­pli­ances for a box­ing tour­na­ment, BSA will not sanc­tion your tour­na­ment if ev­ery­thing is not in or­der.”

So why weren’t hospi­tal staff aware of the tour­na­ment?

“There’s lots of peo­ple work­ing in the re­cep­tion of a hospi­tal. Who’s sup­posed to know?”

He said he had noth­ing to do with the de­ci­sion to trans­fer Nk­abiti to the govern­ment hospi­tal.

“It was the hospi­tal’s de­ci­sion. What the doc­tor on duty that night told me per­son­ally was that at that par­tic­u­lar hospi­tal they want to send him to, they are much more ex­pe­ri­enced when it comes to these kind of in­juries than a pri­vate hospi­tal.”

In­sid­ers are also ques­tion­ing why Nk­abiti was al­lowed to fight if he had a hair­line frac­ture on the left side of his skull. Le­jaka said the boxer had re­ceived his clear­ance in Botswana.

HER­BERT NK­ABITI

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