After Two Deaths Days Apart, Boxing Examines Its Risks

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pat English, a lawyer with lengthy and influential ties to boxing, was delivering a historical past lesson on numerous federal tips for the game when he flashed a black-and-white of a younger fighter.

The boxer’s title was Stephan Johnson, a junior middleweight who had fought thrice (and more than likely sustained not less than one mind harm) within the seven months main as much as his United States Boxing Association title struggle in opposition to Paul Vaden in November 1999. Johnson was beneath a medical suspension that was not acknowledged by some native boxing commissions, and regardless of his coach’s objections he was wanting to return to the ring so he might earn sufficient cash to maneuver his mom out of public housing.

Johnson misplaced the struggle, and his life. Knocked out within the 10th spherical, he was rushed to a hospital the place surgeons drilled two holes in his cranium. He died two weeks later at 31.

English, who was at that struggle, recalled a few of these particulars final week as he spoke at a gathering of the individuals who regulate the game and are grappling with contemporary tragedies that really feel too acquainted.

Two boxers died days aside final month after sustaining mind accidents within the ring. Maxim Dadashev, a 28-year-old Russian, died on July 23, four days after a light welterweight fight in Maryland. Hugo Alfredo Santillán, a 23-year-old Argentine, died on July 25, five days after collapsing at the end of a lightweight fight in Buenos Aires. Santillán had fought to a draw.

Their deaths framed conversations at the annual meeting of the Association of Boxing Commissions, where directors of state and tribal commissions examined policies central to boxing and other combat sports they supervise at a local level. They touched on drug testing, concussion protocols and even social media decorum for referees (the primary message there: Don’t tweet dumb stuff). But the discussions kept returning to a basic idea: Boxing is inherently dangerous, and fighters depend on the rules to prevent the worst possible injuries.

“Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing this for a living,” Mike Mazzulli, the departing president of the A.B.C., said in a telephone interview after the meeting in Scottsdale. “But if I’m not doing it, no one will.”

The regulators, and others in the sport, are still seeking answers.

“This is a time where we all need to go back to the drawing board and understand what is happening,” Mauricio Sulaiman, the president of the World Boxing Council, said in a speech at the meeting. “Because something is happening.”

Sulaiman, whose organization sanctioned Santillán’s deadly fight, continued: “Any boxer who goes to the ring is willing to do whatever he has to do to win — whatever he has to do to be successful and make money for his family. If you ask him to fight 20 rounds, he will do whatever it takes. They’re warriors. It’s our duty to protect them from themselves.”

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