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Bare Knuckle Fights, The Case for and against.

An Article by Erle Montaigue

9-5-90

On the one hand we have the promoters and government departments who advocate the use of gloves in both boxing and kickboxing matches because of the safety factor (government) and because of the spectacle (promoter).

Of course it is always better for the promotion to see a good fight going the rounds with perhaps a knock out in the 12th round etc.. People were becoming bored with the Mike Tyson one minute knock outs.

But are the gloves and protective equipment stopping damage? Now we have the B.M.A. (British Medical Board) calling for and end to the gloved matches and a return to the old days of bare knuckles. The British Boxing Board, ( the regular one and not the unlicensed one where people like Lenny McLean slug it out) has some of the most stringent medical tests for boxers of any country with each boxer having to have a brain scan before each match! IN this way many a boxer has been saved the Mohammed Ali fate and many others like him who have suffered from years and many bouts of brain flopping.

So it seems strange to many that the BMA now advocates the return to bare knuckles. Their reasons. It would seem that there is more superficial damage with cut lips, eyebrows and teeth knocked out in the bare knuckle bouts but much less brain damage. This is because when someone is hit, he stays hit and is usually knocked out with the first contact and so the match is over quickly with only a little blood spilt. The brain has not been hammered against the brain cavity wall five hundred times during a match thus weakening the area that joins the brain to the spinal cord. To back this theory up we have taken a long look at Muay Thai in Thailand, a branch of which has been holding bare knuckle fights for years with seemingly no real brain damage. Upon viewing some of the best fights of this nature from Thailand which I have received on video, I can see why they do not have much brain damage. The fights do not last that long relative to Western boxing and there are knock outs quite early in the matches which usually finishes the match. With this in mind, the boxers themselves seem to use better technique because they know that they will be knocked out and so lose the fight if they make any mistakes. There is always a little superficial damage but this takes only days to heal up and they're at it again. About the worst they can expect is to be totally arthritic into older age (around 30 or 40) or receive permanent scar tissue around the face and head. The whole attitude of the Thais is however totally different to what we have in the West. We want to win at all costs and the fight is a way only of gaining fame and fortune. But in Thailand there is much more to these bare knuckle bouts at least. most Thais are very religious and the whole match is done as a sort of religious ceremony with each fighter thanking each other before and after the match. About the only resemblance that real Thai Boxing matches have with 'KickBoxer' is the peculiar way in which the fighters hold their arms over their heads. The extreme violence and animosity towards the other fighter seems to be non existent in a real Thai Boxing match with the referee's really looking after the fighters and seem genuinely worried when one of them is hurt.

I agree with the BMA in that it would be to the help of most boxers if they had to fight bare fisted with perhaps only a bandage around the fists, (As with Thai Boxing bare knuckle bouts). But of course there will be no way that the promoters will ever allow this to happen, it's just not good for the purse to have this sort of boxing match and the old ways die hard.

So with this in mind let me put forward something that I found in 'Science Today Magazine'.

The medical panel of the British Boxing Board Of Control's Southern area, meeting last month (a few years ago now) under the shadow of the death of the Trinidadian heavyweight Ulric Regis after a fight, decided that it would be impracticable to send all boxer to hospital who had been knocked out or down.

Regis, who was punished about the head in a fight on March 11 died four days later after a blood clot had been removed from his brain.

Damage to the brain from a blow on the head is often microscopic and may not produce any detectable change in behaviour, even after the accumulation of several injuries.

Because brain damage is so hard to measure, wide latitude is left for estimates of its extent, ranging from those who say that boxing rarely causes noticeable brain damage to those who claim that there is no such thing as a harmless blow to the head, however gentle it may be!

The brain can be considered as a lump of jelly protected by a square box, the skull, and cushioned by a thin layer of fluid. A blow on the head makes the brain swirl around inside the skull oscillating back and forth in the direction in which the blow landed.

The characteristic injury from the hard blows is known as contre-coup damage, in which both back and front of the brain, or the two sides are injured by knocking against the walls of the skull.

Boxers commonly suffer damage to the frontal lobes in the front of the brain, and the occipital lobes at the back. Frontal lobe injury resembling in its extremes the symptoms of pre-frontal leukotomy, or surgical removal of the lobes, which includes lack of inhibitions and inability to concentrate.

The cause of damage lies in haemorrhage of the delicate blood vessels that supply the brain cells with vital nutrients. Breaking of a blood vessel probably leads to the death of the cells it supplies, and since brain cells are never replaced, the damage caused by even small haemorrhages is bound to accumulate.

Another form of injury, of which Ulic Regis displayed the classic symptoms, is the breaking of a comparatively large blood vessel, the middle meningeal artery, which runs up a canal near the ear inside the skull.

A blow on the head may cause immediate unconsciousness from which the boxer recovers, but meanwhile blood seeping from the burst artery builds up pressure on the inside of the skull which some time later causes unconsciousness and death. (A technique I might add here that I warned people about in the dim-mak article for AFA earlier. Author)

It is true that very few boxers die as a direct result f blows received in the ring; what is not known is the extent of the accumulated damage from separate injuries that pass unnoticed at the time. Gross damage, however, is not nearly as rare as it is sometimes said to be.

And from Leading Australian Physicians; Leading Australian physicians want boxing banned because it caused serious long term disabilities like dementia and Parkinson's disease.

Combative sports are gross anyway and the Martial Arts should have no place in these areas. The martial Arts are for self defence and should remain that way. Soccer and rugby, basketball and hockey are sports and should remain that way. There, the contestants are trying to win by putting a ball into a net or goal but in the martial sports area including boxing, the contestants are out to hurt each other so that they win.

At least if the matches were bare knuckles, then many a tournament contestant would think twice about entering into these matches and we just might see less brain damage,.. in the least.