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Boxing must look at changes after Scott Westgarth tragedy: Magee


By David Kelly

Experienced manager Pat Magee believes the death of light-heavyweight Scott Westgarth should be a serious wake-up call for British boxing chiefs.

Westgarth had beaten Dec Spelman in an English light-heavyweight title eliminator on Saturday night in Doncaster but fell ill afterwards and tragically died yesterday.

While Magee agrees with the consensus of opinion that the British Boxing Board of Control have stringent medical arrangements in place for boxing events, the Belfast man feels the time has come for a review of the tests that boxers go through as well as the gloves used in professional boxing.

As amateurs, boxers use a larger glove but when they enter the professional ranks there is a switch to the smaller eight ounce gloves which are known to have a much greater impact.

"I think the gloves is one area that could be looked at because it is clear that in amateur boxing you don't have as many knockdowns or stoppages because there is more padding in the gloves," said Magee.

"It's tragic what has happened to Scott Westgarth and although everyone knows the dangers within the sport because people are taking blows to the head, I still feel that it's time for the British board to take a seriously look at what could be improved.

"In respect of having medical personnel at shows there is strength in depth but there are other areas that could be looked at that maybe could improve on the good things that are already in place.

"At the moment a boxer has an annual MRI scan to detect any abnormalities but I think that needs to be looked at. Maybe it's time that after every championship bout - or even 10-rounder - a boxer has to have an MRI check because often damage is done in the longer bouts."

Magee continued: “I think a pilot scheme could be set up to see if this could work because obviously with MRI scans there is a substantial cost. It just seems to me that we need more than one a year because things can clearly develop and the quicker they are spotted the better.”

Magee, who managed Brian Magee to world and European glory and currently guides highly-ranked super-feather Anthony Cacace, also feels that the current 28-day rule preventing boxers who have been stopped by an opponent from competing again within a month also needs to be examined and possibly tweaked.

“At the moment someone could be stopped in the first round of a fight and not be allowed to box for 28 days before they have to re-apply to fight again,” added Magee, a British licence holder for over 30 years.

“The issue with this is that a boxer could have taken a heavy beating but still be able to box again in two weeks’ time simply because he hasn’t been knocked out.

“Medical advances are happening all the time and I think now would be a good time for the Board to sit down with medical experts and see how they could improve the overall safety but of course we know because of the nature of the sport it can never be made completely safe.”

Northern Ireland’s two-weight world champion Carl Frampton led the messages of shock and condolences to the family of Westgarth, commenting on social media: “Heartbreaking to hear the news that Scott Westgarth has passed away. It’s a stark reminder of how dangerous this sport is. RIP.”

The Doncaster show’s promoter Stefy Bull commented: “God bless Scott Westgarth. To promote a boxing show and a young man doing a job he loves losing his life, I have no words.

“RIP lad, thoughts go out to your family and your team, it’s been the hardest few days I’ve had to endure. No idea what to do moving forward.”

Westgarth conducted a post-fight interview before his condition declined, and was treated by paramedics prior to being taken to hospital.

The British Board of Control’s General Secretary Robert Smith said: “I’ve spoken to the doctors and officials in charge and am satisfied with the procedures. It’s a terrible thing that’s happened. My condolences to all of his family.”

Westgarth was a former ski instructor who worked as a chef at Sheffield’s Royal Victoria Holiday Inn.

Former world champion Ricky Hatton wrote on social media: “Heartbreaking this. Thoughts to his friends and family. And to anyone involved in the show. Rest in peace young man.”

Belfast Telegraph

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