Sports

Safety of fighters a priority for promoters

Organisers of combat sports events will add safety protocols if needed following AFC tragedy

Organisers of combat sports events gave the assurance yesterday that there will not be any compromise in their efforts to ensure the safety of their fighters.

Major promoters The New Paper spoke to highlighted the safety protocols employed by their organisations and added that they would add on safety measures whenever possible.

The issue of fighter safety arose after bodybuilder Pradip Subramanian died of "cardiac arrest respiratory failure" after a muay thai bout with YouTube personality Steven Lim at the inaugural Asia Fighting Championship (AFC) last Saturday.

Subramanian, 32, was a last-minute replacement for ex-Singapore Idol star Sylvester Sim, who pulled out of the fight with Lim last Friday due to insurance issues.

"You can never be safe enough. We always try to be pioneers and leaders," Chatri Sityodtong, chairman of Asia-focused mixed martial arts organisation ONE Championship, told TNP yesterday.

"We always have a stretcher with doctors and medical staff on standby at ringside.

"Last month, we introduced CT (computerised tomography) scans that are conducted on our fighters during fight week at our expense."

The safety protocols across different promoters are similar - full-body check-ups in the lead-up to the fight as well as just before the bout, submission of detailed medical reports before the fight, medical staff on standby and detailed medical evacuation procedures.

The same standards are applied to participants of the Ringstar Corporate Boxing Championships, which had been part of the previous two Roar of Singapore events here this year, according to Scott O'Farrell, chief executive officer of Ringstar Management.

Boxers in such events typically have less experience than the exponents on the main or undercards.

Of corporate boxers, O'Farrell told TNP yesterday: "Competitors are trained by professional coaches and come from boxing gyms in Singapore.

"No one on our show is allowed to compete unless the coach or their gym agrees that he or she is ready to do so. 

"Also, boxers wear protective headgear, 14- to 16-ounce gloves and compete over three two-minute rounds." 

"They are matched with an opponent with similar levels of experience and weight," added O'Farrell, whose organisation will hold the Roar of Singapore III event on Oct 20.

"Ringstar will continue in its uncompromising approach to boxer welfare and... require its amateurs and corporate boxers to submit full medical and serology reports, without which they will not be permitted to fight."

Vanda Promotions, another organiser of corporate boxing, selects a pool of about 22 boxers from hundreds of applicants, and puts the selected group through an intensive 12-week boxing programme, where they train thrice a week before they get into the ring for the actual bout.

"Unlike other fights, whereby the focus is to win and improve your record, our focus is ultimately to raise money for charity," Vanda founder Ian Mullane told TNP.

"That's why we are biased towards safety - the fighters wear head guards and sparring gloves, the referees and judges have the authority to put a stop to mismatched fights and there is a 'disaster' plan, with detailed evacuation routes to the nearest hospitals."

He added that Vanda has been organising its White Collar Boxing events in Hong Kong and Singapore for almost 10 years without major incident, and will hold another such event in Singapore on Oct 28.

"If the public perception (is that combat sports are unsafe), there is little I can do to change that, apart from doing what we have been doing.

"But we will take every opportunity to improve the safety of our boxers, and the enjoyment of the event."

Arvind Lalwani, who heads the Singapore Fighting Championship, declined comment when contacted by TNP.

Muay thai exponent Brandon Ng said he protects himself in the ring by taking a "very conservative approach".

But the 22-year-old added: "Muay thai is a brutal sport, and people have to accept that there will always be a risk of injury.

"I fight professionally in Thailand often and, from what I know, fighters have no insurance coverage there.

"We sign a form stating that we are responsible for our lives and that we will not blame the organisers or officials for any loss or death.

"We get paid for risking our lives and the strongest survives.

"If you make a choice to fight, you are responsible for the consequences. This is a brutal sport and people have to accept it."

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