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How Boxing Works

Boxing Injuries and Deaths

Jack Broughton is thought to be the founder of boxing rules.  Yet those rules do not protect the sport from injury and corruption.
Public Domain
Bare knuckle boxer John Lawrence Sullivan

Boxing is one of the few sports in which a competitor's success is determined largely by the amount of harm he inflicts on his opponent. When a boxer is knocked down, quite often he hasn't been merely knocked off balance. Chances are he has been struck in the head so hard and so many times in the match that he is dazed and disoriented at the least, and possibly knocked completely unconscious. Even one such incident can cause permanent damage, but professional boxers may fight dozens of times in their career. In fact, boxing is considered by some to be so dangerous that numerous medical organizations around the world have called for it to be banned. The British Medical Association, American Medical Association and Australian Medical Association all have standing policies that call for the complete banning of the sport.

There are two primary concerns with boxing injuries – acute injury, which can lead to death, and long-term cumulative brain damage. There are numerous cases in which a boxer has died in the ring or shortly after a fight as a result of injuries sustained in the ring. They include Gerald Mclellan, Leavander Johnson, Jimmy Doyle, Duk-Koo Kim (both the referee who officiated the match and Kim's mother committed suicide in the aftermath), Benny Paret, Randie Carver and female boxer Becky Zerlentes [sources: BBC News, MAX Boxing]. As of December, 2006, more than 1,300 boxers have died as a result of fighting injuries [source: Journal of Combative Sport].

Harder to quantify are the fighters whose lives have been altered when their brains deteriorate after they retire. There is enough medical evidence to support the claim that boxing leads to long-term brain damage [source: Science Daily].

Boxing is also dogged by corruption. Ever since the first bare-fisted fights in England, there have been charges that one fighter "threw," or intentionally lost a fight, usually to satisfy someone who had placed a large bet on the other fighter. Corruption in boxing seems to go hand in hand with gambling, and the legal gambling that surrounds the high-profile fights in Vegas certainly does nothing to limit the perception (if not the actual presence) of corruption in the sport. Add to that the perception that managers and promoters make huge sums while putting poor, urban kids through a grueling, brutal career and the complex web of bribes and payoffs to promoters and gaming officials in many areas, and it's no wonder there are many vocal critics of the entire sport.

For lots more information on boxing and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

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  • Andrea, Sam and Fleischer, Nat. An Illustrated History of Boxing. Citadel, (January 11, 2002). 978-0806522012.
  • Australian Medical Association. "Boxing ring no place for kids – AMA."
  • BBC Sport. "US woman dies after boxing match." April 5, 2005.
  • British Medical Association. "Boxing – the BMA's position." August 2006 briefing.
  • Durant, John. The Heavyweight Champions. Hastings House, 1976. 978-8038302037.
  • Elliot, Victoria Stagg. "AMA pulls no punches, reiterates boxing ban." American Medical News, July 2002.
  • Gerbasi, Thomas. "For Those Who Died." Jan. 10, 2003.
  • Luhning, Aaron. "Boxing Styles: Swarmer, Slugger, Boxer, Boxer-Puncher."
  • Mullan, Harry. Boxing: The Complete Illustrated Guide. Carlton Publishing Group (August 1, 2003). 978-1842228098.
  • Svinth, Joseph R. "Death under the Spotlight: The Manuel Velazquez Boxing Fatality Collection." Journal of Combative Sport, Jan. 2007.
  • U.S.A. Boxing. "Technical Rules."
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  • "Amateur Boxing Linked To Brain Cell Injury." Journal of the American Medical Association, Sept. 18, 2006.