Every time a fighter bravely steps a foot into the ring, he literally puts his life on the line. Most of those brave boxers return safely home to their families once the final bell rings and the fights come to an end.
but for the tragic minority, the worst can happen inside the ring. for some, the consequences of a life in professional boxing have been fatal.
Reading: Boxing deaths in the ring
It is estimated that between 1890 and 2011, 1,604 boxers lost their lives as a direct result of injuries sustained in the ring, averaging 13 per year. strong>.
from the same study, showed 233 boxing-related deaths in the 1920s, during less safe times, while 103 occurred in the 2000s.
here we remember some of the incredibly brave warriors who died tragically in the ring or from injuries sustained during their fights throughout boxing history.
- 1 1. Frankie Campbell (vs. Max Baer, August 25, 1930)
- 2 2. jimmy doyle (vs. sugar ray robinson, June 24, 1947)
- 3 3. davey moore (vs. sugar ramos, march 21, 1963)
- 4 4. young ali (vs barry mcguigan, June 14, 1982)
- 5 5. kim duk-koo (vs. ray mancini, november 13, 1982)
- 6 6. roman simakov (vs. sergey kovalev, december 5, 2011)
- 7 7. mike towell (vs. dale evans, september 29, 2016)
- 8 8. scott westgarth (vs. dec spelman, Feb 24, 2018)
- 9 9. maxim dadashev (vs subriel matias, July 19, 2019)
- 10 10. patrick day (vs charles conwell, october 12, 2019)
- 11 Remembering these sports legends
1. Frankie Campbell (vs. Max Baer, August 25, 1930)
after defeating future heavyweight champion max baer in the second round (but a slip was ruled out), italian-american frankie campbell turned his back and walked to the ropes.
baer had gotten to his feet and proceeded to land a blunt right hand to the side of his opponent’s head.
campbell would say to his corner, “something feels like my head has snapped.”
He fought until the fifth round, when he took a sustained beating from the Nebraska native before the referee finally intervened.
The fallen fighter sadly died hours later in the hospital from a double brain hemorrhage. Baer was taken into police custody for involuntary manslaughter, with a $10,000 bond imposed, but the charges were later dismissed.
Referee Toby Irwin and both fighters’ corner teams were suspended for one year.
2. jimmy doyle (vs. sugar ray robinson, June 24, 1947)
The first death suffered by a boxer in a world championship bout since the 1800s. Sugar Ray Robinson dreamed he killed Jimmy Doyle in the ring the night prior to their Cleveland clash for the welterweight crown.
shocked by this, he pushed for the fight to be cancelled, and the commission even hired a catholic priest to reassure robinson of his fears.
doyle, 22, suffered an eighth-round knockout loss and never regained consciousness; him tragically passing away at a local hospital after undergoing surgery.
Having predicted this fatal tragedy, Robinson created a fund from their subsequent fights that went to Doyle’s parents.
When asked if he “did mean to get Doyle in trouble,” arguably the greatest boxer of all time replied, “Sir, it’s my business to get him in trouble.”
3. davey moore (vs. sugar ramos, march 21, 1963)
A ring fatality which inspired Bob Dylan to pen a song questioning its responsibility and led Pope John XXIII to slam boxing as a “barbaric” sport.
Davey Moore was sent to the ground in awkward fashion in the tenth round of his featherweight title matchup with Sugar Ramos, landing worryingly on his neck on the bottom rope.
He was somehow able to get up and finish the round on his feet before the referee stopped the process.
Unfortunately, the Kentucky-born champion lost much more than his title after a grueling match; him falling into a coma in his dressing room that he never came out of and dying 75 hours later in a hospital bed.
4. young ali (vs barry mcguigan, June 14, 1982)
Following Irishman Barry McGuigan’s sixth-round stoppage success over Young Ali, his tough Nigerian opponent fell into a coma in London after being stretchered out of the ring.
Ali, whose real name was Asimi Mustapha, was placed on life support but would later die at home, survived by his then-pregnant wife.
Decades later, the former clone featherweight world champion admitted he is still haunted by that ill-fated night in the English capital.
on his coronation night in 1985, when he defeated eusebio pedroza to become champion, he dedicated his triumph to his last fallen rival.
5. kim duk-koo (vs. ray mancini, november 13, 1982)
In what ultimately turned out to be one of the biggest fights in boxing history, South Korean warrior Kim Duk-koo went toe-to-toe with American Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
Minutes after the conclusion, Kim fell into a coma and was rushed to the hospital. she underwent emergency brain surgery and died four days after the fight.
Mancini’s fourteenth-round KO victory prompted reforms aimed at better protecting boxers’ health, with the main decision being to reduce championship bouts from 15 rounds to 12.
6. roman simakov (vs. sergey kovalev, december 5, 2011)
one of the more modern fatal fights, with light heavyweight contender roman simakov sadly collapsing in the ring after his loss to sergey kovalev and later dying of brain injuries.
The 27-year-old Russian’s passing hit Kovalev hard.
The man known as “the krusher” was quick to reach out to help his fallen opponent’s mother financially, but has always limited comment on the tragic incident with the media.
His manager, Egis Klimas, knew Simakov’s family still blamed him for what happened, meaning they dissuaded him from attending the funeral, and it took “considerable time” to convince Kovalev it wasn’t his fault .
7. mike towell (vs. dale evans, september 29, 2016)
A British welterweight title eliminator in Glasgow took a fatal turn when Dale Evans stopped Mike Towell in the fifth round of a scheduled 12 bout.
towell, a local wrestler, born in dundee, was rushed to hospital where it was discovered that he had a severe brain haemorrhage which ultimately led to his tragic passing shortly afterwards.
A “heartbroken” Evans revealed that a meeting with Towell’s mother gave him personal strength and solace.
While there is no way to truly comfort the families involved in such harrowing cases, the financial burden has been eased with the help of many within the sport, such as Ricky Hatton.
A “justification” page created in light of Towell’s tragic death raised over £50,000, as well as other contributions from the boxing world.
8. scott westgarth (vs. dec spelman, Feb 24, 2018)
It should have been a cause for celebration for Scott Westgarth after overcoming Dec Spelman in a light-heavyweight meeting in Doncaster.
but it quickly turned into a tragedy as the 31-year-old was rushed to hospital after 10 rounds shared before dying just two days later.
His opponent that night has since developed a close relationship with Westgarth’s family, stating: “there might be resentment, but luckily they’ve been understanding. They’ve been fantastic to me ever since.”
9. maxim dadashev (vs subriel matias, July 19, 2019)
Another recent ring fatality sadly occurred on American soil, with Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev passing away at just 26 following injuries sustained during his IBF light-welterweight title encounter with Subriel Matias.
esteemed trainer buddy mcgirt pulled his fighter out of proceedings in the eleventh round after pleading, “please, max, please” in the corner.
The American said he “couldn’t convince” his man to quit, so he had to take matters into his own hands.
dadashev was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage after being unable to walk to his dressing room. he sadly died after surgery.
a fund was created for her son daniel and his wife elizaveta, who promised that her brave husband would give her the “power to live”.
10. patrick day (vs charles conwell, october 12, 2019)
It was a tragic year for boxing across 2019, with several fighters losing their lives following ring injuries. Patrick Day was another unfortunate victim.
The American was forced to undergo emergency brain surgery following his tenth-round knockout loss to Charles Conwell in Chicago, after falling into a coma.
His promoter, Lou Dibella, later announced that he passed away that day “surrounded by his family, close friends and members of his boxing team.”
Remembering these sports legends
As boxing fans, we thirst for blood.
Having chaos, we want maximum effort and pure action every time any man or woman climbs through the ring ropes into battle.
But beyond the spectacle of the fight, it’s sometimes easy to forget the danger and risks associated with every scheduled matchup.
therefore, deaths are always a painful reminder that boxing is a sport, or a business, that is literally a matter of life and death.
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