The Sport Of Boxing In Australia

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This paper will examine the sport of boxing in the context of Queensland, Australia. It is argued that there is a need to ban boxing, or at the very least, a need for legislation to impose stricter regulations to prevent death or serious injury among athletes. Figures show that in Australia alone, between 1830 and 2009, there have been 155 recorded deaths from boxing (JSC, 2007). These statistics do not even consider serious and permanent disability arising from boxing. An examination of laws show that people cannot consent to grievous bodily harm or death. Despite this, boxing matches continue to cause grievous bodily harm and death as well as long term debilitating injuries caused by serious assault which the athletes can legally consent to. There are no statutory exclusions for boxing, yet the Queensland criminal system does not exercise its jurisdiction when these serious injuries occur. There needs to be justification on how boxing is currently failing to meet medical standards to keep the athletes safe. This will also explore the major supporters of boxing and those who benefit from it, primarily promoters who gain considerable wealth through its continuance. Overall, potential reforms are suggested, which at the very least could reduce the amount of serious injuries that occur as a result of boxing matches by introducing new QLD legislation.

Comprehension of Queensland Laws

Serious injury and death from assault in boxing technically constitutes offences under the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) (Queensland, 2020). Yet, in Queensland, boxing is entirely self-regulated, and where serious injury or death occurs during a fight from serious assault, the criminal law does not appear to be exercised.

A Queensland boxer named Alex in 2010 had a brain aneurysm, ruptured as a result of injuries sustained during a fight, and unfortunately died a week later in hospital. The State Coroner ruled out any inquest (times, 2020). In boxing circles, Alex’s death has been described as “just one of those things”.

And what does the law have to say about the sport? Under the Code, s339, any person who ‘strikes … or applies force … to the person of another’ without their consent, has committed the misdemeanour of assault and may face a penalty of up to three years imprisonment. Assaults occasioning bodily harm, any person who unlawfully assaults another and thereby does the other person bodily harm is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 7 years (Queensland, 2020). Further, you cannot ‘consent to your own death’. The Queensland government has never legislated or regulated combatant sports such as boxing. Indeed, Boxing Queensland Inc’s website heavily advertises the fact that the government actively funds their organisation as a way of promoting the sport. This position is indeed incomprehensible as nowhere in the Code is boxing or other combat sports excluded from its jurisdiction.

Stakeholders Perspective

The Australian Medical Association strongly opposes boxing (AMA, 2007). Medical opposition centres primarily on the fact that permanent brain injury and death have been definitively linked to the sport, as strikes to the head are within the rules. Research further shows that it is the cumulative effect of multiple blows to the head in boxing that is the most significant contributory factor to brain injury. Death can often be the result of a second brain injury sustained before a previous brain injury has been fully healed. Medical staff on site and helping at boxing events are calling for the sport to be cancelled as there is no stopping the boxers from causing brain damage to one another over the course of delivering blows to the jaw and head regions. This can cause death or long-term brain damage. The medical teams that are being put in the boxing events would benefit greatly from changes to the law that allow them to order the referee to stop the rounds or the entire bout if the medical staff believe that the boxers are causing harm to each other where there is a possibility of long term injury or disability or even death if the match is allowed to continue.

Promoters are in utter support of boxing continuing and don’t see any problem with Queensland’s current laws. This is because the promoters of the major and professional boxing matches are benefiting with significant financial income per match also, they are inundated with live audience members as well as online and pay TV viewers. In the recent Jeff Horn VS Manny Pacquiao fight it was reported that Horn would receive $500,000 from this fight and Pacquiao was guaranteed at least $10 million (ABC, 2020). One of the many International media channels covering the event in Queensland biggest stadium was the ESPN broadcast. It achieved an average viewership of 2.812 million. ESPN reported an average audience of 3.1 million and a peak across both its English and Spanish-language broadcasts (Rafael, 2017). Also 51,052 fans purchased tickets to the huge scaled event. They belief that the boxers signing an agreement removes their responsibility to prevent any injuries sustained by their athlete. They are more focused on the marketing and money of the professional boxing events and are not considerate that the current laws are allowing the athletes to take the assault to a level where death and lifelong injuries occur.

Evaluation of Laws

Further changes are required to make the sport safe for the athletes. If legislation was put into place in Qld regarding combat sports and particularly boxing, stakeholders’ perspectives should change. For example, the medical associated are happy about new rules as they have the power to keep the athletes medically safe. These practices will prevent GBH and long-term injuries, but the assault motive of the sport will carry through the sport as it exists. Medical Staff will have the ability and confidence to help the boxers stay safe with a new legislation.

The best way to create new legislation with new stricter and effective rules and regulatory practices is to observe existing legislation nationally in other states and territories.

The ACT (Australian Capital Territory) has suggested numerous practices and rules on making boxing a safer environment for the boxers in keeping them alive and well whilst the legalized assaults happen. These include:

Professional contestants compete over longer bouts, different rules, and less stringent protective equipment requirements mean that professional contests sometimes require match injuries to be more severe before the referee will stop the competition.

Boxing ACT’s website states “Professional boxers…engage in more forceful and demanding boxing than the average amateur boxer” (SPORT, 2020).

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A study published in the British Journal of Medicine stated that amateur boxers show a lower incidence of Chronic Traumatic Brain Injuries than professional boxers, presumably because of less exposure to repetitive head trauma, through shorter bouts, and the mandatory use of protective headgear (Tsharni Zazryn, 2003) (Antoinette, 2006).

The ACT have not yet applied rules to stop this from occurring in boxing. Therefore, A way to keep boxing participants safe and healthy would be to have mandatory safety gear for all boxers no matter what level as well as shorter bouts.

Also, this research from the Western Australian government regarding boxing suggests that the referee in a professional game needs injury to be quote, “severe” meaning harsh/intense to stop a fight from continuing. This is advised under the WA combat sports legislation in section 49A – (2) (Goverment, 1987)

Pre contest medical examinations

(1) Each person intending to participate in a contest must, within 24 hours before the contest —

  • (a) attend a medical practitioner approved by the Commission; and
  • (b) submit to an examination by the practitioner; and
  • (c) produce his or her contestant record book to the practitioner for inspection and for the recording of relevant information.

(2) The medical practitioner whom a person attends under subsection (1) must do the following —

  • (a) inspect the person’s contestant record book.
  • (b) carry out a medical examination of the person.

This prevents an already unhealthy or injured person entering a boxing match therefore you have 100% certainty that any injuries after the match were acquired in the time the match was conducted.

The NSW legislation also prevents serious injuries in the matches as they have successfully implemented,

A referee who, under subsection (1), is informed of a medical practitioner’s opinion that a contestant should not participate in, or continue to participate in, the contest because of the contestant’s medical condition shall ensure that the contestant does not participate in, or continue to participate in, the contest.

This allows a trained and experienced medical PR actioner to inform the referee and stop the match before serious injuries occur.

Concluding

Therefore, the new legislation should follow the examples of other States and Territory’s to include new rules and Regulation in a new Queensland Boxing Legislation 2020. The matters it should regulate to improve participant safety are:

The Queensland legal system should improve the safety of boxing participants by ensuring the following rules and regulations in and updated or new piece of legislation:

  • Mandatory Head protection gear
  • Shorter bouts
  • And the advised medical staff having the ability to stop a fight

Overall these 3 key changes in rules that have been developed of other Australian sates and territory’s legislation will help protect all boxing participants from health problems and serious injuries. The new legislation will also reduce deaths in the sport.

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The Sport Of Boxing In Australia. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-sport-of-boxing-in-australia/
“The Sport Of Boxing In Australia.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-sport-of-boxing-in-australia/
The Sport Of Boxing In Australia. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-sport-of-boxing-in-australia/> [Accessed 7 Jul. 2022].
The Sport Of Boxing In Australia [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Jul 7]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-sport-of-boxing-in-australia/
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