Advertisement: IBO Boxing

Boxing's Horrible Week Makes It Clear That We Can Do Better

By Michael Rosenthal

Two deaths and another failed drug test by a well-known fighter. I can’t remember a worse week in boxing.

On Saturday Maxim Dadashev and Hugo Santillan, fighting about 5,000 miles apart, received the blows that would result in their deaths days later. We also learned that heavyweight Dillian Whyte was allowed to fight Oscar Rivas on Saturday even though he had failed a drug test three days earlier, arguably putting Rivas in a vulnerable position.

No one is to blame for the deaths of Dadashev and Santillan, at least not to my knowledge. Every fighter who steps through the ropes understands the risks of exchanging blows with another man or woman regardless of the precautions in place.

Dadashev took a lot of punches from Subriel Matias in Maryland but had possession of his faculties and fought back fiercely until the later rounds, two indications that he was fit to continue fighting. Buddy McGirt, Dadashev’s trainer, finally stopped the fight after the 11th round but it was too late.

I’ll never forget watching McGirt plead with his brave fighter to allow him to stop the bout, although McGirt had already made up his mind.

Santillan, fighting in his native Argentina, battled Eduardo Javier Abreu for 10 rounds and collapsed while the decision was being announced. He too took many punches in a fast-paced brawl but seemed to be fine at the final bell, a which time he raised his hand in hopes he had won. Moments later he lost consciousness.

I don’t know what could be been done differently other than to change our way of thinking about when to save a fighter from himself. Maybe those monitoring the action – the referee, the trainers, the doctors – should focus more on cumulative damage than a boxer’s ability to continue throwing punches.

McGirt said afterward that he became concerned in the ninth round. Maybe that was the time to stop it, when he first realized his fighter was in danger. In other words, perhaps trainers and officials should err more on the side of caution than they do now.

Sure, the fighters themselves, to whom quitting is anathema, will complain. So be it. The alternative can be tragedy, as we saw this week.

maxim-dadashev (1)

And, while I believe the sport has never been safer, those governing it be must continually reevaluate the safety precautions that are in place. For example, Andre Ward, citing evidence that dehydration increases the chances of a brain bleed, suggested via Twitter that fighters be allowed in all jurisdictions to use IVs after weigh-ins. Good idea?

“We cannot send prayers and condolences to the families of fallen fighters, then sit idly and due (sic) nothing to change the way things are done,” Ward Tweeted. “The best way to honor these fallen soldiers is to do everything in our power, to make sure we decrease the chance of this happening again.”

Another logical step is to be certain that the playing field is level, which is where Whyte comes in.

Whtye, a longtime heavyweight contender, defeated Rivas by a unanimous decision Saturday night in London. What we didn’t know at fight time was that Whtye’s “A” sample had tested positive for a banned substance, according to a report by Thomas Hauser on

Hauser reported that Whyte tested positive “for two metabolites of the banned steroid Dianabol.”

The results reportedly came back on July 17, three days before the fight. However, under rules in the U.K., authorities can take no action until a case is fully adjudicated.

A hearing was held on the morning of the fight, before the National Anti-Doping Panel, where Whyte and his legal representatives appeared and he was cleared to move forward. The details of what took place at the hearing is unknown.

Several UK outlets have reported that Whyte's "B" sample is being tested, but there has been no confirmation of that from the boxer or his representatives.

On top of that, Rivas reportedly was not told about the positive result or the hearing. Think about that for a minute. The Colombian entered the ring with no knowledge that there had been a drug testing issue or that a hearing regarding that issue was held earlier that day.

Imagine if, under those circumstances, Rivas had suffered permanent damage – or worse – on the same night that Dadashev and Santillan received the punches that ended their lives.

The British authorities – and those worldwide – can do better. I understand the innocent-until-proven-guilty philosophy. Presumption of innocence is a human right. And I’m sure there were legal issues with which the authorities had to contend. I presume they couldn’t tell Rivas because of privacy laws. And, of course, someone in Whyte’s position could file suit if he or she weren’t allowed to fight only to be proven innocent later.

However, the sacred duty of boxing authorities to protect the physical well being of the fighters should supersede anything else. The British officials should’ve done one of two things: postpone the fight until the result of a “B” sample came back or, at the very least, tell Rivas about the positive test and let him decide whether to fight.

If the British Boxing Board of Control and UK Anti-Doping feel their hands are tied by laws on the books, then they must try to find a way around them or lobby to have them changed as they apply to such a situation. Rivas should not have been in that position.

The Dadashev and Santillan tragedies reminded us again that fighters risk their lives every time they step through the ropes. The authorities can’t do enough to protect them, in terms of both safety and the elimination of drug cheats.

Michael Rosenthal was the 2018 winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades. Follow him at @mrosenthal_box.

User Comments and Feedback
Comment by Tutsa on 07-27-2019

Any medical doctor will tell that your brain �� not suppose bounce off it’s skull it sits in a fluid inside your head . So every time a punch is landed brain bounces instant damage even from a jab .…

Comment by Boxknowledge75 on 07-27-2019

[QUOTE=ImperialWrath;19939523]Sure there is a logical explanation, people just don't wanna hear it because of whatever reason. The people who believe Pac is on steroids, talk as if the guy started boxing when he was 25, and not 16. He started…

Comment by ImperialWrath on 07-27-2019

[QUOTE=fightfanjoe;19939435]Wrong. People are on Pac's case b/c there is no logical explanation for his ability to carry his power up through 8 weight classes. Hes 40 and performs for like he's 30. Either he is superhuman, or he has some…

Comment by Boxknowledge75 on 07-27-2019

[QUOTE=fightfanjoe;19939440]You're reaching. We would not be talking about doping tests (real blood tests, not the BS urine tests by state commissions) if it werent for Mayweather. Love him or hate him, Floyd is the primary reason for the current level…

Comment by Boxknowledge75 on 07-27-2019

[QUOTE=chubuk7;19939111]Wrong! Pac is being questioned when in fact, he's never failed a drug test in the 24 years. It's a narrative that has yet to be proven and appears to be fueled by jealousy because there's no other logical explanation.[/QUOTE]…

Top Headlines
James: Not Disappointed Dulorme Fight Isn't In Minneapolis; Glad It's Happening Lennox Allen: Been A Long Time Since Guyana Represented Best Boxing Has To Offer Omar Juarez: Time To Go In The Ring And Have Fun Doing What I Do Best Daily Bread Mailbag: Spence-Garcia, Charlos, Pacquiao, More Anthony Fowler Eyes Ted Cheeseman, Sam Eggington Fights Dulorme: Whether In L.A. Or Minnesota, Judges Can Turn In Bad Scorecards Hearn on Harper-Jonas: We Have To See That Fight Again! James: Dulorme Has Fought Tough Opposition But So Have I Lopez Manager: Very Little Effort From Top Rank To Get Lomachenko Fight Done Terri Harper, Natasha Jonas Wage War, Battle To a Draw Anthony Fowler, Chris Billam-Smith Get Big TKO Wins Hopey Price: I Think I Proved That I Can Adapt To Any Situation Tureano Johnson: I Believe I am The Best Option For Canelo Leo Santa Cruz: Gervonta Davis Will Make Weight - Or Pay Big Fine When Hell Froze in British Boxing Hearn: Fury-Wilder Trilogy Must Happen in 2020 - Or Fury Faces Whyte! Sergio Martinez Does Not Rule Out Future Crack at Ryota Murata David Morrell, Lennox Allen - Set To Collide in LA Jamal James, Thomas Dulorme - Ready For Title Clash Kerman Lejarraga, Tyrone Nurse on Weight For Clash in Spain Jamal James-Thomas Dulorme Weigh-In Results From Los Angeles Linares Out, Fortuna In Search Of New Opponent Ryan Garcia-Luke Campbell - WBC Orders Fight To Purse Bid Terri Harper, Natasha Jonas Go To War, Fight Ends in Split Draw Terri Harper vs. Natasha Jonas - LIVE BoxingScene Scorecard Anthony Fowler Beats Down, Stops Adam Harper in Seventh Hopey Price Boxes Past Jonny Phillips For Decision Win Chris Billam-Smith Crushes Thorley To Retain Commonwealth Title Wilbert "Skeeter" McClure Dies At Age 81's Television Pick of The Week - August 7 Alantez Fox On Standby For Showtime's Benavidez-Angulo Main Event Tyson Fury Starts His Own Foundation in Morecambe Linares Tests Positive For COVID-19 Ahead Of Scheduled Aug. 28 Clash With Fortuna Carl Frampton Hopes Jamel Herring Fight Still Happens in 2020 James: Morrell Hits Like A Sledgehammer; Will Make Serious Noise In His Division Dulorme: I've Fought A Lot Better Fighters Than James; That'll Show In The Fight Terri Harper: Pressure is on Jonas, Last Opportunity To Prove Herself Natasha Jonas: I'm Physically, Mentally Better Than I Have Ever Been Chris Billam-Smith Says No Risk of Facing Stablemate Lawrence Okolie Tim Tszyu: Horn Didn't Win Two Seconds of Crawford Fight
Latest Forum Threads