The Death of 49-Year-Old Christian Daghio Should Give Us Pause


By Michael Rosenthal

The death of any fighter in the ring is always heartbreaking. When that fighter is 49, it’s particularly disturbing.

Christian Daghio of Italy died this past Friday, a week after he suffered brain damage in a brutal knockout loss to Don Parueang and was placed in a medically induced coma in Thailand. The image of him lying motionless on his back after the fight was stopped, his head cupped by the referee, is haunting.

His brother was quoted in the Italian media as saying, “Christian died as he wanted to die, that is in the ring. He dreamed of fighting until he was 80 years old.”

I’ve always supported the right of anyone to box as long as they can pass rigorous testing to determine whether they are fit to exchange punches with another man or woman. That has included some fighters who were well into their 40s before they retired. Bernard Hopkins, George Foreman and Evander Holyfield are the first ones to come to mind.

And my philosophy hasn’t changed after Daghio’s tragic death in Bangkok. We all have a right – or should have a right – to make a living and pursue our passions.

Foreman, 48 in his final fight, wasn’t the athlete he was 20 years earlier but he was good enough to knock out Michael Moorer when he was 45 to win the heavyweight championship in 1994. Big George would ‘ve been denied his destiny had he not been licensed to box.


Hopkins was 49 when he unified two major light heavyweight titles in 2014, narrowly outpointing Beibut Shumenov.

That said, this latest tragedy gave me pause. I was instinctively uncomfortable with the idea that a 49-year-old man not named Hopkins was allowed to fight a man 13 years his junior, although Daghio was once a decorated Muay Thai champion and Parueang obviously is no more than a journeyman.

Daghio dreamed of fighting until 80. Of course, that would be suicide. And boxing shouldn’t be used as tool to end one’s life even if that’s precisely the way someone would like to go out.

So where should the age line be drawn? Should a fit 60-year-old be allowed to take part in a professional boxing match? A 55-year-old? I don’t know the answer to that question or whether there is an answer. A reasonable response would be, “It depends on the person.”

The Nevada State Athletic Commission, one of the leading regulatory bodies in the world, takes precautions – including both medical and performance tests – beyond the norm when it evaluates the fitness of fighters when they hit the age of 38, among other non-age-related risk factors.

That gives me some comfort but I still feel uneasy about allowing those approaching or exceeding 50 to fight.

I was among those around the world who marveled at Hopkins’ fitness and ability a half century into his life, which is why he was affectionately labeled a “freak.” He could still beat all but a few 175-pounders today at 53.

However, I had questions even about Hopkins in the end. I was in house when he was sent through the ropes by 27-year-old slugger Joe Smith Jr. in December 2016 at the Forum in Inglewood, California, reportedly hitting his head on the concrete floor in the process.

Hopkins walked away and we’ll never know what role his age played in the outcome. However, I’ll always have an uneasy feeling when I think about that fight. He could’ve been seriously injured – or worse – as a result of the blow to his head. Can you imagine the outcry had a 51-year-old legend been killed in such a manner? It might’ve been the darkest day in the history of the sport.

The point is this: In retrospect, one could reasonably wonder whether allowing Hopkins to tangle with a young fighter of Smith’s ability was a good idea, just as it makes sense to wonder whether Thai officials should’ve protected Daghio from himself even if Parueang has limited ability.

I don’t know what conclusions – if any – to draw from the Daghio tragedy.

Again, I applaud the Nevada State Athletic Commission and other bodies for raising the standards for older fighters hoping to be licensed. Perhaps that’s enough. Perhaps it makes sense to raise them further for those past 38, allowing only the true physical “freaks” out there to fight after their mid-40s.

I only know one thing for sure: The powers that be in boxing and others who care about the combatants should think long and hard when someone as old as Daghio insists upon fighting.

Michael Rosenthal is the most recent 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.

Tags: boxing image  
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Drewp4p on 11-10-2018

We all will die. What we do with our lives is much more important than how or when we die. Death is inevitable and unpredictable. So live it the best way you know by doing what you love to do.…

Comment by MisanthropicNY on 11-10-2018

[QUOTE=el***;19261917]This author is a dumb phaggot. Evander Holyfield is NOT a good example of a past 40 success story in boxing. The guys speech is unrecognizable.[/QUOTE] Vitali is probably the only success story past 40 that I've seen, but he's…

Comment by W1LL on 11-10-2018

Comment by MisanthropicNY on 11-10-2018

The guy was trying to support his wife and daughter. So he had to fight. And it was his choice, but I hope we can Red Pill as many guys as possible with his story. Guys sometimes it's better to…

Comment by W1LL on 11-10-2018

What is a 49 year old man doing still fighting?

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (12)
Top Headlines Pacquiao: What Happened With Marquez Will Not Happen Again! Cameron Krael Fights on Mayweather Card at MGM Grand Video: Mike Reed on Preparing Adrien Broner For Pacquiao Video: Roy Jones Jr. Breaks Down Pacquiao vs. Broner Clash Video: Caleb Plant Discusses IBF Title Win Over Jose Uzcategui Video: Al Bernstein Reacts To Adrien Broner Going Off On Him Manny Pacquiao - Is This the One? Amir Khan: I'll Beat Crawford, Take His Place in P4P Rankings! Muhammad Ali's Hometown Renames Airport in His Honor Broner Tells Pacquiao's Group He Has Cat, Dog For Them To Eat Video: Pacquiao vs. Broner - All Access Daily - Part 1 Broner Calls Showtime's Al Bernstein Biased, 'B*tch-Ass N*gga' Photos: Pacquiao, Broner - Face To Face at Final Presser Photos: Jorge Linares, Pable Cesar Cano - Go Face To Face Photos: Chris Algieri, Danny Gonzalez - Go Face To Face Photos: Demetrius Andrade, Artur Akavov - Go Face To Face Broner: Pacquiao, Roach Underestimating A Lot Of What I Can Do Anthony Dirrell Confident of Beating Yildirim For WBC Title Luis Ortiz To Face Christian Hammer, March 2 At Barclays Ellerbe: Mayweather-Pac Talk Premature, Broner Can Win Broner: Me & Pacquiao Did VADA Testing 'After I Made Some Noise' Keith Thurman vs. Josesito Lopez - Undercard Information News: Ceylan, Otha Jones, Kem Ljungquist, Alejandro Jimenez Ray Beltran-Hiroki Okada Announced For Ramirez-Zepeda Card Wilder-Fury Rematch: Purse Bid Set For February 5, 60-40 Split Boxeo Telemundo Returns on February 22 In Kissimmee Daniel Dubois, Nicola Adams Returns Confirmed By Warren Pablo Cesar Cano To Impose Will on Aging Jorge Linares Jarrell Miller Tabs Joshua as 'Turd' - Gives High Praise To Hearn Arum: Haymon Only Promoter Who Won't Work With Others Zerafa Warns Jeff Horn: I'm No Faded Old Man Like Mundine Amanda Serrano: Things Much Better Now For Female Boxers Nathan Gorman Aims For Spectacular KO on February 23 Photos: Manny Pacquiao Continues To Grind in Las Vegas Amir Khan: Hearn is Pissed Off, But I Control My Own Destiny Jarrell Miller Will No Longer Appear on Jan. 18 DAZN Show Kambosos Details Lessons Learned as Pacquiao Sparring Partner Crawford: I'm Better Than Anyone Amir Khan Has Ever Faced Photos: Andrade, Algieri Visit South Bronx Middle School Photos: Badou Jack, Browne, Warren - Las Vegas Grand Arrivals

Latest Active Forum Threads