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Sunday, 3 May, 1998, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
BMA renews call for boxing ban
The BMA is trying to improve safety standards at boxing matches
The British Medical Association has repeated its call for a total ban on boxing, after Spencer Oliver was seriously injured in a title fight on Saturday night.

Oliver is in a critical condition in hospital following a three hour operation to remove a blood clot from his brain. He was knocked down in the 10th round in his European super-bantamweight bout in London.

Dr Bill O'Neill, the BMA's boxing spokesman, told BBC News 24 that Oliver's injuries underlined their policy to ban boxing.

"We are very concerned about these acute injuries. We are also very concerned about the chronic brain damage that boxers are susceptible to from repeated injuries in the ring," he said.

Michael Watson now confined to a wheelchair
Michael Watson suffered serious brain injuries in a fight with Chris Eubank
"It is the only sport where the intention is to inflict serious injury on your opponent, and we feel that we must have a total ban on boxing."

The BMA argues that it is a waste of time to try to improve safety measures at boxing matches.

"For as long as the head is a valid target in boxing, these injuries are going to occur," said Dr O'Neill.

"None of the safety measures that have been introduced over the last 10 to 20 years have had any significant impact on the brain injury and eye damage that occurs in boxing."

The BMA has been campaigning for a ban on all forms of boxing since 1985.

It has sponsored legislation in parliament to try to get the sport abolished. In 1991, a Bill to abolish boxing for profit was defeated in the House of Lords by two votes.

The BMA also commissioned a 60 second cinema advert in 1996 which won three industry awards.

However the organisation's policy has been criticised by some in the medical world.

Dr Nigel Warburton, a professor of Philosophy, argued in March's Journal of Medical Ethics the that the policy is "inconsistent, paternalistic, and too weak to justify a change to criminal law."

He said that between 1986 and 1992, boxing accounted for three deaths in England and Wales compared with 77 deaths from motor sports, 69 from air sports, 54 from mountaineering, 40 from ball games and 28 from horse riding.

The journal, which is published by the BMA, also carried an editorial by Professor Raanan Gillon suggesting dropping the ban on boxing, but outlawing blows to the brain.

The BMA responded by claiming that Dr Warburton's article underplayed the "chronic brain damage caused by boxing, a factor which is not generally present in other sports."

The BMA believes that the tide is turning in its favour. "I think opinion is changing and I've no doubt we will see further change over the next number of years," said Dr O'Neill.

BBC News
Dr Bill O'Neill's interview in full
See also:

20 Apr 98 | Sport
Eubank vows to fight on
03 May 98 | Sport
Boxer serious after knockdown
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