Boxing is a sport that demands courage, skill, and an indomitable spirit. Although many boxers have showcased remarkable resilience, there have also been heartbreaking moments when fighters paid the ultimate sacrifice for their passion.
Each time a fighter bravely steps into the ring, they are risking their lives. And while the majority of these courageous boxers make it back home safely to their families after the final bell, a tragic minority have suffered fatal consequences of a life in prizefighting.
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 after his 10th-round knockout loss to Charles Conwell in Chicago, having fallen into a coma.
His promoter Lou DiBella later announced that Day passed away “surrounded by his family, close friends and members of his boxing team.”
Jimmy Doyle, also known as James Emerson Delaney, was an African-American welterweight boxer who died in the hospital following a boxing match with Sugar Ray Robinson.
It was the first death in a boxing match since the 1800s. Doyle, 22, was knocked down in the eighth round and never regained consciousness, dying in a local hospital after undergoing surgery.
Davey Moore fought Sugar Ramos in 1963. After a contentious battle, Ramos knocked Moore down in the tenth round. When Moore fell, his neck landed on the bottom rope. The landing looked painful, but Moore was able to continue fighting and finish the round.
But shortly after the round ended, the referee ended the fight. In his changing room, Moore fell into a coma. He died just over three days later.
Maxim Dadashev passed away in July 2019 from injuries sustained in the boxing ring. The 26-year-old Russian light welterweight was one of the most promising prospects in the country before sadly sustaining life-threatening injuries in a fight commissioned by the IBF against Subriel Matias.
Dadashev’s grit and determination proved his undoing when his corner pleaded with him not to go out for the final round. His injuries were so severe that he was unable to make the walk back to his dressing room before being taken to the hospital, where he lost his final battle after surgery on his brain.
Choi Yo-Sam was a world boxing champion from Korea. Choi, 35, defended his WBO Flyweight title against Hari Amoi in 2007. Choi was knocked out in the final seconds of the 12th round. He was able to overcome the count, however, and went on to win a unanimous decision.
Unfortunately, Choi collapsed within the ring and had to be evacuated to the hospital, where he underwent urgent surgery. Choi was declared brain-dead seven days later and died the next day after being withdrawn from a ventilator.
Four days after losing by knockout in the 14th round of his fight against Ray Mancini, Kim Duk-koo died while in a coma. But his death was not in vain.
Duk-koo’s death brought the safety of boxing into question. One concern was the 15 round length of a championship fight. With the recent death in mind, boxing regulators changed that length to 12 rounds. Boxing remains dangerous for any length of time. But what happened to Duk-kim prompted at least one reform aimed at reducing the risk of fighter death.
Scott Westgarth was on the way up in his boxing career and died in one of the biggest fights of his life. He endured a brutal fight with Dec Spelman. Even though Westgarth was knocked down just before the end of the fight, he was awarded the win in a 10-round light heavyweight contest.
After the fight, Westgarth took ill in the changing rooms and was taken to Royal Hallamshire Hospital for a check-up. He passed away the following day, hailed a hero for competing in the sport he loved.
Frankie Campbell was an Italian-American boxer who competed as a heavyweight. He won 33 of his 40 professional fights, losing four, drawing twice, and fighting to a no-contest in one. On August 25, 1930, in San Francisco, California, Campbell was killed in the ring by future heavyweight champion Max Baer.
After knocking out future Max Baer in the second round, Italian-American Frankie Campbell headed to the ropes. Baer sprang to his feet and delivered a thundering right punch to the side of his opponent’s head. He fought until the fifth round when he suffered a continuous battering from the Nebraska native before the referee stepped in. The fallen fighter sadly died hours later in the hospital from a double cerebral hemorrhage.
In December of 2011, Roman Simakov fought the well-known Russian boxer Sergey Kovalev. During the fight, Simadov suffered brain damage that later caused him to pass away.
Few people were more affected by this death than Kovalev, who blamed himself for Simakov’s passing despite fighting within the rules. Kovalev remained hesitant to address the incident and attempted to help Simakov’s family after the death.
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. Home fighter Towell, born in Dundee, was immediately taken to hospital where it was discovered he had a serious brain bleed which ultimately led to his tragic passing soon after.
A “heartbroken” Evans revealed a meeting with Towell’s mother gave him personal strength and comfort. While there is no way of truly consoling families involved in such terrible instances, the financial burden was eased with the help of many within the sport, such as Ricky Hatton.
A ‘Justgiving’ page set up in light of Towell’s tragic death raised over £50,000, as well as other contributions from within the boxing world.