Objective: Although numerous prestigious medical organizations have called for its abolishment, participation in the sport of boxing has reached an all-time high among both men and women, and its elimination is unlikely in the near future. Physicians should strive to increase boxing safety by improving the rules of competition, which have evolved minimally over the past two centuries. Currently, subjective criteria are used to determine whether or not a contest should be halted. Developing a standardized, objective method of determining when a contest should be halted would be a significant paradigm shift and could increase the safety of the sport's participants. This study analyzed the number and types of punches landed in a typical professional match, in bouts considered to be competitive and in those that ended in fatalities, to determine whether or not this would be a practical method of differentiating between these groups.
Methods: Three groups of professional boxing matches were defined at the beginning of the study: 1) a "fatal" group, consisting of bouts that resulted in the death of a participant; 2) a "classic" group that represented competitive matches; and 3) a "control" group of 4000 professional boxing matches representing the average bout. A computer program known as Punchstat (Compubox, Inc., Manorville, NY) was used in the objective analysis of these matches via videotape playback.
Results: Several statistically significant differences were discovered between matches that resulted in fatalities and the control group. These include the number of punches landed per round, the number of power punches landed per round, and the number of power punches thrown per round by losing boxers. However, when the fatal bouts were compared with the most competitive bouts, these differences were no longer evident.
Conclusion: Based on the data analyzed between the control and fatal-bout groups, a computerized method of counting landed blows at ringside could provide sufficient data to stop matches that might result in fatalities. However, such a process would become less effective as matches become more competitive, and implementing such a change would significantly decrease the competitive nature of the sport. Therefore, other methods of quantifying acceleration-deceleration brain injuries are necessary to improve the safety of boxing.