How many professional boxers have died in the ring?
Boxing is a sport built around violence and one that naturally brings with it very real risks of injury and, tragically, can end with the loss of life.
Boxing is a combat sport and brings with it the obvious risks to those involved. Unless an extremely one sided affair, or a fortunate early sucker punch is delivered, injuries are expected every time the fighters step into the ring. Death too, is an outcome that far too many competitors have met with.
Professional boxers put life at risk
Although there is no definitive figures, it is believed that nearly 2,000 boxers have died as a direct result of a fight since 1884. That is the date when the generally accepted Queensbury Rules were introduced.
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The first recorded death in the boxing ring from that time was United States fighter, Andy Bowen, ten years after those rules were brought in. The 27-year-old hit his head on the wooden canvas when opponent Kid Lavigne knocked him down in the 18th round. Bowen never regained consciousness and died the following morning.
Since the year 2000 there have been 33 deaths, six of whom came from the US, the most recent of these being Patrick Day in October 2019. Just like Bowen, Day was also aged 27 and was knocked down three times in his fight with compatriot Charles Conwell. The final knockdown that stopped the fight was particularly brutal as Day's head violently bounced on the canvas. Seeing the way Day fell, the referee immediately stopped the fight.
Day was rushed to a hospital, where he began to suffer seizures and shortly after fell into a coma. Doctors then performed emergency brain surgery. Four days later on 16 October, Day died from what was described as traumatic brain injury. Following his death, boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said the sport needed to become safer.
In September, the latest tragic loss of life came with Mexican Jeanette Zacarías Zapata. The 18-year-old was knocked down by Canadian Marie Pier Houle after a series of uppercuts at the end of fourth round in Montreal on 28 August. Zapata seemed to suffer a seizure after the fight was stopped and taken to the hospital, where she would die on 3 September.