Filipino boxers risk life and limb to get round tests

MANILA • A total of 150 professional boxers in the Philippines have been banned for falsifying brain scan results aimed at detecting serious head injuries in the sport, regulators said yesterday.

The Philippine government has been imposing strict medical testing procedures following the deaths of several Filipino boxers from injuries suffered in professional fights in previous years.

"The welfare and safety of our boxers is part of our mandate. We do not want any more boxing deaths," Games and Amusements Board chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra told reporters yesterday.

The ban means one in seven of the country's 1,054 professional boxers are not allowed to step into the ring, the country's sports regulator said.

The board found 150 boxers had submitted "fake" CT scan results this year, apparently because they could not afford an actual test, the board's medical officer Radentor Viernes told AFP.

About half of those blacklisted have since submitted the required medical examinations and the ban against them will be reviewed, Mitra added.

In 2012, undefeated flyweight Karlo Maquinto, aged 21, collapsed and later died from a brain injury after only his ninth pro fight.

Two other Filipino pro boxers also died from injuries suffered in the ring in 2005 and 2008.

The Philippines is a boxing hotbed that has produced the likes of legend Manny Pacquiao, winner of world titles in an unprecedented eight different weight divisions.

For many in the impoverished Asian nation, Pacquiao is an icon and role model, and prizefighting offers one of the shortest tickets to fame and fortune for young Filipino males.

However, Mitra said many success-starved Filipino fighters were earning puny prizes and could not afford CT scans that the health ministry says cost at least 6,000 pesos (S$159) or the more expensive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans costing almost three times as much.

"We've been criticised for being too strict, but still that's our job and we maintain it that way," he said.

To help the hard-up boxers and prevent more boxing deaths, Mitra also announced yesterday that government hospitals will in the future, offer free medical tests to Filipinos applying for professional boxing licences.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Filipino boxers risk life and limb to get round tests'. Print Edition | Subscribe