Sunday, March 18, 2001

Life squad, oxygen were missing at ringside

Medical standards vary among states

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An ambulance and fully equipped crew of emergency medical technicians will be at the Grand Victoria Casino & Resort in Rising Sun, Ind., tonight for a boxing card.

        A similar complement of emergency personnel is planned for a Cintas Center boxing match on April 20.

        At Peel's Palace in Erlanger, where a ringside physician was on hand and gave a prefight physical, no emergency medical personnel or oxygen were at the fight between Greg Page, 42, of Louisville, and Dale Crowe, 24, of Alexandria, Ky.

        “Every state is different. Everybody is supposed to be on the same page, but that's not the way it works,” said Tony Paige, former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America and public relations director for Duva Boxing, the Totowa, N.J., boxing promotions company that is putting together the Cintas Center fight.

        “The only time people wake up is when somebody is in bad shape or gets killed. So much has to be fixed with this sport.”

        The Peel's Palace fight should never have occurred, said Cedric Kushner, one of the world's best-known boxing promoters who organizes about 70 fights annually.

        “(Who) would promote a boxing show and not have an ambulance?” asked Mr. Kushner, president of Cedric Kushner Promotions, based in Water Mill, N.Y.

        “If the promoter doesn't have, what, two bills, $200, for an ambulance and EMTs, if promoter doesn't have the funds, the commissioners should have never allowed the fight to happen,” Mr. Kushner said.

        Nancy Black, executive director of the Kentucky Athletic Commission, which regulates boxing in the Commonwealth, said ambulances don't have to be at fights.

        “It's just not a requirement in our law,” Ms. Black said. “Many promoters do that on their own but we have not required it.”

        She said that no review is under way to determine why oxygen was not at Peel's Palace, as required by the state's rules. The promoter of that night's bouts at Peel's, Terry O'Brien, said his understanding was that oxygen was not required at ringside.

        Ms. Black said there have been no formal complaints about any of the circumstances of the bout and no investigation.

        Four of seven members of the Kentucky Athletic Commission attended: Jack Kerns, chairman; Emmitt Igo, Tim Gonterman and Fred Burch.

        One member of the Kentucky Athletic Commission was not concerned about more rigorous rules in other states.

        “I think the (Kentucky) rules are too strict the way they are,” said Commissioner Michael Mudd, a 55-year-old Louisville resident and former professional boxer who last boxed in 1999, at age 53.

        He said he reviewed the videotape from the fight and believed Mr. Page's injury was from a sparring match. “I don't think he was hurt in that (Peel's Palace) fight,” Mr. Mudd said. “It was from training.”

        Bill Martin, chief of the fire and emergency medical service of Erlanger, which was called to the arena after Mr. Page went down, said that in head injury cases, oxygen is almost always immediately administered after a check for vital signs.

        “Our crew would have taken oxygen with them when they went into the building,” he said. “We would place a patient with a head injury on an apparatus, which has an oxygen reservoir and a mask.”

        Mr. Martin declined to discuss specifics of how Mr. Page was treated, citing patient confidentiality.

        New York, New Jersey, Nevada and Illinois have extensive pre-fight and post-fight exams. In New York, boxers must receive CAT scans, undergo eye exams, have EKG tests and receive blood testing.

        Mr. Page fought in New York last summer and received a CAT scan for that fight.

        Dr. Mark Wheeler, an internist in Louisville who has presided ringside at more than 1,000 fights in 14 years, doubted that anything would have been different at the Page fight — even if emergency personnel or oxygen was there.

        “This is going to happen given the nature of the sport,” he said. “It's an unfortunate thing that comes with a dangerous sport.”

        Olympic silver medalist Ricardo Williams Jr., a Cincinnati native who attended Mr. Page's match on March 9 and is the headliner in the April 20 bouts at Cintas, said fighters have the same concern.

        “Your job as a boxer is to fight and to win,” Mr. Williams said. “That's all you can concern yourself with. You have to trust that everybody else is doing their job, too.”

        John Erardi contributed to this story.


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