Boxing New Zealand cuts ties with corporate events after Kain Parsons' death

Boxing New Zealand is cutting ties with corporate boxing events after the death of charity boxer Kain Parsons on Wednesday. 

Boxing New Zealand is the governing body for amateur and Olympic style boxing. Its decision comes after 37-year-old Mr Parsons died days after being knocked unconscious during the OneStaff Fight for Christchurch at Horncastle Arena on Saturday night. 

"For some time, Boxing New Zealand has had very real and grave concerns over the safety of participants in these kinds of events and the lack of consistent regulation being applied," Boxing New Zealand chairman Keith Walker said in a statement. 

From now on, boxers must be "registered with Boxing New Zealand and undergo annual and pre bout medical checks and are matched as closely as possible, according to age and weight categories," Boxing New Zealand said. 

Mr Parsons' death has raised alarm bells about the safety of corporate boxing in New Zealand. Spectators told Newshub he was knocked out and fell unconscious after hitting his head on canvas. He immediately went into a violent seizure, before medical professionals swarmed the ring.

Police confirmed Mr Parsons had passed away in hospital after succumbing to his injuries. Inspector Darryl Sweeney said police are liaising with event organisers and officials as they determine what happened. 

Warnings of brain damage  

Being knocked unconscious can have serious long-term neurological effects, says neurologist Dr Rosamund Hill. She told The AM Show on Thursday there is "most definitely" evidence to suggest this, but the long-term effects are still vague. 

"Your brain is quite soft and delicate - it's sort of the consistency of butter that's been sitting out of the fridge. It's a lot more delicate than most people realize," she said. 

"What people don't realise is that you can bulk up and get strong to protect your body, but nothing you do is going to improve or reduce the risk of injury to your brain."

Fighters have the option of wearing protective headgear in corporate boxing matches - but Mr Parsons went without. The incident has prompted calls for changes in the boxing community, and promoters of the event are running a review. 

"You don't have to be hit very hard at all" to seriously harm your brain, says Dr Hill. "It's going to depend on the force and how much your head moves.

"[Your brain] is encased in your solid skull, but quite a bit of it can still move. It's tethered down in certain places, but when your head suddenly moves, parts remain stationary and other bits move.

"That produces tearing forces that will disrupt the connections and can cause bleeding. It really is a very vulnerable organ."

She said it also makes a difference whether the brain experiences rotational trauma compared to hitting something head-on. 

"The forces in boxing are often rotational forces and they are often much more dangerous," she added, noting that genetics play a role. "There is definitely a variation in how well people will respond or recover."

"We don't really know the long-term effects of brain injury are. We are still trying to figure out the long-term consequences of having a number of mild brain injuries. We still can't answer that question."

Dr Hill says she's against boxing as a sport, and says it can be difficult dealing with professional sportspeople, because it's their livelihood, and often they're "quite reluctant to own up to the symptoms because they want to just keep going". 

The effects of brain injury from sport are explored in the 2015 film Concussion which explores a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurological deterioration that is similar to Alzheimer's disease. 

Looking at New Zealand, Dr Hill says there is growing awareness of the long-term effects of head injuries on sportspeople. She says New Zealand Rugby is "trying very hard to deal with it at the top level and hoping it will filter down". 

"There is an increasing awareness among everybody that if you've been concussed in a rugby match, you must just come off the field and be assessed. But there is still plenty of room for more improvement."

Rugby and concussions have been called a "tragedy in the making" in New Zealand. It's also been noted that very few boxers have themselves thrown in the towel because "that's not their job".

Auckland Boxing Association president Paul McSharry believes it's time to enforce longer training periods for those competing in corporate boxing matches. 

In some cases they only train for eight weeks, which Ms McSarry says is not enough time. 

Givealittle page has been set up to support his family.