Boxing : Possibility of AIDS Is a Concern

A soon-to-be-published West German medical study will show that boxers stand a "small but real risk" of contracting AIDS in the ring, according to the West German news agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

The finding is the result of a study, "AIDS and Sport," by eight West German doctors specializing in virology, immunology, venereal disease and sports medicine. The doctors studied 35 AIDS cases known to have been caused through skin lesions. The panel concluded the same thing could happen to boxers, wrestlers, judokas and other martial arts participants.

"I don't want to dramatize the problem, but I do think the International Olympic Committee should take account of it before the Seoul Olympics," said Dr. Wildor Hollmann, West German president of the International Federation for Sports Medicine.

The report says that "all it would take would be a moment of contact between an AIDS sufferer's bleeding wound and his opponent's broken skin."

The report also says such a transmission of AIDS is unlikely.

"Infection through sport is really very unlikely, but we can't sit around waiting until the first time it happens," Hollmann said. Changes that might be implemented for Olympic boxing and wrestling include requiring referees to stop bouts as soon as blood appears, no matter how small the amount. Mandatory AIDS tests might also be required.

It's believed the study is the result of concern about estimates that up to 20% of the population of some west African areas have tested positive to AIDS.

Dr. Robert Voy, a U.S. Olympic Committee physician and chairman of the USA Amateur Boxing Federation's Sports Medicine Committee, was surprised at the findings.

"That would be the first study I've heard of where (it is shown) that the disease could be transmitted like that (in a boxing ring)," he said. "I know of only two or three cases where (hospital personnel) who handle blood have contracted the disease."

Dr. John Puffer of the UCLA Medical School, who will be the U.S. Olympic team's chief physician at the Seoul Olympics, said that in theory it is possible to contract AIDS in a sport such as boxing, but not probable.

"Theoretically, it's possible that if a large amount of blood could somehow be exchanged in an athletic event, the the virus that causes AIDS could be transmitted," he said. "But the probability of that happening is extremely low."

Col. Don Hull, president of the USA Amateur Boxing Federation, said the subject of AIDS often comes up at meetings, but no evidence has been presented that indicates a significant risk exists.

The wearing of disposable gloves by amateur boxing referees is optional. In professional boxing, it's now required by state commissions in New Jersey and Florida. The gloves are optional in California and Nevada. However, Nevada's Boxing Commission recently became the first state commission to require annual AIDS tests for boxers.

The British Boxing Board of Control already bans pros from boxing foreign boxers unless the visitor has a negative test for AIDS.

Marty Denkin, assistant executive director of the California Athletic Commission, says the subject of AIDS comes up frequently at commission meetings but that no one has yet demonstrated a danger.

"If someone can show us that there's a significant danger there, then we might act," he said. "For now, if a referee or cornerman wants to wear the the rubber gloves in California, that's fine--it's optional."

Last Saturday night at the Sports Arena, in a preliminary bout between middleweights, referee Dr. James Jen Kin got tagged on the chin by a stray left hook, and was knocked flat. He rolled over on his side, shook his head, and shakily rose to his feet at what looked to be a four-count. Kin grasped the top rope and steadied himself for a few seconds. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. He finished the round strong, but when he went to the neutral corner between rounds, ringsiders arose en masse and shouted out a standing-eight count to the embarrassed referee.

Later, Kin said it was his first knockdown in 15 years as a referee.

As a gag, State Athletic Commission official Marty Denkin later handed Kin a form given to boxers after they've been knocked out, advising him he'd been suspended the required 45 days for "taking too many blows to the head."

Boxing Notes

The June 25 WBA bantamweight title fight at the Country Club in Reseda between Wilfredo Vasquez and Frankie Duarte is off. Vasquez no longer has a title to defend, having lost it earlier this week to Khaokor Galaxy in Thailand. . . . Long Beach heavyweight Dave Yonko has been yanked as George Foreman's May 21 opponent in Anchorage, Alaska. Marty Denkin of the California Athletic Commission said last week the Alaska boxing commission would be advised that the California commission no longer considers Yonko a main-event fighter. Instead, Foreman (53-2) will meet Frank (Gator) Williams (25-9), on a bout to be televised by FNN/SCORE.

Olympic champion Jerry Page (8-0) meets Terrence Alli (36-5-2) in Atlantic City May 22 on NBC. . . . Dr. Vincent Giovinazzo, attending surgeon at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, recently concluded a 2-year, 74-boxer study of eye injuries. He concluded that thumbless gloves should be required, as his study showed 66% of the boxers studied had some form of eye injury, 58% of which were vision-threatening.

If Bobby Czyz beats Dennis Andries in Atlantic City May 22, he says, he's been promised a light-heavyweight title fight with Virgil Hill, if Hill beats Ramzi Hassan on the June 6 Hearns-Barkley undercard at the Las Vegas Hilton. . . . Derrick Kelly (21-1-1) meets Young Dick Tiger (22-3) at the Forum May 26 for the Continental Americas welterweight championship. On the undercard, in a super-bantamweight tournament quarterfinal, Jorge Ramirez (19-4-4) meets Carlos Romero (20-4).

Regional championships of the Southern California Junior Olympic boxing program will be held at the Jet Center Gym in Van Nuys May 28-29. . . . If Marvelous Marvin Hagler decides to retire, HBO is tinkering with this scenario: Welterweight champion Marlon Starling meets England's Lloyd Honeyghan, the winner meeting Julio Cesar Chavez in a welterweight unification title bout, and that winner goes on to meet Sugar Ray Leonard. . . . Paul Gonzales, training for his May 23 Irvine Marriott with Mexico's Jorge Ortega, is sparring with two-time national Golden Gloves champion Johnny Tapia, who boxes on a six-rounder on the undercard. . . . The June 4-5 Las Vegas Sports Festival will offer boxing fans a small preview of the Olympic Games tournament in September. East European boxers from Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia will meet some U.S. Olympic hopefuls at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World