LAS VEGAS — The head of the state's medical advisory board on boxing complained Monday that the board "has been kept in the dark" about Sugar Ray Leonard's once-injured eye and said it would accept no responsibility if the fighter is similarly hurt again in next week's fight against Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Dr. Charles Filippini said his five-member board has tried without success to take part in the examination and licensing of Leonard but has been rebuffed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
"This was all done behind our backs," Filippini said. "They showed us the medical records after they had approved the fight. We were not involved in evaluating or voting on the fight."
Leonard, who underwent surgery for a detached retina in his left eye in 1982, was examined by three doctors in Las Vegas last fall before the fight was announced. Eye examinations are scheduled this week for both Leonard and Hagler.
Filippini, whose board was created in 1983 to advise the commission on medical safety for fighters, claimed that he learned of the initial examination when he read about it in a newspaper.
"I wasn't even aware that Sugar Ray was in Nevada, being examined, until I read the sports section," he said. "I feel that with something of this importance with all the controversy, you'd think the board would be called on it."
Sig Rogich, a member of the Athletic Commission, said there was no intention to slight the board.
"If that's the case, it was done inadvertently," Rogich said. "You have to remember the medical advisory board is relatively new."
Rogich said that Filippini's complaint stems from his view that Dr. Vincent Giovanazzo, a New York specialist in boxing eye injuries, should be brought in for the examination.
"I just don't believe we have a necessity to go out of state now," Rogich said. "We are perfectly amenable to the board's selection of any Nevada physicians to examine Sugar Ray Leonard. We can't do any more than that."
The first examination of Leonard's eye, in which he was pronounced fit to fight, was performed by three doctors. They were an unnamed Nevada eye specialist, Dr. Ronald Michels--the doctor who operated on Leonard--and Dr. Louis Angioletti, director of the Retinal Diagnostic Center of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.
"The insurance carrier (Lloyd's of London) wouldn't have approved it unless they were certain his eye was OK," Rogich said.
Filippini, a general practice physician in Reno, said he does not have enough information to determine whether Leonard should be allowed to fight. But he said the board should be allowed to question the doctors who do any exam instead of acting as a "rubber stamp" for the commission.
"You don't want another Sugar Ray Seales," Filippini said of the former Olympic boxer who was blinded in the ring. "If anything happens to Leonard, they're going to come to us and ask, 'Why did this happen.' "