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Boxing : Ambulances Should Be Required at All Shows

August 27, 1988|Earl Gustkey

On the night of March 10, 1986, Richie Sandoval entered a boxing ring at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas as the World Boxing Assn.'s bantamweight champion.

When they carried him out on a stretcher about 30 minutes later, he was not only an ex-champion, he was almost dead.

Sandoval, 25, absorbed a fearful beating by Gaby Canizales that night. Canizales knocked Sandoval down five times--three times in the seventh and final round. When three ringside physicians reached him, he wasn't breathing. He was unconscious for 14 minutes.

The Sandoval case is a prime example why boxing promoters should be required to have ambulances present for professional boxing shows.

The subject comes up in California every time a boxer dies as a result of injuries in the ring. It happened last Saturday, when Rico Velazquez of Baldwin Park died about 18 hours after collapsing immediately after a state lightweight championship bout in San Jose.

Velazquez received immediate attention from a ringside physician, but ringsiders agreed the wait for an ambulance was 20 to 25 minutes. The night Sandoval went down in Las Vegas, there was an ambulance parked behind the bleachers, about 150 feet away. Nevada law requires an ambulance for any boxing show at which attendance is expected to exceed 4,000. In California, only a ringside physician is required. Ambulances optional? For pro boxing? Come on, California Athletic Commission, get serious. "That ambulance being right there, that saved my life," Sandoval said the other day.

Dr. Flip Homansky was one of three ringside physicians that night. Recalling the Sandoval scare the other day, and said: "I've worked over 1,000 pro bouts, and that's still the worst thing I've seen in a ring. When I got to Richie, he wasn't breathing.

"He was having a seizure, and anyone having a seizure stops breathing at least momentarily. We cleared his airway (with a plastic breathing tube), and he resumed breathing. He was put into the ambulance quickly, and we had him at the hospital within four or five minutes.

"His brain was swelling, so we gave him anti-inflammatory drugs through his IV in the ambulance."

Was Sandoval's life saved because an ambulance was nearby?

"It sure helped," Homansky said.

Dan Goossen, who has promoted boxing in Reseda for the last four years, says he has an ambulance parked outside his venue, the Country Club, on fight nights.

"We've had fights there once a month for the last four years, and we've had an ambulance at every show," he said. "I can't understand how promoters who don't have an ambulance on duty can have peace of mind."

Ken Gray, executive officer of the California Athletic Commission, has said that economics is the main reason ambulances are not required. Karen Pointer of Medevac Emergency Service in El Monte said the cost of maintaining a two-person ambulance crew at a 2 1/2-hour boxing show in Los Angeles County would be about $160.

Would a nearby ambulance have saved the life of Rico Velazquez?

"It probably wouldn't have mattered in Velazquez's case, because he had such a severe brain injury," said Dr. Jeffrey Gutman, who treated the boxer at San Jose Medical Center.

"But in others, it could help. The first step in aiding a boxer who isn't breathing is to clear an airway for him, and, unfortunately, some counties, like Santa Clara County, don't allow paramedics to (insert a breathing tube into the windpipe of trauma patients) for insurance reasons."

Would an on-site ambulance have saved the life of Kiko Bejines, who died in 1983 after a fight in Los Angeles? Or the life of Johnny Owen, who died in 1980 after a fight in Los Angeles?

No one will ever know.

Poor Mike Tyson. The world sure treats him rough, outside the ring at least. First, the heavyweight champion's sister-in-law finks on him, telling a newspaper reporter that Mike beats her sister, Robin Givens, who is Tyson's wife.

Then Mike tells everyone that his manager, Bill Cayton, is gone. The lawyers talk this over, then have to tell Mike that Cayton not only isn't gone, but that his contract is so ironclad, he's Tyson's manager until 1992.

And look at what happened just the other day. Mike decides to do a little shopping.

At 4:30 a.m.

Mike says he went to a 24-hour clothing store in Harlem. OK, so it just happens to be next door to an after-hours nightclub. He says he was there to pick up a new jacket.

And who does he happen to meet there? A former opponent, Mitch Green. At the sight of Tyson, Green goes into a state of great agitation, screaming something about money Tyson is supposed to owe him.

After more words, the fighters resort to fisticuffs and Tyson breaks his hand on Green's head. This, mind you, not long after it was revealed that Tyson's people last year had to pay $105,000 to settle a case involving an allegation that Tyson slapped a parking lot supervisor in Los Angeles.

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