WBC To Stop Sanctioning Fights in Ontario

Fightland Blog

By Nick Wong

The World Boxing Council announced yesterday that it will no longer sanction boxing matches in the Canadian province of Ontario, or any province that abides by the rules of its athletic commission. The decision comes in light of a match that took place on April 12th, where boxer Guillermo Herrera suffered an 8th round KO loss and still remains hospitalized from a ruptured blood vessel in the brain. According to the WBC, much of the injury was caused by fight regulations stipulated by the regional commission.

“The WBC considers the Ontario Athletic Commission's boxing regulations to be dangerous for the participants. Accordingly, the WBC has pleaded with the OAC to comply with the established world safety standards applicable to professional boxing,” stated WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman in the official press release. “The OAC conducts its official weigh-in ceremony the very day of the fight. There is ample medical evidence that the OAC's weigh-in practice is dangerous and can be detrimental to the health and safety of the fighters. Ontario also limits the amount and length of material that can be used to wrap the hands of the boxers. Again, that practice goes against the widely accepted standards around the world.”

What is interesting is that same day weigh-ins have been commonly discussed in fight circles as the theorized solution to increasing fighter safety by discouraging competitors from attempting drastic weight cuts the day before the bout. The WBC, however, has been a proponent against this proposal, arguing with the Ontario Athletic Commission about the matter as early as April of last year.

“The WBC also expressed its views about the OAC rule that requires day-of-the-fight weigh in. The WBC pioneered the implementation of the day-before-fight weigh in to allow rehydration and proper brain electrolyte balance. It is scientifically proven that the body produces approximately 1 pint of encephalic fluid every 24 hours. When a fighter must make weight the day of the fight, he/she will likely enter the ring dehydrated due to lack of sufficient time to replenish the lost brain fluid. Consequently, the day-of-the-fight weigh-in results in many fighters becoming weakened and much more susceptible to injury at fight time. Over the years, the WBC has received numerous testimonials from physicians, trainers, boxers and other experts about the adverse effects of the day-of-the-fight weigh in.”

What is perhaps being overlooked is the cultural aspect of the matter where it has become standard practice for a fighter to weigh in a day before and use that window of time to garner a size advantage by cutting large (sometime unhealthy) amounts of weight leading up to the bout. So if there is any credence to the WBC argument, then it may at the very least point to an example of how a same day weigh-in stipulation could backfire unless uniformly mandated across the entire sport. Additionally, the weight cut for Herrera was further heightened as the April 12th bout was contested in light heavyweight division when he normally campaigns at cruiserweight, according to the WBC.

“While Mr. Herrera fights as a cruiserweight, the OAC licensed him to fight in the lower light heavyweight division. Therefore, he was forced to lose a substantial amount of weight the day of the fight. At this point, it is uncertain whether the event’s promoter had medical insurance. That is one of several facts that are being investigated.” 

Looking at Herrera’s record, however, his weight has fluctuated between light heavyweight and cruiserweight in the last two years of his career, so it is unclear how much impact the light heavyweight designation had on the fighter’s health. What is clear is the uncertainty regarding medical insurance. Herrera didn’t have any.

An article in the Toronto Star confirmed that while Herrera thought he had insurance walking into the fight, he later found that the promoter did not purchase coverage for the bout. This happened only because the Ontario Athletic Commission does not require promoters to insure individual fighter as it is mandated in other jurisdictions in North America such as California and New York. Herrera was reportedly paid $4,000 for his bout, but most of it will likely go to hospital bills and hotel charges for his trainer who remains in the city for Herrera’s recovery. A crowd-funding campaign has since been created to assist in the related costs.

Perhaps ironic to the whole ordeal is that the Ontario Athletic Commission has been regularly criticized over the years for its stringent regulations mandated by its commissioner Ken Hayashi. Though there were rumors of Hayashi leaving his post in December, he appears to have remained in the position given his recent refusal to comment on the commission’s non-requirement of insurance coverage. Hayashi is commonly criticized for stunting the growth of combat sports in the region by making it nearly impossible for fight promoters to make profit from shows through implementing high up-front costs and medical fees. He has also been said to be overly hands-on in the matchmaking process and other aspects of the logistical planning, a practice that Hayashi has justified to have done out of concern for the combatants’ safety. Given its reputation, the OAC being accused of endangering a fighter health was probably one of the last things expected.


Check out these related stories:

The WBC Defends Canelo Alvarez vs. Amir Khan Middleweight Title Fight

Miguel Cotto Stripped of WBC Middleweight Title