The Australian Medical Association has been accused of a publicity stunt over its call to ban boxing and other combat sports at the Olympics and for people under 18.
A long-time opponent of boxing, the AMA has extended its concerns about the health of participants to include all so-called combat sports and is recommending the prohibition of all forms of combat sport for people under the age of 18, and for boxing to be banned from the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
“The object of many of these sports is to inflict a head injury,” AMA President and Neurosurgeon Professor Brian Owler told the Huffington Post Australia.
“Holes appear in the brain itself, where the brain has died and disappeared. That of course has significant impacts on their ability to function.”
“Doctors witness the loss of life and quality of life as a result of injuries incurred in boxing and other combat sports. We must put an end to this senseless carnage."
In an updated position statement on combat sports released on Friday, the AMA called for media coverage of boxing to be subject to control codes similar to the television screening of violence.
They also want medical practitioners present at every contest to be able to stop matches to examine patients and call off a bout if they see fit.
But Boxing Queensland Secretary Allan Nicolson accused the AMA of a publicity stunt, and says the medical association attacks the sport every couple of years “to get people to talk about the AMA.”
"There's nothing dangerous about amateur boxing at all," he said on Friday.
“It’s just a hype they come up with. There’s no rhyme or reason that we can understand.
“It’s the only sport - they keep saying – where you try to injure your opponent. That’s a lie, a down right lie. Nobody is trying to hurt their opponent, they are trying to score points.”
Combat sports are growing in popularity, in terms of participation and with television and online audiences, Prof Owler said.
He worries violence is being 'normalised.'.
“Children and young people may be particularly vulnerable to the promotion of ‘sports’ that encourage interpersonal violence," he said.
Prominent boxers have rejected the call for an outright ban, with Jeff Fenech arguing much of what the AMA is calling for is already being done, while three time professional world champion Danny Green said he didn't want kids boxing.
Sydney based Boxing trainer Joe Walker agreed.
A boxer for 20 years and a trainer for the past 6, he said the AMA’s call won’t be answered. He said it was becoming more popular, with his inner-west gym now training 150 people.
“Let’s face it they are never going to be able to do it,” he said.
“It’s a bit like turning the clock back and banning abortion. Time has moved on. There’s a huge swing back to boxing.”
Like Fenech, he argued much of what the AMA was asking for in the ring was already being done and he ssaid boxers don’t absorb as many blows people think.
He thought boxing safety was back in the public consciousness because of Jake Gyllenhaal's new film, South Paw.
"I quite liked the movie but it is so unrealistic in the fight scenes. And then there's the sound they emphasize, the boom boom boom," Walker said.
"(In real fights) you don't hear the sound of the hits.
"They're slipping, people are moving ... more than half the time we're going to miss."
The AMA called for the sport to be banned in March, after 23-year-old Braydon Smith collapsed and died following his featherweight bout against Filipino John Moralde in Toowoomba.
Comment has been sought from the Australian Sports Commission.