DERRY’s bid to bring professional boxing back to the city after a 37 years hiatus has been brought to its knees by the British Boxing Board of Control (N.I.).
The governing body has flat refused the rigourous efforts by ‘Derry Boxing Promotions’ to stage the first pro show in the city since 1982, claiming ‘it will not happen now, or anytime in the immediate future’ due to its medical stipulations.
In accordance with the rules and regulations of the BBBoC, a boxing venue must be located no more than ‘40 minutes’ from a hospital with an approved accident emergency and neurosurgical unit, as well as having a neurosurgeon on call in the event that a boxer may sustain a serious head injury.
Northern Ireland Secretary for the BBBoC, Mr John Campbell explained that the 70 miles distance from Altnagelvin Hospital to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast could not be travelled safely inside those prerequisite 40 minutes.
“There is a strict procedure with regards to boxers and injuries,” explained Mr Campbell. “Ordinary injuries can be treated at the nearest hospital, a broken arm, dislocated shoulder or something like that. That’s not a bother.
“But a head injury, which is considered dangerous, must be brought to a neurosurgical unit and that is a rule of the boxing board.
"The other rule which comes into that is that it must be doable inside the permitted 40 minutes time-frame the board would allow and that simply can’t be done.
“I’m not saying they (the board) won’t allow an extra five minutes, maybe, but they will not go to a full hour, they won’t take a chance!
“Bringing a boxer to Altnagelvin to have him looked over by neurological doctors, but not surgeons, would put the boxer’s life in danger as far as we’re concerned.
“I’m not saying they would be remiss in what they do but we would be taking one hell of a risk and, quite honestly, would be putting us in line for a massive court case. That is something we can’t afford.”
Despite the firm stance from Mr Campbell, Derry boxing promoter, Seamus Cunning believes the BBBoC has continuously ‘moved the goalposts’ and claims the decision not to give a potential show in Derry the green light was ‘unjust’.
It’s a decision which doesn’t sit well with Mr Cunning who claims he felt like he was fighting a losing battle from the start, given the BBBoC’s seemingly immovable stance.
“There was a very heated discussion between Laurence O’Kane and John Campbell of the British Boxing Board of Control and he (Campbell) said they wouldn’t be happy now unless it was 40 minutes from the nearest neurological unit. “Initially it was 60 minutes and that is now achievable by this new road at Toome in a ‘blue lights’ situation.
“They told us a Derry show will never happen,” he claimed. “It started off they were telling us we would need a helicopter. Then they asked ‘What if someone got injured in the first fight?’ so we would then need two helicopters.
“Then 11 fights was cut down to six or seven just to keep them happy and get a bill in Derry. Then the hour was brought down to 40 minutes. They keep pushing it aside and changing the goalposts all the time.
“There’s no working with them at all. It’s extremely disheartening. It’s a real kick up the teeth. It’s unjust.
“They’re not willing to see it happen, We will have to go to the equality commission. It’s been like taking one step forward and two steps back. It’s heart-wrenching. They don’t want to work it out. They dismissed Derry without hearing our workable options,” he claimed.
Mr Campbell took exception to claims the decision was ‘unjust’ by Mr Cunning, reiterating that the board simply were refusing to take any risks when it came to a boxer’s well-being.
“The problem with achieving something within a certain time is simple. If a badly injured boxer with a head injury is in an ambulance going to Belfast, the person who dictates the speed is the anaesthetist in the ambulance with the boxer.
“He will not, no matter what anybody says about a blue lights situation, if he says ‘slow down’, the driver will obey the doctor.
“If he has to do 30 miles per hour to suit the doctor then that’s what he will do. An ambulance can’t go hurtling around corners with a badly injured boxer.
“We have an insurance factor but we’re not insured for doing stupid things. We can’t take any risks,” he added bluntly.
“We are a fair board. We had shows up in Lavey (Co. Derry) which were on the margin of the 40 minutes and they were excellent shows. We don’t discriminate in boxing.
“It’s a necessary medical issue. We’ve even looked into a helicopter and that isn’t properly equipped for a brain injury. It’s equipped for serious injuries but not brain injuries.
“It’s a great shame because it’s a great boxing city. I know Charlie Nash and he’s mad keen on it himself.”
Mr Campbell said the BBBoC would reconsider only if there was the correct medical services in place some time in the future.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s still open but the rules and regulations with regards to medicals, it’s highly unlikely at this time. The simple answer is that there’s a 40 minute run and 70 miles is not a 40 minute run! I would love boxing to return to Derry, it’s a bloody great city.
“At this moment it can’t be done. Medically it’s unsound and quite honestly I’ve talked to a lot of doctors and each one of them has said there’s no way they would attend a Derry show at this moment as they would not put life at risk.
“The last thing I want to do is condemn Derry because I think it’s a wonderful city.”
Despite this latest setback which has put paid to any potential professional boxing in the Maiden City for the foreseeable future, Mr Cunning and Mr O’Kane - the father of former World middleweight contender, Eamonn - won’t give up the fight.
And they have since approached the Boxing Union of Ireland for their advice on the matter.
“MTK Global are 100 per cent backing us and they believe we will get it back in the not too distant future. We will regroup again and push on,” said Cunning. “It’ll not beat us. It’ll just make us more determined.”