Since Kain Parsons died, she has done a u-turn.
National MP for Kaikoura Stuart Smith raised the issue in September, but Martin replied a review of legislation was not high on the Government’s priorities.
Now a Christchurch family’s mourning the loss of 37-year-old father-of-two Parsons, who suffered fatal injuries after taking part in a charity corporate boxing event.
Steve Wills, who referees a biannual charity fight night in Timaru, welcomed the review.
Organisers of that event spent considerable time ensuring athletes’ safety as best they could, and that was the way it should be at all charity events, he said.
“I think the number one thing is that you don’t run them like actual boxing events – you run them like charity events.
“You treat the athletes like novices, and you are over-cautious rather than under-cautious.”
Fighters in the events Wills refereed were given proper training, doctor check-ups before and after the fight, and had to wear headgear and mouth guards.
Fights were closely monitored and called off if one fighter was gaining too much dominance, and uppercut punches were also not allowed because they could be difficult for novice fighters to deal with.
These features could be applied across the board.
“You want to make the sport safe for everyone to participate in, and you want to make sure everyone goes home at the end of the night.”
MP, Smith wrote to Sports and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson, and Martin responded, as the Minister responsible.
Smith cited the specific concerns of one of his constituents, Canterbury-based coach and referee Bob Halliday, about “the number of people who are severely injured or killed in corporate and amateur” boxing events.
“The professional groups who host these events have very charitable intentions, and consequently their primary concern is making money for those involved,” Smith wrote.
“However, Mr Halliday believes that this is at the cost of the health and wellbeing of participants, particularly with regards to their safety. Boxing tournaments are also taking place in the regions without the requisite permits, which is of grave concern.”
Smith was disappointed Martin’s response was it was not a high priority for the Government.
“Nothing would have happened if she’d acted, and she chose not to,” Smith said.
Martin pointed out the Government had almost no control over corporate boxing events.
“To be clear, as Minister of Internal Affairs I cannot stop these charity fights occurring. They would all stop, however, if all of the boxing associations did what Boxing New Zealand has done and cease their involvement with charity events.”
There were more than 50 approved boxing associations that operated bouts, and could only do so with police permits.
Martin agreed the law needed updating, but said it would take time.
“What I’m hoping is that we can standardise the rules around these events – so that would talk about training and headgear and gloves and things like that. The step before that is probably one body – one boxing association – to approve these charity events.”
Halliday said there were stringent regulations at the professional and amateur levels, but not enough protection at the bottom tier.
“My main concern is we’ve got individuals getting into the ring, who are not qualified and are incapable of becoming a boxer in a short period of time, and they’re not being looked after in the ring,” he said.
“I’m asking the minister to stop corporate boxing until we get a full set of guidelines and a full set of rules, which govern it.”
Sunday Star Times