US Senator John McCain (left) speaks with Bernard Hopkins following a press conference by professional boxing and fighting organizations in support of a study by the Cleveland Clinic to study brain health, at the US Capitol in Washington on Feb. 4.
Boxers absorb considerable head trauma during training and preparation for their upcoming bouts long before entering the ring on fight night, according to Bernard Hopkins.
"Brain injuries is something that starts in the gym," the IBF light heavyweight titleholder told RingTV.com. "That's where you fight more rounds than you do on the night of the fight, and it can be worse even though you have head gear. You can run even more of a risk when you're training in the gym than in a fight because of the daily pounding."
Hopkins shared his comments in the wake of attending Tuesday's summit on fighter brain health and safety at the United States Capitol. The event was organized by The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which has engaged in the most comprehensive study of professional boxers and the effect their sport has on thier brains to date.
Participation in the study by nearly 400 active and retired fighters is completely voluntary, and the boxers receive free, ongoing assessments of their brain health and brain function, including MRI scans. Individual tests will be repeated annually for at least four years
"This project is a zillion percent important," said Hopkins, who was on hand Tuesday along with others including Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Las Vegas and Republican counterpart John McCain of Arizona.
"You need to be aware and conscious of how a fighter has to protect himself even more now than when you're done fighting. It's important because this research is long overdue. We need more research now than ever. There are so many more possibilities for great testing opportunities and preserving the lives of fighters now and in the future."
WBO junior lightweight titleholder Mikey Garcia was also present at the Washington event, which occurred one day after the death on Monday afternoon of featherweight boxer Oscar Gonzalez as a result of brain injuries he suffered during a 10th-round knockout loss to Jesus Galicia in Mexico City.
"It's obviously the worst thing that can happen in a fight, and something like that [Gonzalez's death] does open your eyes a lot. That's why this campaign is so important. It heightens awareness and it's a little scary," said Garcia.
"So that's why I want to make sure that we do everything possible to make sure that every time that we step into the ring that we're as healthy as possible. You want to make sure that we're not at risk for any tremendous changes in our health that can permanently affect you for the rest of your life."
ANGELO SANTANA FIGHTS HANK LUNDY ON FEB. 21 DON KING CARD
Lightweight prospect Angelo Santana (14-1, 11 knockouts), of Miami, will face Philadelphia's Hank Lundy (23-3-1, 11 KOs) on ShoBox: The New Generation on Feb. 21 from the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio, the Showtime network announced on Thursday.
A 25-year-old southpaw from Cuba, Santana had his streak of seven consecutive knockouts ended following a ninth-round stoppage loss to Bahodir Mamadjonov in his last fight in April.
Meanwhile, Lundy, 30, bounced back from two consecutive losses with a unanimous decision over Olusegun Ajose in his last fight in July.
In the opening bout of the card, junior lightweight Amir Imam (12-0, 11 KOs) of Albany, N.Y., will pursue his 12th straight knockout victory against South Carolina's Jared Robinson (14-0, 6 KOs). Imam is 23, and Robinson, 31.
The event is being promoted by Don King.
"My first boxing promotion in Cleveland was on Aug. 28, 1972. It was a charity event for 'Show for People Care' to benefit Forest City Hospital, and it featured Muhammad Ali in an exhibition match. For our great fight card on Feb. 21, we're calling it 'Cleveland Show for People Care: Let's Do it for Cleveland, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," said King.
"It's going to be a terrific night of fights, a dynamite show in Mayor Frank Jackson's great city of Cleveland, in Gov. John R. Kasich's great state of Ohio. We will be in a city and a state where people are the most important. This ShoBox event features the next generation of young boxers. In Santana and Imam, you have two guys who, if they win, could be fighting for a world title in their next fight."
RUSTAM NUGAEV-MARVIN QUINTERO SLATED FOR MARCH 7
Streaking lightweight gatekeeper Rustam Nugaev will be after his fourth straight knockout among five consecutive wins when he fights former title challenger Marvin Quintero on ESPN's Friday Night Fights on March 7 at The Pala Casino Spa and Resort in Pala, Calif..
Promoted by Gary Shaw, Nugaev (26-6-1, 16 KOs), a 31-year-old Russian, was last in the ring for a first-round knockout of Mario Hermosillo in December.
"Of course, the goal is to reach the top of your division, and I have never wanted anything more. But I don't just want to win, I want to do it in a way that makes others take notice," said Nugaev.
"Not to take anything away from winning a title, because it is a huge accomplishment, but I want to win people's respect while doing so. I want to destroy my competition and leave no doubt."
"You don't have to appreciate boxing to enjoy the kind of excitement expected on March 7. The main event involves two fighters that always come to fight. The style matchup will be pleasing to the fans," said Shaw, who expects to announce the full card shortly.
"But the stakes are higher for both Rustam and Marvin, which makes me believe the degree of action could be raised as well. Rustam Nugaev is on the fast track to the top of his division. He is fun to watch, and I think we've matched him with the perfect opponent to display his full potential."
Photo / Saul Loeb-AFP-Getty Images