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5 boxing stars that lost their lives in the ring

Oftentimes, sport can bring communities together. This is no more keenly felt than when one of its warriors perishes in the pursuit of providing elite entertainment to the public.

Supporters unite in a protective bubble around the fighter's family, while several boxing charities can step into help on an emotional and financial level, including:

  • The Ring 10 Veteran Boxers Foundation: This organisation helps retired boxers who have fallen on hard times, including those who have suffered injuries or disabilities due to their careers. They also provide financial assistance and support to the families of boxers who have passed away.
  • WBC Cares: This is the charitable arm of the World Boxing Council and focuses on providing support to boxers and their families in need. They offer financial aid, medical assistance, and educational opportunities for those involved in boxing.
  • Retired Boxers Foundation: Founded by former boxer Alex Ramos, this foundation primarily helps retired boxers with medical expenses, career transition, and other forms of support. They also provide assistance to the families of boxers who have passed away.

In this post, we remember those who gave their heart and a little bit more to the sport they love, and whose dedication eventually cost them their lives.

a masn boxing

Andy Bowen

Times were a little different back in the olden days - but this braveheart holds the record for the longest-ever fight when he shared a ring with Jack Burke over 110 rounds, lasting seven hours and 19 minutes at the Olympic Club in New Orleans in 1867. The fight was eventually ruled a no contest, with both men sporting broken hands, dazed heads, and a distinct lack of energy.

There would be no way on earth this fight would be allowed to take place now - and correctly so - but it gives a good window into the kind of grit and tenacity old school brawlers had.

Devastatingly, Bowen succumbed to injuries suffered in an 1894 bout against Kid Lavigne, boxing's first widely recognised World Lightweight Champion. He passed away after hitting his head on the wooden canvas 18 rounds into the fight.

Tosh Powell

A bright and prodigiously talented fighter, Powell was a Welsh bantamweight champion before he was taken too soon at the age of 20 in 1928.

The cruellest element of his death was that the opponent, Billy Housego, was a dear and personal friend of Powell, with the two having shared the ring before. According to a newspaper report published in the Mersey Times, there was nothing untoward about the contest, which had been clean and well-intentioned throughout. However, after 15 rounds, suffered a fatal knockout blow. Despite attempting to get up from the canvas, he perished from his injuries.

Frankie Campbell

An Italian-American heavyweight stalwart, Campbell is remembered as the man whom future heavyweight champion Max Baer killed in a fateful clash in San Francisco in 1930.

There remains controversy surrounding the fight, which paints Baer in a difficult light. The San Francisco Examiner at the time called it a "five-round execution", and the event forever sullied Baer's reputation.

But because of what happened and the fact it was between two popular fighters at the top of their game while the sport was thriving, the memory of Campbell is often lost to the ether of the sport's nostalgic history. In truth, we had tons of talent, with lightning-fast fists and a natural in-fight intelligence that surpassed all of his opponents at the time.

Athleticism was in the Campbell bloodline - his brother, Dolph Camilli, was a former Major League Baseball player who enjoyed stints with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies.

He was one of the only men at the time who could have stopped Baer, and during the fight, had some success, knocking him down in the second round. This blow reportedly enraged Baer, who scored an instant riposte knockdown that really rattled Campbell - he supposedly told his corner at the time, 'Something feels as though it broke in my head'.

In the fifth round, Baer rained down fatal blows on a defenceless Campbell, who was unconscious but trapped on the ropes, with the referee inexplicably reluctant to stop the fight.

The post-mortem revealed his brain had been knocked loose from the connecting tissue in the head, which was one of the reasons for death listed in the post-mortem.

Tony Marino

Tony Mariano was an Italian-American boxer who was born on May 18, 1910. He grew up in the Bronx, New York and began his amateur boxing career in the late 1920s.

Known for his aggressive fighting style, Tony quickly gained recognition in the boxing world and became professional in 1932.

On January 30, 1937, Mariano and Carlos Quintana met in the boxing ring for what would be their only fight against each other. The match was held at Ridgewood Grove in New York City, and was highly anticipated by fans and critics alike.

Unfortunately, the fight ended in tragedy for Mariano. He was totally hammered throughout the fight, and was knocked down no fewer than five times on the way to an eight-round mauling. Despite receiving medical attention immediately after the match, Tony never regained consciousness after passing out minutes after the bell and passed away later that night due to severe brain injuries.

His death had a lasting impact on the sport he loved - two days after his passing, the New York State Athletic Commission passed a rule that any fighter knocked down three times in a single round would be considered "outclassed", and the referee is duty-bound to bring an end to the fight.

Benny Paret

a boxer looking at the ring

Cuban boxer Paret was a two-time World Welterweight Championship belt holder, whose record of 35-12-3 encompassed some incredible boxing stock of yesteryear.

He could count wins against Olympic bronze medalist Victor Zalazar, Welterweight Champion of the World Don Jordan, and world title winner across three separate divisions Emile Griffith (since ranked #127 in BoxRec's ranking of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers of all time and a Hall of Fame inductee) who would turn out to be his last opponent.

It was the third meeting between Paret and Griffith that would decide a trilogy of fights between the two, proving fateful for the former.

Despite having some promising moments in the fight - there was a period in round six where he had Griffiths on the ropes - it was in round 12 where he suffered life-ending injuries. After Griffiths stunned him with a flurry of punches, Paret was dangling on the ropes and unable to protect himself. TV replays at the time confirmed Paret ate no fewer than 29 unanswered punches before the bell rang.

Reportedly, Griffiths felt guilt for years after Paret's death.

Michelle Thomas
Former Author
Master of Business and Finance
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Reviewed by Head of Content:
Dmitry Rogalchuk
Last updated on: 17.02.2024

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