Written on the 19 March 2015 by Jenna Rathbone


RENEWED calls for the regulation of combat sport have been voiced following the death of professional Queensland boxer Braydon Smith.

Brisbane-based sports lawyer Tim Fuller of McInnes Wilson Lawyers says Queensland is behind the times and needs to follow in the steps of its sister states that regulate professional boxing and ultimately help to prevent these circumstances.

Smith's death shadows the passing of 18-year-old Alex Slade who died four years ago from a blow to the head that was sustained during a fight in Mackay in October 2010.

After Slade's death, Fuller approached the Queensland Government which acknowledged the need to regulate the professional side of the sport. However, he says nothing has been done since.

"From a legal sense, we have a sport which is unique. Two people consent to being punched at will. Everyone knows there are significant risks associated with boxing and yet it is arguably the least scrutinised sport from a regulatory perspective," says Fuller

"Poor governance in any sport will lead to poor performance. In the case of boxing, the consequences can be catastrophic".    

"I believe from a legal perspective, it is bordering on negligence to not act. The fact is we have now had two recent deaths and nobody is prepared to pick up the reigns and essentially take control."

Fuller is calling on the new Labor Government to step in and put in place a regulatory framework that will improve the safety of competitors and provide better scrutiny of all participants.

In 2007, the Beattie Government launched an inquiry into this issue and consulted state sporting groups, medical bodies and community organisations about the potential need to regulate boxing and combat sports like martial arts, however the findings were never released.

"Where a professional sport is conducted so haphazardly and where at times people don't actually know who is responsible, it is incumbent on authorities to do something about it," says Fuller.

"This is a golden opportunity for the new minister to fix what has become an absolute dog's breakfast,

"If the sports minister can do something that is truly noteworthy by saying 'enough is enough, I am going to ensure that combat sports are governed correctly', it will be a watershed moment for boxing in this state".

Minister for sport Bill Byrne says although deaths related to boxing are rare in Australia, it is a dangerous sport and no amount of legislation or regulation can make it free of risk.

"The death of Braydon Smith is a terrible loss and my deepest sympathies are with his family and friends at this time," he says.

"Currently in Queensland, combat sports, including boxing, are self-regulated and the government monitors safety standards.

"We are always looking to improve safety for those who take part in contact and combat sports and the government is currently reviewing the need to regulate combat sports."

Across the border, NSW implemented the Combat Sports Act 2013 and the Combat Sports Regulation 2014 which provides legislative framework that regulates the conduct of combat sport contests in NSW.

Smith, aged 23, collapsed 90 minutes after his featherweight fight against Filipino John Moralde in Toowoomba on the weekend.

He was put into an induced coma but never regained consciousness and his life support was turned off earlier this week.

Smith passed ringside checks by a doctor before and after the fight and passed his annual boxing license renewal last October.

Picture: Braydon Smith, taken from @BraydSmith twitter

Author: Jenna Rathbone
About: Jenna Rathbone is a Queensland-based journalist who writes on a range of issues including business and property affairs and social issues.
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