Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast, the publisher of the No Holds Barred blog, and a senior contributing editor at the ADCC News.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians Statement: Postpone Klitschko-Chagaev Fight "Due to Medical Safety Issues" 

It may seem incredible that they even have to do this, but the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians (AAPRP) issued a statement Thursday, June 18, calling for the June 20 heavyweight title boxing match between Wladimir Klitschko and Ruslan Chagaev to be postponed "due to medical safety issues".

The reason is clear and simple, as the May 30 WBA title fight between Ruslan Chagaev and Nikolai Valuev was cancelled because Chagaev had tested positive for the hepatitis B antigen. That fight was scheduled to take place in Helsinki, Finland, and most places around the world which host major boxing events do not permit fighters with this dangerous and infectious disease to compete.

The Klitschko-Chagaev fight, however, is scheduled to take place in Gelsenkirchen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, and the authorities in charge of this fight have far less comprehensive medical requirements for fighters than those in North America, the UK, and much of the rest of the world do.

The AAPRP statement refutes what they say has been some of the misinformation widely circulated in the media about the dangers of hepatitis B, and what is being proposed for the safety measures for this fight.

While this fight is being held in Germany, boxing is an international sport, and the fight will be telecast in the US on ESPN Classic. It is also for a series of heavyweight belts, including that of the American-based The Ring magazine, whose parent company, Sports and Entertainment Publications, LLC, is a subsidiary of Golden Boy Enterprises, whose president is the famed boxer and now promoter, Oscar De La Hoya. So there is much interest in this fight in America, and especially in an organization like AAPRP.

We also discussed this issue at length on my podcast, No Holds Barred, with Dr. Joseph Estwanik, who serves on the AAPRP Board of Directors. You can play or download that edition of No Holds Barred here. You can also download that edition of No Holds Barred here.

The AAPRP web site is at http://aaprp.org. Here is the full text of their statement:

As it has been reported that Mr. Ruslan Chagaev has tested positive for the Hepatitis B Virus, the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians (the “AAPRP”) is recommending that the proposed contest between Mr. Ruslan Chagaev and Mr. Vladimir Klitschko be postponed due to medical safety issues. The AAPRP also recommends that this fight not take place and suggests that Mr. Chagaev not be permitted to fight (anyone) until, and unless, he can demonstrate a "negative hepatitis status.

In several recent media accounts, it has been stated that Mr. Chagaev has a “low hepatitis B viral load” and therefore poses “no risk” of transmitting this dangerous virus. The AAPRP disagrees with this assertion. Although the risk of transmission of the Hepatitis B Virus may be minimal, the risk is not zero. Additionally, given the fact that Hepatitis B is a very virulent virus and easily transmitted, it is even more important to be prudent in order to not only protect Mr. Chagaev’s opponent, but also the referee, judges, sanctioning body officials, cornermen, ringside physicians and ringside observers who may be at risk of contracting this dangerous virus. As boxing is obviously considered a “blood sport”, it is very common for blood to splatter on the individuals immediately adjacent at ringside. The conjunctiva (eye) route of transfer for this virus is well documented....so any person seated at ringside, who is not immunized, may be at risk.

Furthermore, statistics suggest that if Mr. Chagaev were to share needles with another individual, the transmission rate of Hepatitis B could be as high as 30%. If blood from a cut on Mr. Chagaev were to come into direct contact with a cut on another fighter, the transmission rate could be as high as 10%. Should blood squirt from Mr. Chagaev and hit another individual in the eye (i.e. Judge, referee, cornerman or media) the transmission rate could be as high as 5%. Therefore, the risk is obviously greater than zero and could put others at ringside (beside his opponent) at risk for acquiring this virus.

Unless everyone at ringside (Judges, referees, ringside physicians, commission members, sanctioning body officials, trainers, cornermen, media reporters, ring girls, television technicians, spectators and of course the fighters opponent) has documented immunity to Hepatitis B (a three shot hepatitis immunity vaccination series given over a 6 month period with a subsequent documented blood test confirming immunity), protection against exposure to this dangerous virus cannot be guaranteed. Finally, if bleeding does occur, the individuals responsible for cleaning the ring as well as those handling the gloves must also be immune to minimize the risk as well.

The American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians considers safety our number one priority and will work with local and international commissions to insure that all precautions are taken to protect all individuals involved in professional boxing.

For more information, please contact the AAPRP.

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