Brain injuries not common in sparring

Photo above: BOXING ENTHUSIASTS: Syafiq Abdul Samad (far left) and Mr Arvind Lalwani say that boxing has changed their lives for the better.

SINGAPORE - Ever since he first picked up boxing at the age of 16, he has observed and participated in countless sparring sessions.

They help boxers prepare themselves physically and mentally before facing their opponents in the ring.

But Mr Arvind Lalwani, 32, has never seen anyone ending up in a hospital's intensive care unit after participating in a sparring session.

That is, until late October when an up-and-coming boxer had to be rushed to the Singapore General Hospital after taking part in one.

Shahril Salim, 21, had to undergo emergency brain surgery on Oct 28 after he collapsed following a sparring session at the Juggernaut Fight Club at Boat Quay.

Shahril and fellow trainee and friend Syafiq Abdul Samad were preparing for their debuts on the undercard of World Boxing Association featherweight champion Chris John's title defence against Thailand's Chonlatarn Piryanpinyo on Friday at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) when tragedy struck.

Speaking to The New Paper, Mr Lalwani, who is the club's managing director, said the incident puzzled him.

He recounted: "About 40 minutes into the sparring session, Shahril told us that he felt pain in his head and went to the toilet to throw up. We caught him at the right moment, just as he was passing out.

"Before that, he was just training normally as he had a fight on Friday night. But what happened to Shahril... I had never seen something like that happen in my life."

Mr Lalwani added that Shahril did not show any signs that he was feeling unwell that day.

He said: "For boxing, the more common injuries include cut lips, bleeding noses, maybe a slight concussion. Even broken noses are not that common.

Never seen such injuries

'I’ve never seen such an injury in sparring'

"They could happen in actual fights, but I've never seen such injuries while sparring. And even during sparring, Shahril was wearing safety equipment, including full head protection and a mouthpiece."

Mr Lalwani said nobody knows whether the bleeding in Shahril's head was caused by a punch or a pre-existing medical condition.

He added that Shahril's condition has improved though the boxer is still in hospital.

He maintained that though boxing is a dangerous sport, it is not much more so than contact sports like football and rugby.

And while it is easy to dismiss boxing as a dangerous sport, especially after this incident, Mr Lalwani said the sport has had a positive impact on many lives.

Life-changing sport

Citing his own experience, Mr Lalwani, whose father died when he was 15, said the sport has changed his life for the better.

He said: "Back then, I was getting into bad company. I was getting into trouble here and there.

Luckily, my late dad, who was a fan of boxing legends such as Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali, influenced me to take up the sport.

"Over time, I devoted myself to boxing, which has taught me the importance of discipline. Being a boxer, I spent a lot of time in the gym and had no time to waste with bad company."

From being a professional boxer, Mr Lalwani is now running a fight club with about 300 members.

Like him, the sport has also helped turn Mr Syafiq's life around.

Mr Syafiq, who trains at Juggernaut Fight Club and went on to win the light-middleweight title on Friday at MBS, said that he used to be bullied before taking up boxing four years ago.

The 19-year-old first-year sports and exercise sciences student at Republic Polytechnic recounted: "When I was 14, I was attacked by a group of young people with parangs as I was walking in my neighbourhood in Bedok.

"It was a case of mistaken identity, but the incident left me with permanent scars on my left arm and leg."

It took Syafiq about four months to fully recover from his injuries, after which he decided to take up boxing so he would not be bullied any more.

And he dedicated Friday's victory to his training buddy Shahril.

"I was looking forward to us fighting alongside each other and was devastated when I found out about his collapse last month.

"I guess the incident pushed me to fight even harder and the trophy I won is dedicated to him," said the teenager.

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