By Liam Napier
Battered boxer Shane Cameron and his manager have criticized Fight for Life organizers for not having a registered doctor at last week's charity boxing event.
In a week when the dangers of boxing have been highlighted by Cameron's midweek emergency-ward visit and Sky Television presenter Stephen McIvor being admitted to hospital one day later with spinal fluid on the brain, the charity event's promoters have been forced to defend themselves against claims they failed to provide adequate medical precautions for the fighters on the bill at the Auckland venue last Saturday.
This comes just one month after Otorohanga boxer Daniel MacKinnon had brain surgery and technically died for 40 seconds after a fierce fight with Robbie Berridge on David Tua's undercard in Hamilton, an event run by the same promoters, Duco Events.
Cameron needed nine stitches to two separate cuts after his seventh-round TKO loss to American heavyweight Brian Minto.
Those included two deep, internal stitches which pulled together underlying tissue. While St Johns paramedics were in attendance, no-one on hand was capable of performing the required procedures.
"It's no secret I get cut," Cameron said. "Win or lose it was going to be a hard fight. Stitches were guaranteed. For them not to have a doctor there that's registered and can stitch me up . . . they should have anticipated that happening."
Retired Scottish doctor Brian Stuart was summoned to Cameron's changing room, but had no medical equipment.
"He had no idea," Cameron's manager, Ken Reinsfield, said. "If he didn't understand what was going on with the cuts, how would he know about a bleed on the brain? It's certainly not good and I don't want it to happen again.
"Fighters' safety should be paramount. Regardless of whether there is a hospital down the road, it's important the guy ringside is competent. I was shocked when I found out he wasn't registered."
A fight doctor usually has a torch to assess pupil dilation, steri strips - thin plasters used to temporarily close wounds - stitching tools and blood pressure monitors.
"There was none of that," Cameron claimed. "He said ‘I don't have the gear to stitch you up'."
While Stuart wouldn't comment, Duco promoter Dean Lonergan accepted things could have been handled better, but said Cameron's camp had rejected an ambulance ride.
"We had an ambulance outside and the [Waitakere] hospital is literally five minutes down the road," he said.
"I offered to put Shane in an ambulance and get him stitched down there and Ken clearly said ‘no'. What am I supposed to do? He could have gone to the accident and emergency department and got stitched up immediately. It was their choice not to.
"Brian couldn't stitch, so be it. But the fact there was a hospital two minutes away gave me some level of comfort and certainty everything was going to be all right. They chose not to use it." On a night when eight novice boxers, including rugby, league and cricket stars Liam Messam, Sam Thaiday, Paul Gallen, Chris Cairns and Simon Doull fought, the Sunday Star-Times also understands not all charity boxers were assessed by Stuart post-fight.
"Lessons should have been learned," Cameron said. "Dan MacKinnon nearly lost his life. That's the brutality of the sport. All it takes is one whack. All the other boys were doing it for charity. Anything can happen." Cameron said in 16 years boxing he had never fought without a registered doctor on site.
"Never," he said. "Even right through my amateur ranks."
New Zealand's leading boxing medical professional, doctor Dave Renata, was contacted two weeks before the Fight for Life but, by that stage, had already committed to Isaac Peach's super middleweight bout against Fili Mailata at the Auckland Boxing Association.
Renata conducted all medicals at the Fight for Life weigh-ins, but then handed duties over to Stuart.
Around one hour after the defeat to Minto, Cameron's camp arranged for Renata to perform the stitching at the 36-year-old fighter's Mt Albert home.
"It was sorted out before the fight that Dave was going to have a replacement there," Lonergan said. "Obviously it didn't happen to the level we would have liked. We checked with the authorities but ultimately the responsibility lies with me. No-one else. In a perfect world we would have had Dave there all night but we had safety measures in place."