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Boxing defenders knock down ban proposal

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Boxing defenders knock down ban proposal
14:15 CEST+02:00
A debate about banning professional boxing in Sweden has been reignited following Frida Wallberg's nearly fatal defeat in a title fight against Australia's Diana Prazak.

The 30-year-old Swedish super featherweight boxing star underwent surgery in Stockholm over the weekend after suffering from brain haemorrhage sustained in a 10-round fight in which she was floored twice.

Sweden's minister of culture and sport, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, has said that the rules for professional boxing are under review.

Adelsohn Liljeroth told news agency TT that the decision to examine the sport was taken before Friday's tragic fight, but that the event will now likely be analyzed as part of the review.

"From what I understand it was a surprise that there was such a serious knockout. It shouldn't happen. So I suppose there are some questions surrounding this particular match," said Adelsohn Liljeroth.

Green Party politician Fredrik Persson, however, wants a total ban on boxing in Sweden. He told newspaper Nerikes Allehanda (NA): "I don't understand the point of beating each other up and that it happens without any punitive sanction. I don't think one should encourage violence."

But defenders of the sport came out in full force, warning that a ban would be freedom-quelling and counter-productive.

Ex-boxer Paolo Robert, whose dreams of claiming the world champion title were crushed after he was knocked out and seriously injured in a 2003 fight, defended the sport in an interview with tabloid Aftonbladet.

Roberto, 44, said that his own experience back in 2003 was devastating, but added: "If it wasn't for boxing, I would have been dead today."

According to Roberto, research has shown that the chance of suffering from dementia is 10 percent higher among boxers, but he said that "it's worth it".

"I run six companies today, I have 10 employees, and I have written seven books since I stopped boxing. I can take down anyone in a debate about professional boxing, any time, 24-7..."

As a teenager, Roberto was part of violent youth gangs and he has said that boxing is what got him off the streets.

Also in Aftonbladet, sports writer Stefan Alfelt said boxing "is about freedom" and warned against letting Wallberg's "tragic injury cause a moral panic that will send Sweden back into banning hysteria".

Alfelt said it would be impossible and undesirable to ban everything that can be dangerous to our lives and health and added: "What happened to Frida was deeply tragic but it was an accident just like if a little girl would fall off her horse and break her back."

In newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Johan Esk argued that there are inherent dangers in many sports, like Formula 1 and downhill skiing.

"You can increase security but you can never make these sports free from danger," he wrote. "If they become completely safe they also become uninteresting."

After waking up from a medically-induced coma on Sunday morning, Wallberg posted a message on Facebook thanking her friends for their support.

Others took to Facebook over the weekend to threaten Prazak, according to her trainer Lucia Rijker. She told tabloid Expressen that the Australian champ has been praying for Wallberg and that she feels hurt over the hateful messages posted online.

The results of the government inquiry into professional boxing will be presented in the autumn.

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