For family and loved ones, nothing can possibly ease the pain of the tragic death of Tim Hague, the respected full-contact fighter and occasional boxer who died Sunday after taking a serious beating in the ring on Friday night.
As love and condolences are shared among those close to him, only one possible action can ease the shock and sadness.
There must be a full examination of boxing and so-called unlimited-contact in Edmonton, in Alberta and across this entire nation.
And it must be conducted solely with an eye to clearing up many of the issues that surrounded Friday’s tragedy, not simply justifying all happenings as part of “a warrior’s game.”
The record shows that Adam Braidwood punished Hague through the entire first round and the minute or so in the second before a hard punch dropped Hague. As he fell, the sound of his head hitting the canvas was evident.
As he laid on his back, pictures were taken and he stayed motionless for long minutes before he got to his feet, with help, and made it to the stool in his corner. During that interval, standing at ringside, the charges started.
One woman, knowledgeable about boxing, made the valid point that Hague, an intelligent and likeable teacher who spoke glowingly of his grade-four students in school at Belmont — “We’ve had a lot of fun this year; they’re a great group,” — should not have volunteered for the bout; he knew his own brief boxing background and history of concussions and other injuries in unlimited-contact bouts better than anyone else possibly could.
Almost immediately, there was a claim that referee Len Koivisto, who is both respected and experienced, should have stepped in before the final blow because Hague had shown no chance to win the bout and had already been floored at least five times. Hague was allowed to continue only because of his consistent responses that he could continue and his ability to walk steadily toward the official — it’s a standard test after knockdowns — after getting up.
Other immediate responses from press row and others watching the card: stoppage should be automatic after three knockdowns in any round; the bout should not have been promoted in the first place; the Edmonton commission appointed to govern combat sports should have rejected the proposed bout when it was presented for the required approval.
Criticism of KO Boxing, the promoting organization is not new, but every promoter in every sport faces second-guessing every day. Through several years of Pat Reid’s control, the local commission has faced a barrage of whining, griping and, of course, plenty of legitimate concern.
Some years ago, ex-chairman Ron Hayter, a longtime city councillor who had spent time in the ring as a youngster, insisted that no boxer could fight in Edmonton after five consecutive losses. It was a good rule that exists no longer. After his years on council, he also asked for a civic review of the changing organization. Sadly, and inexcusably, the proposal was swept under a very thick rug.
Because errors in judgment are always possible, I remain convinced that the three-knockdown rule, which ultimately is designed to protect every boxer, is essential — the competitor in control has the best chance to realize his (or her) opponent is fading to the point of possible danger.
Before and after the mismatch, Braidwood’s respect for his opponent was crystal clear. “He’s a tough guy and a proven competitor,” he told me.
Then, before leaving the ring — and without any knowledge of how seriously Hague was hurt, he asked the crowed to “give him some love; he’s a warrior.”