In the commentary on the tragic 2005 Leavander Johnson/Jesus Chavez fight, which claimed the life of Leavander Johnson, commentator Jim Lampley said that there are two things that seem to be "constant" in recent fights where a boxer was seriously - sometimes permanently - injured:
In the recent history of the sport, when you look at fights where one fighter has been badly, sometimes permanently damaged, two constants seem to be part of the formula. Number one, the opponent who is doing the damage is a hard hitter, but not a big enough hitter to put the opponent away. Number two, the guy who is getting worked over has his father in the corner as his trainer, constantly sending him back to take more punishment.
The announcer actually said, in the 10th round, that he hoped that wouldn't be the case for Leavander Johnson, and the fight was stopped early in the 11th round; however, Leavander Johnson died 5 days later from his injuries.
A little research on my part turned up an earlier article from the LA Times, which listed other fighters who were killed in their bouts and had their fathers in their corners:
Johnny Owens (1980)
Kiko Bejines (1983)
Rico Velazquez (1988)
Jimmy Garcia (1995)
Fernie Morales (1991)1
More recently, in 2009, Francisco "Paco" Rodriguez was killed in the ring, with his father in the corner.
Here's a slightly more thorough list of boxers who were killed or seriously injured in the ring since 1980 with their fathers in their corners.
One of the four main sanctioning bodies in professional boxing, the World Boxing Council (or WBC) actually has rules on the books prohibiting fathers from their son's corners because of the alleged correlation:
Dr. Paul Wallace, chairman of the WBC's medical advisory board, said that a study in California backed up the WBC's rule.
"The most common factor out of all the fatalities that had happened, was having fathers in the corner," he said of the study. "Now, that's not something that's a medical issue, but it's something that's clearly an association."
- NY Daily News
The State Athletic Commissions of California and Nevada, which are responsible for regulating safety in the ring, also believe the link exists:
Prompted by Garcia's death [in May 1995], the California Athletic Commission conducted a preliminary inquiry into California ring injuries since 1980.
It was discovered that four of the seven most serious head injuries reviewed--including all three California ring-related deaths--involved fighters whose fathers worked their corners.
Richard DeCuir, the commission's executive director, admits the examination was not scientific--"The numbers have not been scrubbed," he said--yet the findings struck him as alarmingly disproportionate, given the best estimates that only 5%-7% of professional fighters are trained by relatives.
DeCuir cannot speak to the specifics of each case nor is it his intention to implicate families that have already suffered, yet he suspects there is a correlation between ring injuries and relatives.
"I think we all pretty much believe that," DeCuir said.
DeCuir sent his information to Marc Ratner, head of the Nevada State Commission, who is still grappling with Garcia's death in May.
"It's something we have no choice but to address, because it is more than coincidence," Ratner said of the father-son issue.
- LA Times
The quotes above make it clear that the issue has been investigated at least once, but the source "admits the examination was not scientific--"The numbers have not been scrubbed." Thus, we can't resolve the issue with certainty unless someone has done a more scientific study.
Has there ever been a serious analysis into the possible correlation between permanent injury/deaths in the ring, and having one's father in the corner? Do we know if there is actually a statistical correlation between these two factors?
1 Fortunately, Morales actually survived, but suffered a blood clot in his brain, had to have emergency brain surgery to remove it, and never fought again. Sadly, all the others on the list died from their injuries.