There is a brewing controversy over fighter safety stemming from December’s fight between former NFL running back Frank Gore and former NBA All-Star Deron Williams.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole, who recently spoke with Mike Mazzulli, the President of the Association of Boxing Commissions, Gore had “multiple white spots on the MRI of his brain.” This was discovered following a required MRI of Gore’s brain by the Florida Athletic Commission. The third-leading rusher in NFL history took two MRIs, with no issues announced heading into fight night.
“It has come to the attention of the Association of Boxing Commissions that Frank Gore had a questionable brain MRI,” Mazzulli stated. “The ABC stands always for fighter safety. We have a medical committee ready to assist states, and this is the kind of a case where we want them to know we are available to help.”
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Gore fought on the undercard of Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley II in Tampa, Florida, and made $300,000 for the fight. Originally a professional contest, the fight changed to an exhibition bout at the last minute. It was a hard-hitting four-round affair that saw Williams win via split decision. Williams landed multiple rights to the face of Gore, including overhands and jabs. Williams landed 48 shots compared to Gore’s 39, according to CompuBox.
Gore and agent Malki Kawa denied any health issues on Gore’s end. He didn’t need to get an MRI per Florida’s rules and Kawa said that the commission and neurologists cleared Gore to fight. Gore did see two neurologists and two radiologists, with each one saying he was fit to compete.
“I’m glad they asked me because I know my brain is healthy now,” Gore went on to say. “A lot of guys I played with can’t say that… I was passed and I talked to the doctors. They all told me there was nothing wrong with me. I have five kids and I want to be there for them. I’m not crazy. Why would I risk my health and watching my kids grow up for $300,000?”
The Florida Athletic Commission has had its detractors over the years. Recently, 59-year-old Evander Holyfield fought against former UFC champion Vitor Belfort, replacing Oscar De La Hoya. The commission approved both fights. The commission recently barred Melvin Guillard from fighting after an announcement that he was to compete at KnuckleMania 2. Several YouTuber vs. TikTok boxing fights took place in Florida, and at Eagle FC 44, a bout between Tyrone Spong and Antonio Silva was approved, which was met with backlash.
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Florida has become the destination for many, whether for a legitimate or exhibition fight.
“What they are doing by changing a fight’s legal status from a professional boxing match to an exhibition in order to exploit a technicality and relieve the state from liability with no regard for fighter health and safety is going to get someone killed,” said promoter Lou DiBella. “The state of Florida played Pontius Pilate here and attempted to wash its hands of potential liability. It’s hard to argue you care about fighters when you are willingly engaging in these kinds of shenanigans.”