Sean O’Malley: Violence In Boxing Is “Hard To Watch”

Top UFC bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley has explained why he finds elements of boxing difficult to watch.

If there’s anyone who doesn’t shy away from violence, it’s an MMA fighter. In particular, a mixed martial artist who specializes in striking and the art of separating opponents from consciousness.

Having knocked out 11 of his 18 opponents, including memorable blows against Eddie Wineland and Thomas Almeida, O’Malley is well accustomed to the violence of combat sports, and that includes being on the receiving end.

In his most recent outing, O’Malley was bloodied and dazed by Petr Yan throughout their memorable three-round contest at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi.

Sean O'Malley & Petr Yan
Image Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

But despite being in a profession that involves throwing down inside a cage, there’s one combat sport that boasts rules that even “Sugar” finds to be tough viewing.

O’Malley Discusses Boxing’s Fatality Rate

Appearing on episode #133 of the JRE MMA Show, O’Malley discussed boxing’s fatality rates with UFC color commentator and podcast host Joe Rogan.

While many view MMA as the more violent of combat’s most prominent sports, largely given the variety of weapons available to fighters (elbows, knees, etc.), it actually has a much lower fatality rate.

Per an assessment of safety by the Way of Martial Arts, seven mixed martial artists were killed at sanctioned events between 2007 (when the first MMA death was recorded) and 2019, compared to 21 boxers in the same period. In that timeframe, MMA had a deaths-per-year rate of 0.58, with boxing’s number more than double at 1.75.

The report also looked to provide context on a larger scale, noting boxing’s 923 fatalities in a 118-year period between 1890 and 2007. Applying the average death rate of MMA in the 12-year period, less than 70 deaths would be expected in the same 118-year timeframe as boxing recorded close to 1,000.

When the topic was brought up by Rogan, O’Malley analyzed possible explanations for the higher death rate in boxing.

As well as suggesting that pugilists spar more often and harder than martial artists, “Sugar” suggested the fact that boxers have the opportunity to recover from knockdowns with a referee count and continue, which he described as “hard to watch,” may also contribute to more fatal incidents.

“I had a pro boxing fight a while back. I went to a gym, a pro boxing gym,” O’Malley said. “You spar Monday, Wednesday, Friday; three times a week, hard. I think a lot of the damage is in sparring, then you go in there, get dropped, get back up, get an eight count, get dropped again.

“I think it’s probably a mixture between how hard those motherf*ckers spar and then, yeah, the accumulation of getting hit in the head, getting dropped, and then the referee will let you, if you’re decent enough, continue. It’s hard to watch,” O’Malley added.

Just last week, the boxing world was shook by another passing. Former WBO minumweight champion Moises Fuentes died just over a year after suffering a blood clot in his brain as the result of a knockout loss to David Cuellar last October.

It was a similar story in October, with Colombian boxer Luis Quiñones succumbing to the injuries he sustained from a KO defeat. The 25-year-old was left in a coma, where he stayed for five days, as doctors worked to deal with a brain clot that was discovered shortly after he arrived at the hospital.

What do you make of Sean O’Malley’s take on the fatal incidents seen in boxing?

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