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Ringside doctors, Nevada commission clash over Mayweather vs. McGregor glove size

Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor both petitioned the Nevada commission for lighter gloves.
Esther Lin, Showtime

The Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP) believes the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) set a poor precedent in breaching its own rules for Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.

At a meeting Wednesday, the NAC voted unanimously to grant a “one-time” waiver, allowing Mayweather and McGregor to wear 8-ounce gloves, rather than 10-ounce ones, for their 154-pound boxing match Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. Per Nevada rules, 10-ounce gloves are to be worn in any boxing match contested above 147 pounds.

The commissioners argued that Mayweather vs. McGregor was a “hybrid” fight — McGregor is an MMA champion coming over from the UFC — and there was no true scientific evidence stating that lighter gloves are more dangerous from a health and safety point of view. Representatives from the teams of both McGregor and Mayweather spoke in favor of 8-ounce gloves at the meeting.

The ARP sent a letter, written by board director Dr. Raymond Monsell, to the commission Tuesday, recommending that the NAC show “caution” in breaking its rule if no scientific evidence was presented showing the lighter glove size would be safer.

In an interview with MMA Fighting on Thursday, ARP board member Dr. Jonathan Gelber said the NAC was setting a bad precedent by allowing the smaller gloves.

“Certainly, it shows that a commission will bow to the pressure of the fighters when those decisions need to be made by the commission and taken into account with advisement from the medical personnel, either the ARP or the commission doctors,” Gelber said. “Certainly it now leaves it open for any fighter in that weight class or any other weight class to do the same thing and lobby the commission to change the gloves that are allowed to be used without any scientific evidence to back it up.”

Gelber said the ARP, the association of ringside doctors that works along with the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) in advising athletic commissions in North America, sent the initial letter with hopes of giving physicians a voice in the Nevada commission’s decision.

“As a medical advisory board, our role is to put forth statements or consensus agreements that help to guide the commissions who ultimately make the rules, so that they act in a manner that’s best for the sport and best for the fighters’ health and safety,” said Gelber, a sports medicine doctor and orthopedic surgeon in New York. “And we wanted to make sure that someone representing the medical committee and the scientific community has a voice in these decisions, especially this one that seems to have been make so quickly and was sort of unprecedented.”

NAC executive director Bob Bennett told MMA Fighting that the commission was not swayed by any kind of pressure from the fighters or their teams.

“That’s certainly a poor choice of words coming from the ARP and it’s definitely inaccurate,” Bennett said. “We unequivocally disagree with the ARP’s opinion. Why aren’t they being more concerned and being proactive on the use of 4-ounce gloves in MMA?”

Bennett said the NAC ringside physicians were consulted on the decision and they approved the lighter gloves.

“We rely heavily upon our ringside physicians’ opinions in an effort to ensure the health and safety of the fighter,” Bennett said. “We have outstanding ringside physicians and lean heavily on their expertise and opinions. Furthermore, a commissioner on the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Dr. J. Daniel Carpenter, who is a board-certified doctor disagreed in an open forum with the ARP.”

Carpenter, an ophthalmologist, said during the meeting Wednesday that he did not believe the change in glove size would be a “significant issue compared to some others fights and some other fighters.”

Gelber acknowledged that there is little science out there on glove size. No one is 100 percent certain how smaller or bigger gloves — or no gloves at all — can affect the frequency of brain trauma and concussions. The Nevada commission expressed interest in launching a study on glove size following the Mayweather vs. McGregor bout. The gloves from that fight will be the first to be used in the study, NAC chairman Anthony Marnell III said Wednesday.

“We’d be happy to collaborate them,” Gelber said of the commission. “The questions that we want to answer are: does glove size, the shape of the glove, the weight of the glove, the motion of the strike, does that increase or decrease brain trauma or other injuries?”

Gelber, who founded the Mixed Martial Arts Research Society, said the big team sports like football and basketball have had the luxury of leagues with millions of dollars and the resources needed for scientific studies to be done. Boxing and MMA are a work in progress, he said.

“Now mixed martial arts and boxing are finally entering into that mainstream world and we’re trying to bring sports medicine and science to these athletes,” Gelber said. “We’re a bit behind in doing research, but there’s a lot of likeminded individuals, like myself the ARP, who are going to go forward like they do in other sports and ask these questions. We can find out what’s safer. That’s a big journey, but at least we’re heading in the right direction.”

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