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AMA JOURNAL CALLS FOR BAN ON BOXING

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A top medical journal, saying boxing is "medically and morally wrong," wants the United States to drop Olympic boxing.

Dr. George Lundberg, editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association, has been trying to get boxing banned for more than a decade."Boxing is the only sport in which a person wins by damaging his competitor's brain," Lundberg, a pathologist, said in an editorial Wednesday. "That is medically and morally wrong."

He said the talent pool for professional boxing would dry up if the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. military stopped sponsoring boxing teams.

"Professional boxing is a tough nut to crack," he said. "There is so much money for some people. . . . Yet, the people in amateur boxing do seem to care about the participants."

Mike Moran, a U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman, said the editorial would not affect plans to send a boxing team to the 1996 Atlanta Games. He said Olympic officials "feel very comfortable with the safety precautions in Olympic-style boxing."

Emerson Smith, former head boxing coach at the Naval Academy, said Lundberg is aiming his blows in the wrong direction because amateur boxing is safer than professional.

"The objectives of professional and amateur boxing are completely different. In amateur boxing, the emphasis is on outpointing your opponent with skill, not knocking out your opponent with force," said Smith, chairman of the safety committee of United States Amateur Boxing Inc.

Instructional boxing is mandatory at U.S. service academies, and many military boxers have gone on to successful professional careers. Leon Spinks was a Marine when he won a gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and later beat Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title.

"I coached for 30 years without anyone being injured. Amateur boxing is less dangerous than football," said Smith, who helped design lighter gloves with less impact for amateurs.

But Dr. Robert Enzenauer, who has studied the health effects of military boxing, said a boxer's brain or eye damage does not always originate with a knockout punch and may be invisible for years after he leaves the ring.

Lundberg said that when a boxer is hit in the head, the spinning motion causes the moveable and soft brain to slam into the skull, snapping brain cells and fibers.

Chronic brain damage, characterized by dementia, memory loss, slurred speech, tremor and abnormal gait, occurs in 10 percent to 15 percent of professional boxers, including Ali, Enzenauer said.