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WBC launches probe into boxer Sanchez's death

MEXICO CITY -- Lingering questions about the death of
Mexican boxer Martin Sanchez following a July 1 bout in Las Vegas
have prompted the World Boxing Council to launch an investigation,
the governing body's president said Tuesday.

"That life could have been saved," WBC president Jose Sulaiman
said Tuesday during an informal news conference in his Mexico City
office. "It would be dishonest of me if I remained silent."

Sulaiman did not spell out the questions about the fighter's
death, but said, "in the case of `Fireman' Sanchez, there are
things that should be investigated in greater depth."

He also announced an effort to improve boxing safety in
Indonesia, where he said several boxers have died over the past
year.

Sulaiman said a team of physicians from California, Nevada,
Mexico and the Philippines would start looking into the Sanchez
case immediately.

Sanchez, a 26-year-old Mexico City firefighter, died in a Las
Vegas hospital a day after he was knocked out in the ninth round of
a super lightweight bout against Rustam Nugaev of Russia.

Despite bleeding from the nose and mouth, Sanchez did not appear
seriously injured as he left the ring. He collapsed in the dressing
room and was taken to the hospital where he died.

Sulaiman did not detail the questions, but he said a WBC
representative sent to monitor other fights that night "was
witness to several internal events, above all in the dressing room,
where there were problems ... that were not rapidly resolved."

"That's all I know," he added. "I don't want to speak on
something that is going to be investigated but we know that
something happened."

He said the WBC probe "is not a criminal investigation" but
was meant to find ways to improve safety in future fights.

However he described a broad probe that would cover Sanchez's
private and professional life, reports from friends, an examination
of his training, of the events surrounding the fight itself and
scrutiny of the official paperwork before the bout.

Mexico City boxing officials said Sanchez had failed to receive
a medical clearance from his home commission before the U.S. bout,
though his manager has told Mexican news media that the boxer
underwent medical checks elsewhere.

Sulaiman also said the probe would look at "what weight the
fight was contracted for and if that was his weight. And if not,
why it was contracted."

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Sanchez missed the
140-pound weight limit by two pounds in on his first try at the
June 30 weigh-in.

Yet the limit itself was already a jump of three weight classes
from featherweight, where Sanchez had fought as recently as a year
earlier.

"There are accidents that, if they are foreseen, are avoided,"
said Sulaiman, who has described increased safety for boxers as one
of his greatest accomplishments.

He said another preventable ring death was that of Colombian
Jimmy Garcia, who died after a May 1995 fight with Gabriel Ruelas.

Sulaiman said a WBC investigation showed Garcia had suffered
"convulsions in his own home and the family never mentioned it. He
had problems in the gymnasium and the manager never mentioned it."

Sulaiman also said that WBC referees and medical experts were
taking part in a conference with Indonesian government officials to
strengthen boxing safety in that country, where he said five boxers
had died over the past year.

He said improvements would likely include stricter medical
supervision of fighters and bouts, training so that referees would
recognize potential neurological damage in fighters and a system to
let a ringside doctor halt a fight.