27-year-old Boxer, Ardi Ndembo, Dies After Spending Two Weeks in Coma

April 29, 2024
3 weeks

There should be plenty of caution when handling a boxer’s career. While men and women who are in their physical prime may appear invincible, they aren’t. One moment of bad luck can turn things sour quickly.

Ardi Ndembo, a 27-year-old Congolese boxer, became the most recent example of the tragedy that can follow the sport. Ndembo suffered a knockout defeat in the ring against Nestor Santana during a Team Combat League event on April 5 in Miami. When Ndembo hit the canvas, it was reported that he had been unconscious for several minutes.

While Ndembo was quickly rushed to the hospital, it was too late to save his life. While deaths occurring directly after fights are rare, online boxing news shows that those situations usually have impacts far beyond just the families and friends of the deceased fighter. Ndembo’s situation should bring attention to the Team Combat League, but it may not have much long-lasting impact beyond being a tragic story of sport gone wrong.

Ndembo Was Still Figuring Things Out

The heavyweight wasn’t a well-known fighter. Many pages and websites built to document boxing records have flagged a few of his fights as lacking information or unverified. Most people agree that Ndembo has an 8-0 career professional record.

Ndembo’s last victory came in March when he knocked out Christian Larrondo Garcia. The event that led to Ndembo suffering his fatal injury would not count against his record. Team Combat League is a team event that features a team of boxers competing against each other in a team-style event. While safety has improved when it comes to boxing, there are still a lot of horrific moments in time where fighters died due to the injuries they sustained in the ring.

Tragedy Has Hit Boxing More than MMA

Amazingly, there haven’t been any UFC fighters who have died as a direct result of a fight. However, the UFC and mixed martial arts haven’t had a long life. MMA also faced intense scrutiny before it was ever officially licensed. 

There have been an estimated 2,000 boxers who have died in the ring. However, the number of deaths has slowed down over the years. During the 1920s and 1930s, there were 19 boxing deaths a year. The average has slowed down to about eight a year.

Part of the reason is that there is a lot more medical testing and scrutiny for setting up fights. There has also been a large decline in boxing’s popularity and participation in the sport. While boxing is still popular, there aren’t quite as many young people involved in the sport as there were back in the sport’s heyday.

Doyle’s Loss Ushers in Many Changes

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Jimmy Doyle’s death was one of the first real eye-openers. In 1947, Doyle took on Sugar Ray Robinson in Cleveland, Ohio, for the welterweight championship. Doyle likely should have never fought Robinson that night.

Fifteen months before fighting Robinson, Doyle had been carried out of another fight on a stretcher after suffering a vicious knockout. Heavyweight boxing news shows that Artie Levine had sent Doyle to the canvas with serious power.

Even at the time, doctors recognized Doyle had sustained serious brain damage. Despite his family noticing Doyle struggling after the Levine fight, no one stopped him from pursuing boxing. Robinson gave Doyle a sustained beating through the fight.

There was nothing dirty involved; Robinson was the superior fighter. As a result of Doyle’s death, rules were changed to encourage referees to step in sooner to protect fighters during more one-sided bouts.

Kim Duk-koo’s Tragic End Made Major Waves

It’s hard to think of Howard Cosell and his career without thinking of Muhammad Ali. Cosell gained popularity through broadcasting on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, commentating on a lot of boxing fights, and interviewing many prominent boxers. When Kim Duk-koo died as a result of the injuries from his WBC lightweight championship fight with Ray Mancini, Cosell said he would no longer announce the sport.

But there were a lot more tragedies about the match than just Kim’s death. Kim’s mother killed herself months after the fight, and the referee from the fight also took his own life. Kim’s fiance was pregnant at the time, and his son never got to meet his father.

The latest boxing news online also showed changes due to this fight. Championship fights saw the number of total rounds shortened from 15 to 12. Referees were also encouraged to step in more when fighters could no longer defend themselves.

Choi Yo-Sam Won the Fight and Collapsed After

Choi Yo-Sam has one of the most unique stories in boxing history. Only seconds after a fight in 2008, Choi collapsed before undergoing emergency brain surgery days after a fight against Heri Amol for the WBO Intercontinental flyweight championship. Choi had won his fight by unanimous decision. 

Choi, 34, had a strong career with several world titles. Before his death, Choi finished with a 31-5 record. Choi won 19 of those fights by KO.

Boris Stanchov Should Have Watched Out for Himself

Plenty of policies and procedures can be put in place to protect fighters. What no athletic commission can prepare for, however, is deception from fighters who are turning in applications to be licensed to fight. Boris Stanchov’s dishonesty put himself and everyone on his team in a bad position.

Stanchov was fighting under the name of his cousin, Isus Velichkov. He felt that he needed to do that because he was denied a license because of his medical history. Stanchov found out why maybe he should have listened to the medical people.

Stanchov collapsed and died in the ring after what people believed was cardiac arrest. Following the discovery of who Stanchov really was, commissions needed to make the process of establishing a fighter’s real identity even more stringent.

Find all the latest boxing news and MMA breaking updates on boxingnews.com.

By Dean McHugh.