Until recently, death used to lurk around every corner. Disease, starvation, logging accident; you name it — the reaper could come knocking at any time. While unexpected deaths are almost non-existent today, there is still one place where you could still drop dead: the boxing ring.
Since the 1880s, there have been 500 people killed either in the ring or as a direct result of injuries sustained during a boxing match. Granted, we’ve come a long way, safety-wise, since the days of Jack Dempsey and Jess Willard. Referees are a lot more proactive in stopping lopsided fights before the losing fighter is physically knocked out.
You’d never see a round this brutal today:
Though the sport has evolved to the point where safety is constantly top-of-mind, the dangers of boxing are still very real. A Canadian named Tim Hauge died in June of 2017 after being knocked down five times in the first two rounds of a fight, and a Scottish fighter named Mike Towell died in September of 2016 after a fight. These weren’t WorldStar street fights; they were legit professional boxing matches.
No other sport poses anywhere near the danger that boxing does. Around 140 people have died playing soccer since the 1880s, but soccer is an 11-a-side affair, and most of those deaths have been cardiac-related, not a result of being bludgeoned in the head.
51 Formula 1 drivers have died since statistics started being recorded in 1952, although the sport is orders of magnitude safer than it was decades ago. In the 1950s, racing may have rivaled boxing as the world’s most dangerous sport; drivers were dying at a clip of one per year, and there weren’t very many races on the circuit back then.
Cycling has claimed 114 lives since the 1890s, but like soccer, most of those deaths were cardiac related.
Only one player in NHL history has ever died from an injury sustained on the ice, Bill Masterson back in 1968. 30 hours after collapsing from a routine hit, he was dead, though most suspect his death was the cumulative effect hits sustained over his hocker career rather than one acute blow.
In any case, no sport carries near the risk that boxing does. It’s the ultimate test of character and mettle, but it’s also the sport most likely to get you killed.