Over a thousand professional boxers can breathe a sigh of relief after the Department of Health assured they can undergo free CT Scans and MRI tests for free to comply with the sport's requirements that would otherwise cost thousands annually.

DOH has entered into a partnership with the Games and Amusement Board, which grants professional licenses to athletes to ensure the boxers' health. GAB is tasked with regulating and supervising the conduct of professional boxing and other contact sports in the country.

GAB Chairman Abraham Mitra said it was grateful to the health agency and noted its being receptive to the needs of 1,054 professional boxers, who will also be entitled to medical and neurological check-ups in government-run medical facilities.

Professional boxers are required to undergo medical evaluation tests annually, the results of which are submitted to the GAB. These tests cost an average of Php3,000 to Php5,000 for CT Scan, and Php10,000 to Php15,000 for MRI studies.

The amounts put a heavy financial toll on pugilists, who mostly early an average of Php1,000 per round during a fight.

Heavy financial toll

Mitra told mediamen at a press conference that majority of pro boxers could be categorized as below-minimum wage earners, citing they only make Php6,000 for a fight that lasts six rounds.

But because of the physical toll on athletes, matches are scheduled with lengthy breaks in between, so earnings are very minimal.

“One thousand pesos per round. If it’s a 6 rounder, then they earn only Php 6,000 every 45 days, because the rest period is 45 days in between fights. If you are knocked down, it’s 60 days, if you are knocked down with a blow to the head, then it’s 90 days. So can you imagine Php 6,000 per 60 to 90 days?” Chairman Mitra explained

Exacerbating the problem is the dwindling number of sponsors for professional boxers.

A shot in the arm

The DOH, lead by Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial, assured that such services will be provided to Filipino professional boxers.

“I assure our dedicated professional boxers that DOH welcomes this ongoing partnership with the Games and Amusement Board which aims to secure their overall well-being in the practice of his profession,”she said.

The idea of asking for support for medical testing came from the boxers, managers and promoters themselves, according to the GAB official. The GAB forwarded the concern to the DOH, which responded positively.

Depending on the boxer’s condition and the requirements of the boxing association where the boxer is slated to fight, the department could provide assistance for Electroencephalogram, X-Ray, hepatitis screening, drug testing, Complete Blood Count, urinalysis, and blood chemistry for kidney and liver conditions, aside from the medical, neurological exam, CT scan and MRI.

Participating hospitals include Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center for the diagnostic procedures.

In the province, the Southern Mindanao Provincial Medical Center in Davao, and the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu will provide such services.

Mitra added that there are instances where a boxer is allowed to train in other places, in which case, that is where he will get the free examinations.

Boxers and referees present at the event received the MOA well, expressing their gratitude to the health department.

“As stipulated in the MOA, both parties within 30 days after the MOA signing shall form a joint committee to draw the final guidelines necessary to implement the terms of this agreement,” said DOH in a statement.

Games and Amusement Board Chairman Abraham Mitra and Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial at the MOA signing for free medical testing for boxers

Games and Amusement Board Chairman Abraham Mitra and Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial at the MOA signing for free medical testing for boxers

Budget and PhilHealth

DOH did not specify a budget for the programme, saying it cannot be fixed because it depends on the condition and needs of the boxers. But the department will use the Medical Assistance Program (MAP) funds.

Earlier, Secretary Ubial noted that they also intend to provide assistance to boxers through PhilHealth.

“One of the things we’re working on is that all boxers should have Philhealth enrollments paid for by the government. We will include them in the indigency programme of the National Insurance Corporation wherein the poor are automatically enrolled and the government pays for the premium,” she said.

She also noted that the direction for all Filipinos is to have annual check-ups, professional boxers and workers from other sectors such as fisherfolk are included. MIMS

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