Joseph Parker's promoters Duco Events have committed to putting all boxers appearing on their cards through MRI brain scans – starting with their next event in Christchurch on December 15.
Duco Events have previously required fighters to undergo a mandatory CT scan to gain medical clearance to enter the ring. Parker's younger brother, John, was withdrawn from a fight in London in July after a regulation pre-fight scan found he had a brain aneurysm – a small tear in a blood vessel.
David Higgins' company is committing to the more thorough MRI scan in order to try to mitigate the risks in this most dangerous of sports. Recently the New Zealand Medical Council called for an immediate ban on boxing after a series of deaths in the sport, including that of Christchurch man Kain Parsons, who died after a charity event.
"We've always taken safety extremely seriously," Higgins said.
"We've very much led the way in requiring CT scans as part of the process to ensure a boxer is fit to enter the ring.
"Having observed recent tragic events in the sport, Duco has now decided to increase the threshold to include a clear MRI scan. The advice we have been given is that an MRI scan will be significantly more effective in detecting any issues that may exist, helping to ensure no boxer unwittingly puts themselves at risk of being injured in the ring."
The cost of switching from CT to MRI scanning would be absorbed by the company, Higgins said.
"It is an expensive process, but it is everyone's best interests - boxers, promoters and fans – that safety in the sport is treated as paramount.
"I'd like to think this would become standard practice in boxing."
WBO Oriental Heavyweight champion Junior Fa, who will defend his title in a premier undercard bout to the Joseph Parker v Alexander Flores main event at Horncastle Arena a fortnight on Saturday, said he welcomed the move.
"Any move that helps keep boxers safe in the ring is a good one," Fa said. "Professional boxers are highly-trained athletes who know how to look after themselves. But in any sport there is a risk of injury and this move will help decrease that risk for every boxer that steps into the ring."
The results of boxers' MRI scans, as well as a serology report and the results of a physical medical examination, must be submitted to the official event doctor prior to the event.
Fighters will also undergo a full medical examination by the event doctor at the weigh-in on the day prior to the event.
"We're really confident our medical testing is now the gold standard in the industry," Higgins said.
"This isn't a one-off. This is now the established process for all future Duco boxing promotions. I'd encourage all other promoters out there to adopt the same standards."