By Boxing Bob Newman
Day 3 of the WBA Centennial Convention opened at 9 am with the medical seminar. President Mendoza opened with remarks, especially on mental illness, which has been at the forefront of news in recent years. The panel consisted of Miss Shivana Inalsingh, Dr. Joseph Istwanik, Dr. Nina Radcliff and Dr. Adriana Valbuena.
dr Istwanik opened by referencing a recent meeting of the Association of Ringside Physicians in Las Vegas. Headgear and its effectiveness / ineffectiveness were discussed. Estwanik opined that headgear actually influences the fighter’s approach to the fight. Boxers using headgear tend to be less worried about taking head shots than those without.
Estwanik touched on two recent cases of suicide involving participants of combat sports, again emphasizing the importance of mental health.
Shivana Inalsingh then introduced Dr. Adriana Valbuena, a sports psychologist and mental health coach. Valbuena first discussed the reactions of athletes when faced with the proposition of seeing a mental health specialist- fear, resistance, pressure and ego. Valbuena also discussed a boxer’s eating disorders- skipping meals, wearing clothes to force perspiration, roller coaster weight fluctuation and binge eating.
Depression was also discussed. Lack of desire, feeling empty, loss of appetite, not feeling good enough are symptoms of depression. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is another concern within mental health treatment. Also, dealing with injuries and rehab is important. Valbuena emphasized a target: associate seeing a psychologist with performance improvement and success.
Inalsingh then introduced Dr. Nina Radcliff, a board certified anesthesiologist and ringside physician. Radcliff opened with a slide showing statistics with roughly 10% of the world population suffering from some sort of mental illness.
Radcliff then focused on eating disorders. The spectrum of anorexia to bulemia was explored. Even tracking carb, water and protein intake, in an effort to be “healthy,” can fall under eating disorders. Rigid rituals can also be problematic. Problems associated with disordered eating include gastrointestinal problems, electrolyte imbalance and even behavioral issues.
Shivana Inalsingh is a clinical reflexologist and wears many hats in and out of boxing. Her talk was on Mental Fitness in Boxing- Growing Your 3 Core Muscles for High Performance and Happiness. Mental fitness is the ability to adjust positively to adverse situations, rather than negatively. The 3 core “muscles” are: 1. Sabateur interceptor, 2. Sage and 3. Self-command. Inalsingh delved into self-analysis exercises, allowing attendees to perhaps “discover” more about themselves and their perceptions- perception is one’s reality.
dr Roberto Ramirez, Jr. and Bernard Hopkins were added to the panel to add to the discussion of mental health, emceed by boxing commentator Claudia Trejos.
Hopkins opened with the thought that fighters hide their options because they are perceived as super heroes. Fighters can’t show vulnerability as it damages their marketability and veneer of invincibility. Hopkins cautioned against letting boxing become the “red light district” of sports. “There are other fighters, administrators, officials coming behind us in boxing. We need to be able to pass the baton to them so they can run with it and not walk!”
dr Roberto Ramirez, Jr. (Yes, the world class referee from Puerto Rico, is a mental health counselor) discussed the importance of support of others, plain simple.
Aussie middleweight contender Michael Zerafa spoke of the hardship when his best friend committed suicide.
Author Alberto Agámez from Colombia, discussed his book, “Todos Somos Culpable,” (We are all guilty) about the tragic case of Tomas Molinares. Molinares won the WBA welterweight title in dramatic style with an at-the-bell one punch KO of champion Marlon Starling in 1988. The ensuing controversy that swirled around Molinares’ victory may have been the trigger for Molinares to sink to the depths of mental health hell. He never defended the title and was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic with bipolar disorder. Agámez explained that tile “We are all guilty,” is different from being ‘responsible.’
President Mendoza discussed his awareness of mental health. Mendoza showed a photo of his late father with Molinares. He told of a visit to Molinares, offering him the photo as a gift, then Molinares’ reaction of trembling at the sight of the photo, remembering what once was. Mendoza discussed his mother losing a 10 month old child when the Mendozas lived in Toledo, OH back in the early 80s. She never sought mental health help. Lastly, he told of receiving a text from former WBA legal counsel Jimmy Binns, asking, “How are you?” Mendoza opted to answer it the next day when he woke up. He learned that Binns had committed suicide that next day. “I live with that every day,” said Mendoza.
With that Inalsingh closed the session with a centering, calming and positive energy exercise.
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