David Whittom, of Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, passed away on March 16th after a 10 month long coma (per CBC News). Whittom, was placed in a medically induced coma in May 2017 after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a boxing match at the Aitken Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He was 39 years old.
Whittom, who was born in New Brunswick, faced Gary Kopas of Saskatoon in his final match. That fight was being contested for the Canadian Professional Boxing Council’s cruiserweight championship.
“It was a war,” said fight promoter Brandon Brewer, when talking to CBC News. In the latter stages of the fight, Kopas gained the upper hand, repeatedly landing heavy blows to Whittom’s head. In subsequent interviews Kopas revealed that during the 10th round he questioned the referee, Hubert Earle, about whether or not the fight should continue; based on the damage Whittom was taking.
Kopas said the referee allowed him to hit Whittom in the head a few more times, before jumping in and waving the fight off. “I was mad, but at the same time I was obviously pumped,” said Kopas. “I wanted to win there, but at the same time, I didn’t want to hit him again either.”
After the fight Whittom was checked over by medics before sitting ringside with his family to watch the next fight. Whittom’s trainer Francois Duguay said that when Whittom was speaking to the ringside physician, the boxer struggled to answer simple questions. “He didn’t respond very well to all the questions, like the date, which year we are, where we are right now, who’s that guy beside you?” said Duguay to CBC News.
Duguay said that after several minutes Whittom started to recognize where he was and the people who were around him. After some time at ringside, Whittom headed back to the dressing room. He took a shower and shortly after midnight he left the Aitken Centre.
Whittom’s friend Eric Moffat gave him a ride to his mother’s house, but quickly returned after Whittom complained of having a headache and feeling like he was “overheating”. Whittom was also nauseous, so his coaches decide to take him to Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital.
At the hospital a CT scan revealed that Whittom had suffered a hemorrhage (brain bleed). With the resulting pool of blood exerting pressure on his brain, Whittom was placed into an artificial coma. Whittom turned 39 on March 10th, seven days before he died.
Whittom had a record of 12 wins, 24 losses, and 1 draw. Of his 12 victories, 8 came via TKO/KO. Of his 24 losses, half of them were TKO/KOs. In his penultimate fight, in March 2016, Whittom lost via first round TKO to MMA veteran Ryan Ford at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alberta.
Since 2008, Whittom’s pro boxing record was 3-19. He suffered 9 TKO/KO losses over that time.
Whittom’s friend, and fellow boxer, Eric Martel-Bahoeli spoke with CBC’s French-language counterpart Radio Canada shortly after Whittom’s death. “He was passionate about his sport,” said Martel-Bahoeli.
“It’s not easy, it’s been 10 months that we knew he wasn’t well... It’s a shock, it’s extremely difficult. But at the same time, now that he’s dead, of course it’s hard, but in some ways I tell myself it’s probably better like that. But at the same time, we didn’t wish for that either. I didn’t want to lose my friend because of boxing.”
In October, the New Brunswick Combat Sports Commission conducted an internal review regarding Whittom’s fight with Kopas. That body found no wrongdoing or neglect.
Whittom’s death comes less than a month after British boxer Scott Westgarth died from a brain bleed after winning a 10-round decision in Doncaster, England. Westgarth was taken to hospital after collapsing in his dressing room after the fight. He died the next day at Royal Hallamshire Hospital. He was 31.
In December Swedish boxer Erik Skoglund, 26, also suffered a brain bleed. His came after a sparring session. Skoglund was given surgery and placed in a medically induced coma. He woke up in January and is now recovering at home.
Brain bleeds, which often feature a ‘lucid interval’ where the sufferer shows no visible signs of injury, were also the causes of death for former UFC heavyweight Tim Hague (who died after a boxing match in Edmonton, Alberta last June) and Joao Carvalho (who died after an MMA fight with Charlie Ward in Dublin, Ireland in April 2016).