Boxing, the facts

The Sport Overall

While the Board has never sought complete integration for the sport in Britain, it believes that the principle taught to boys from school age upwards should run right through the career as a boxer.

We attach an official statement from the Schools Amateur Boxing Association with only a small percentage of those who box at school and as juniors in amateur clubs ever becoming professionals, but that approach and code of behaviour goes all the way through. However, we must concentrate here on the professional side of the sport. If our figures are correct, and we are confident that they are, then the question must be posed as to why the anti-boxing lobby and, in particular, the British Medical Association, is so vociferous in its opposition?

The answer must surely be that this is not primarily a medical matter at all but rather a moral and aesthetic one. The belief that it is wrong for young men to be paid, sometimes handsomely, to hit each other and for an audience to pay, sometimes handsomely, to witness such a performance is a belief that all Stewards and Board representatives respect although they do not agree with it.

We would make the following points:-

  • No one is forced to box.
  • No one is forced to pay to watch boxing.
  • Boxing gives young men a chance to achieve something and be somebody even if only in a humble four round contest. Self confidence and self esteem are boosted.
  • Boxing audiences are not motivated by any blood lust but in the main are knowledgeable and compassionate. The few instances of bad behaviour have come from supporters of a particular boxer rather than boxing supporters generally.
  • Of course boxing is not to everyone’s taste. Nevertheless with proper safeguards in place boxing is an acceptable activity for those who wish to take part in it. The banning of boxing would merely send it underground and the era of the illegal prize fight would return with all its horrific implications.

    Ignorance has always been one of the great dangers in life, but so has the failure of a person or an organisation to put their side of the story in any particular situation.

    Certainly there remains considerable ignorance about the way in which professional boxing is administered in Britain today, and this is something the British Boxing Board of Control wishes to put right.

    Public perception may be of a sport dominated by promotional hype and the glitter and trapping added by competing television companies. The public at large enjoys the snarling pre-fight exchanges between opponents, the arrogance and theatrical swagger of brash young men, but having watched, then express concern.

    In Britain, the British Boxing Board of Control recognises the need to sell the sport to attract the audience, but is concerned to see professional boxing move slowly, but at times it seems inexorably, from being a sport to being simply a part of the show business world. Where do you find reports on professional wrestling on the sports pages?

    The Board has to strike the right balance and to do so to exercise authority in a totally unbiased way in the long term interest of boxing. For this task the present Board is well equipped with a huge store of experience amongst its Stewards. It is worth stressing that the Board is a non-profit making limited company and that no one with a financial involvement in the sport can sit as a Steward.

    Schools’ Amateur Boxing Association

    Official Statement Concerning Boxing in Schools:

    The Schools Amateur Boxing Association believes that every pupil should be given the opportunity to learn how to box and, if they so desire, to take part in amateur boxing competitions.

    Boxing is natural. In all societies pupils and young persons enjoy the challenge and exhilaration of sporting physical combat.

    Boxing is healthy for society, boxing channels aggression and the natural instinct of young persons for “fighting” (so necessary for self preservation of society) into constructive activity and achievement.

    Boxing is fun. Boxing gives enormous pleasure to many pupils.

    Boxing is healthy for the individual. Boxing training promotes the highest levels of physical fitness and the adoption of a healthy life-style.

    Boxing is educational. Boxing is a medium for the teaching of self-discipline, the need for law and order and the learning of respect.

    Boxing is enriching. Boxing helps promote qualities such as sportsmanship, confidence, self-reliance, courage, self-control, dignity, etc. which will enrich a pupil’s life.

    Boxing combats bullying. Boxing helps pupils gain in self-confidence and self-respect which lessens the likelihood of them either bullying others or being bullied.

    Boxing teaches self defence. Pupils who box are better able to defend themselves if attacked or threatened.

    Boxing provides a safety net. Boxing appeals to many young people on the fringes of society. It offers them a lifetime and a chance of growing into responsible citizens. At a time when delinquency, vandalism and violence are of such concern there is an urgent need for boxing to be brought back into schools.

    Boxing is recreational. Boxing coaching can be undertaken purely on a recreational basis, through skills development programmes leading to awards of proficiency, County and National levels, either as an end in themselves or as a preparation and competition.

    Boxing is a major Olympic sport. Boxing provides opportunities to represent County, Region or Country and to enter National and International championships in a popular and highly respected sport.

    Boxing is safe. All research into amateur and pupil boxing shows it to be one of the safest or sports with a negligible risk of injury. Research similarly shows no evidence of brain damage.

    Boxing is a highly regulated sport. Amateur and school boxers are subjected to close medical supervision and stringent regulations which are rigorously applied. School boxing should not be compared with professional boxing.

    Boxing encourages maturity and discipline. Everyone admires the qualities required to enter a boxing ring. Boxing has a vital contribution to make in the education of young people and boxing should be provided by every school.

    British Medical Association

    The BMA has campaigned against boxing since a motion calling for a ban on all forms of boxing was passed at its Annual Conference more than ten years ago. Only after that decision did the BMA set up any investigation into the sport.

    Even then they refused to permit the Board’s Medical Panel to attend any hearing to present evidence and stated they wanted only written evidence. They should not have been surprised that the Board refused access to records and that their subsequent reports are badly flawed as they contain no accurate domestic information.

    The BMA argue that the number of ex-boxers suffering the so-called “punch drunk” syndrome and now confined to psychiatric units is extremely high. When challenged they cannot produce figures.

    In 1984, in their report calling for a ban on boxing, they suggested that some 70% of boxers suffered serious eye damage. The allegation was queried by the Board, the method of research was flawed and had never been confirmed by the BMA or any Ophthalmic Surgeons.

    The modern treatment of retinal holes, tears and detachments would suggest that even if this did occur, following treatment a boxer’s eye might be stronger and less liable to further damage than in a normal healthy adult.

    This suggestion has indeed been put forward by Professor David McLeod, Professor of Ophthalmology in Manchester while recently working in America has suggested that cataracts can be successfully removed and that following a lens implant a boxer may be able to return to the ring.

    Boxing today could not be regulated in its present form without the active support and co-operation of doctors. Many of the Board’s Medical Officers are indeed members of the BMA which, like the Board, is not a statutory body and which represents only a percentage, albeit a substantial one, of doctors registers with the General Medical Council.

    How the Board Operates

    The Board was created in 1929 and ever since has effectively controlled the professional side of the sport in Britain and Northern Ireland. It operates through seven (7) Area Councils and consists of five (5) Administrative Stewards and seven (7) Representative Stewards (one from each Area). Stewards have equal voting rights.

    The Board has no statutory status and deals only with the professional side of the sport in the United Kingdom. Relations with the Amateur body have been close and have reached a point were genuine liaison and co-operation now seems possible. The Board is fully committed to a friendly association and would welcome outside funding to take medical research forward in the interests of the sport as a whole.

    In the past 30 years the Board has become a leading member of the World Boxing Council, the largest of the world championship organisations. It deplores the continued formation of more and more “world” championships, but has become affiliated with three more, the World Boxing Association, the International Boxing Federation and the World Boxing Organisation, simply to safeguard the interests of its licence holders who seek the commercial opportunities on offer.

    Another important International involvement for the Board is with the European Boxing Union which controls European professional championships. The EBU Ltd. has its administrative office in Rome. The Board is also a member of the Commonwealth Boxing Council.

    The responsibilities of the Board include the licensing of members in all categories stretching from Promoters through Managers and Boxers to everyone directly or commercially involved. This includes the licensing, training and appointments of both Referees and Timekeepers. The Board administers British Championships, Eliminators and English and Celtic Championships with each Area having its own champions. The Stewards are acutely aware of the image of the sport and on many occasions have acted against licence holders alleged to have brought the sport into disrepute.

    The medical and safety sides to the sport are of paramount importance and will be dealt with separately.

    A special legal commission with the Board has revised various of the Board’s contracts from time to time while any appeals against decisions made by the Board or an Area Council go to a panel made up, in the main, of leading barristers and solicitors. These Appeal Stewards are not Directors of the Company and take no part in the running of the Board with the exception of hearing Appeals. They give their services in the interest of boxing and are wholly independant.

    Medical and Safety Requirements

    The Board’s medical operation is headed by the Board’s Honorary Medical Consultant. Each of the seven Areas has its own Chief Medical Officer and the leading doctors meet centrally at least once a year to review current events and needs.

    Each Area has its own panel of doctors, all of them fully aware of the requirements of the Board. As back up the Board can call on a wide range of specialists in many fields of medicine including neurology, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, cardiology and orthopaedic surgery. These consultants advise the Board as well as examining boxers.

    The recommendations of an Independent Neurological Panel chaired by Mr. Peter Richards, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford have been accepted and implemented by the Board.

    At times the Board has to react to events, especially when a boxer is seriously injured in the ring. However, the Board also considers, and has brought into practice, tighter medical controls simply as a result of its own research. An example of this is the introduction of MRI/MRA brain scanning for all boxers as they turn professional.

    At ringside the medical resources poised to respond are considerable, as has been proved on a number of occasions in the past two years, and are aimed to avoid knee-jerk reaction while keeping all medical and safety procedures under constant review.

    An awareness programme concerning the dangers of dehydration, weight loss and HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infection is already in place and all boxers must undergo a programme of inoculation against Hepatitis ‘B’.

    Full details of all the medical regulations and ringside safety rules are available on request.

    The Board and its Medical Officers are fully aware of the dangers of the sport and are sure that its Regulations protect those professional boxers, who would otherwise be at greater risk, from these dangers and limit as much as possible not only the acute, but also the chronic, injuries that occur in any contact sport.

    Looking to the Future

    Following the recommendations of an independent panel of neurological experts the Board has adopted a number of additional safeguards. These will include:-

  • Weigh-in times have been brought forward to the day before a contest. In fact weigh-ins must take place between 24 and 36 hours before the relevant tournament.
  • MRI/MRA brain scans are now compulsory for all boxers upon application for a boxers licence and annual MRI scans for all boxers licensed in Britain upon renewal of licence.
  • The minimum suspension period for boxers knocked out or stopped by punches to the head will now be between 28 and 45 days at the discretion of the Board’s Medical Officers at ringside.
  • Referees are now permitted to consult a ringside doctor at any time during a contest.
  • The two Board Medical Officers at ringside for every contest must enter the ring immediately at the end of all contests to check both boxers. This check will not take the place of the routine examinations that are already required by the Regulations.
  • Doctors and Paramedics at ringside must be clearly identifiable and seated where they can see clearly and gain immediate access to the ring should a boxer require treatment.
  • The vast majority of the medical requirements of the Board are designed to make it as certain as is possible that all boxers are fully fit when they enter the ring for a contest. In Britain, boxers are among the most closely monitored sports people from the medical point of view. Even then it has to be recognised that there will be injuries from time to time which is why the Board’s ringside safety requirements are so strict.

    If a boxer suffers a head injury then it is imperative that they be removed to the nearest neurosurgical unit as rapidly as possible. This means having at least one ambulance and paramedic team on hand for every tournament and a telephone link available to the surgical unit so that it will be on full alert should an injured boxer be sent to it. The Board received world-wide praise for the speed with which Gerald McClellan was removed to hospital from the London Arena in February 1995 and when Orlin Norris needed to be sent to hospital in even faster time. Norris was simply exhausted but McClellan regrettably is still severely handicapped by his injuries.

    Conclusion

    The true facts, both medical and statistical, support boxing at all stages but then there is the moral issue. Boxing believes that the good the sport can do for young people far outweighs the fact that they take punches under strictly controlled conditions. They do so from their own free will and it must remain their right to make that decision.

    The main danger must be the problem of brain damage that can lead to impairment. The Board, indeed all boxing authorities, recognise that it is there and has not only taken a series of steps to counteract it but has been active, and remains willing to join, in research particularly in areas that concerns the brain.

    The safety of boxing for schoolboys is now being recognised more and more while many recent reports support amateur boxing as being one of the safest of activities. Or course, professional boxing is a different matter, the dangers are greater. Comparisons with other sports come out in favour of Boxing.

    The British Boxing Board of Control recognises its responsibility to exercise that control firmly and with the safety of boxers uppermost. There may be some in the sport who do not like the watchword “Health before Wealth”. The Board does.

    Peter Corrigan wrote in the Independent on Sunday “The Board is without doubt the most responsible body in world boxing”.

    Statements of this kind show the Board that it has a great deal to live up to and yet it recognises fully that it has to continue the work to make boxing even safer.

    Boxing, the facts


    The Sport Overall

    While the Board has never sought complete integration for the sport in Britain, it believes that the principle taught to boys from school age upwards should run right through the career as a boxer.

    We attach an official statement from the Schools Amateur Boxing Association with only a small percentage of those who box at school and as juniors in amateur clubs ever becoming professionals, but that approach and code of behaviour goes all the way through. However, we must concentrate here on the professional side of the sport. If our figures are correct, and we are confident that they are, then the question must be posed as to why the anti-boxing lobby and, in particular, the British Medical Association, is so vociferous in its opposition?

    The answer must surely be that this is not primarily a medical matter at all but rather a moral and aesthetic one. The belief that it is wrong for young men to be paid, sometimes handsomely, to hit each other and for an audience to pay, sometimes handsomely, to witness such a performance is a belief that all Stewards and Board representatives respect although they do not agree with it.

    We would make the following points:-

  • No one is forced to box.
  • No one is forced to pay to watch boxing.
  • Boxing gives young men a chance to achieve something and be somebody even if only in a humble four round contest. Self confidence and self esteem are boosted.
  • Boxing audiences are not motivated by any blood lust but in the main are knowledgeable and compassionate. The few instances of bad behaviour have come from supporters of a particular boxer rather than boxing supporters generally.
  • Of course boxing is not to everyone’s taste. Nevertheless with proper safeguards in place boxing is an acceptable activity for those who wish to take part in it. The banning of boxing would merely send it underground and the era of the illegal prize fight would return with all its horrific implications.

    Ignorance has always been one of the great dangers in life, but so has the failure of a person or an organisation to put their side of the story in any particular situation.

    Certainly there remains considerable ignorance about the way in which professional boxing is administered in Britain today, and this is something the British Boxing Board of Control wishes to put right.

    Public perception may be of a sport dominated by promotional hype and the glitter and trapping added by competing television companies. The public at large enjoys the snarling pre-fight exchanges between opponents, the arrogance and theatrical swagger of brash young men, but having watched, then express concern.

    In Britain, the British Boxing Board of Control recognises the need to sell the sport to attract the audience, but is concerned to see professional boxing move slowly, but at times it seems inexorably, from being a sport to being simply a part of the show business world. Where do you find reports on professional wrestling on the sports pages?

    The Board has to strike the right balance and to do so to exercise authority in a totally unbiased way in the long term interest of boxing. For this task the present Board is well equipped with a huge store of experience amongst its Stewards. It is worth stressing that the Board is a non-profit making limited company and that no one with a financial involvement in the sport can sit as a Steward.

    Schools’ Amateur Boxing Association

    Official Statement Concerning Boxing in Schools:

    The Schools Amateur Boxing Association believes that every pupil should be given the opportunity to learn how to box and, if they so desire, to take part in amateur boxing competitions.

    Boxing is natural. In all societies pupils and young persons enjoy the challenge and exhilaration of sporting physical combat.

    Boxing is healthy for society, boxing channels aggression and the natural instinct of young persons for “fighting” (so necessary for self preservation of society) into constructive activity and achievement.

    Boxing is fun. Boxing gives enormous pleasure to many pupils.

    Boxing is healthy for the individual. Boxing training promotes the highest levels of physical fitness and the adoption of a healthy life-style.

    Boxing is educational. Boxing is a medium for the teaching of self-discipline, the need for law and order and the learning of respect.

    Boxing is enriching. Boxing helps promote qualities such as sportsmanship, confidence, self-reliance, courage, self-control, dignity, etc. which will enrich a pupil’s life.

    Boxing combats bullying. Boxing helps pupils gain in self-confidence and self-respect which lessens the likelihood of them either bullying others or being bullied.

    Boxing teaches self defence. Pupils who box are better able to defend themselves if attacked or threatened.

    Boxing provides a safety net. Boxing appeals to many young people on the fringes of society. It offers them a lifetime and a chance of growing into responsible citizens. At a time when delinquency, vandalism and violence are of such concern there is an urgent need for boxing to be brought back into schools.

    Boxing is recreational. Boxing coaching can be undertaken purely on a recreational basis, through skills development programmes leading to awards of proficiency, County and National levels, either as an end in themselves or as a preparation and competition.

    Boxing is a major Olympic sport. Boxing provides opportunities to represent County, Region or Country and to enter National and International championships in a popular and highly respected sport.

    Boxing is safe. All research into amateur and pupil boxing shows it to be one of the safest or sports with a negligible risk of injury. Research similarly shows no evidence of brain damage.

    Boxing is a highly regulated sport. Amateur and school boxers are subjected to close medical supervision and stringent regulations which are rigorously applied. School boxing should not be compared with professional boxing.

    Boxing encourages maturity and discipline. Everyone admires the qualities required to enter a boxing ring. Boxing has a vital contribution to make in the education of young people and boxing should be provided by every school.

    British Medical Association

    The BMA has campaigned against boxing since a motion calling for a ban on all forms of boxing was passed at its Annual Conference more than ten years ago. Only after that decision did the BMA set up any investigation into the sport.

    Even then they refused to permit the Board’s Medical Panel to attend any hearing to present evidence and stated they wanted only written evidence. They should not have been surprised that the Board refused access to records and that their subsequent reports are badly flawed as they contain no accurate domestic information.

    The BMA argue that the number of ex-boxers suffering the so-called “punch drunk” syndrome and now confined to psychiatric units is extremely high. When challenged they cannot produce figures.

    In 1984, in their report calling for a ban on boxing, they suggested that some 70% of boxers suffered serious eye damage. The allegation was queried by the Board, the method of research was flawed and had never been confirmed by the BMA or any Ophthalmic Surgeons.

    The modern treatment of retinal holes, tears and detachments would suggest that even if this did occur, following treatment a boxer’s eye might be stronger and less liable to further damage than in a normal healthy adult.

    This suggestion has indeed been put forward by Professor David McLeod, Professor of Ophthalmology in Manchester while recently working in America has suggested that cataracts can be successfully removed and that following a lens implant a boxer may be able to return to the ring.

    Boxing today could not be regulated in its present form without the active support and co-operation of doctors. Many of the Board’s Medical Officers are indeed members of the BMA which, like the Board, is not a statutory body and which represents only a percentage, albeit a substantial one, of doctors registers with the General Medical Council.

    How the Board Operates

    The Board was created in 1929 and ever since has effectively controlled the professional side of the sport in Britain and Northern Ireland. It operates through seven (7) Area Councils and consists of five (5) Administrative Stewards and seven (7) Representative Stewards (one from each Area). Stewards have equal voting rights.

    The Board has no statutory status and deals only with the professional side of the sport in the United Kingdom. Relations with the Amateur body have been close and have reached a point were genuine liaison and co-operation now seems possible. The Board is fully committed to a friendly association and would welcome outside funding to take medical research forward in the interests of the sport as a whole.

    In the past 30 years the Board has become a leading member of the World Boxing Council, the largest of the world championship organisations. It deplores the continued formation of more and more “world” championships, but has become affiliated with three more, the World Boxing Association, the International Boxing Federation and the World Boxing Organisation, simply to safeguard the interests of its licence holders who seek the commercial opportunities on offer.

    Another important International involvement for the Board is with the European Boxing Union which controls European professional championships. The EBU Ltd. has its administrative office in Rome. The Board is also a member of the Commonwealth Boxing Council.

    The responsibilities of the Board include the licensing of members in all categories stretching from Promoters through Managers and Boxers to everyone directly or commercially involved. This includes the licensing, training and appointments of both Referees and Timekeepers. The Board administers British Championships, Eliminators and English and Celtic Championships with each Area having its own champions. The Stewards are acutely aware of the image of the sport and on many occasions have acted against licence holders alleged to have brought the sport into disrepute.

    The medical and safety sides to the sport are of paramount importance and will be dealt with separately.

    A special legal commission with the Board has revised various of the Board’s contracts from time to time while any appeals against decisions made by the Board or an Area Council go to a panel made up, in the main, of leading barristers and solicitors. These Appeal Stewards are not Directors of the Company and take no part in the running of the Board with the exception of hearing Appeals. They give their services in the interest of boxing and are wholly independant.

    Medical and Safety Requirements

    The Board’s medical operation is headed by the Board’s Honorary Medical Consultant. Each of the seven Areas has its own Chief Medical Officer and the leading doctors meet centrally at least once a year to review current events and needs.

    Each Area has its own panel of doctors, all of them fully aware of the requirements of the Board. As back up the Board can call on a wide range of specialists in many fields of medicine including neurology, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, cardiology and orthopaedic surgery. These consultants advise the Board as well as examining boxers.

    The recommendations of an Independent Neurological Panel chaired by Mr. Peter Richards, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford have been accepted and implemented by the Board.

    At times the Board has to react to events, especially when a boxer is seriously injured in the ring. However, the Board also considers, and has brought into practice, tighter medical controls simply as a result of its own research. An example of this is the introduction of MRI/MRA brain scanning for all boxers as they turn professional.

    At ringside the medical resources poised to respond are considerable, as has been proved on a number of occasions in the past two years, and are aimed to avoid knee-jerk reaction while keeping all medical and safety procedures under constant review.

    An awareness programme concerning the dangers of dehydration, weight loss and HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infection is already in place and all boxers must undergo a programme of inoculation against Hepatitis ‘B’.

    Full details of all the medical regulations and ringside safety rules are available on request.

    The Board and its Medical Officers are fully aware of the dangers of the sport and are sure that its Regulations protect those professional boxers, who would otherwise be at greater risk, from these dangers and limit as much as possible not only the acute, but also the chronic, injuries that occur in any contact sport.

    Looking to the Future

    Following the recommendations of an independent panel of neurological experts the Board has adopted a number of additional safeguards. These will include:-

  • Weigh-in times have been brought forward to the day before a contest. In fact weigh-ins must take place between 24 and 36 hours before the relevant tournament.
  • MRI/MRA brain scans are now compulsory for all boxers upon application for a boxers licence and annual MRI scans for all boxers licensed in Britain upon renewal of licence.
  • The minimum suspension period for boxers knocked out or stopped by punches to the head will now be between 28 and 45 days at the discretion of the Board’s Medical Officers at ringside.
  • Referees are now permitted to consult a ringside doctor at any time during a contest.
  • The two Board Medical Officers at ringside for every contest must enter the ring immediately at the end of all contests to check both boxers. This check will not take the place of the routine examinations that are already required by the Regulations.
  • Doctors and Paramedics at ringside must be clearly identifiable and seated where they can see clearly and gain immediate access to the ring should a boxer require treatment.
  • The vast majority of the medical requirements of the Board are designed to make it as certain as is possible that all boxers are fully fit when they enter the ring for a contest. In Britain, boxers are among the most closely monitored sports people from the medical point of view. Even then it has to be recognised that there will be injuries from time to time which is why the Board’s ringside safety requirements are so strict.

    If a boxer suffers a head injury then it is imperative that they be removed to the nearest neurosurgical unit as rapidly as possible. This means having at least one ambulance and paramedic team on hand for every tournament and a telephone link available to the surgical unit so that it will be on full alert should an injured boxer be sent to it. The Board received world-wide praise for the speed with which Gerald McClellan was removed to hospital from the London Arena in February 1995 and when Orlin Norris needed to be sent to hospital in even faster time. Norris was simply exhausted but McClellan regrettably is still severely handicapped by his injuries.

    Conclusion

    The true facts, both medical and statistical, support boxing at all stages but then there is the moral issue. Boxing believes that the good the sport can do for young people far outweighs the fact that they take punches under strictly controlled conditions. They do so from their own free will and it must remain their right to make that decision.

    The main danger must be the problem of brain damage that can lead to impairment. The Board, indeed all boxing authorities, recognise that it is there and has not only taken a series of steps to counteract it but has been active, and remains willing to join, in research particularly in areas that concerns the brain.

    The safety of boxing for schoolboys is now being recognised more and more while many recent reports support amateur boxing as being one of the safest of activities. Or course, professional boxing is a different matter, the dangers are greater. Comparisons with other sports come out in favour of Boxing.

    The British Boxing Board of Control recognises its responsibility to exercise that control firmly and with the safety of boxers uppermost. There may be some in the sport who do not like the watchword “Health before Wealth”. The Board does.

    Peter Corrigan wrote in the Independent on Sunday “The Board is without doubt the most responsible body in world boxing”.

    Statements of this kind show the Board that it has a great deal to live up to and yet it recognises fully that it has to continue the work to make boxing even safer.

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