Boxer David Whittom suffers traumatic brain injury in Fredericton bout

Canadian cruiserweight boxer David Whittom is in stable condition after undergoing surgery for a brain hemorrhage, hours after losing a weekend bout in Fredericton.

New Brunswick-born fighter remains in intensive care after cruiserweight match at Aitken Centre

David Whittom, on the left in this picture, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a fight Saturday night in Fredericton. (Ellen TS Photography)

Canadian cruiserweight boxer David Whittom is in stable condition after undergoing surgery for a brain hemorrhage, hours after losing a weekend boxing match in Fredericton.

The pro boxer was rushed to Saint John Regional Hospital on Sunday morning and underwent two hours of surgery to remove a portion of his skull to give the brain, which is swollen, room to heal, according to his stepbrother.

"He's considered in stable condition but he suffered a traumatic brain injury," said Eric Moffatt.
New Brunswick-born boxer David Whittom taken to intensive care after cruiserweight match at Aitken Centre 1:14

"We're not sure how that's going to play out at this point."

Whittom, who was raised in Fredericton and lives in Quebec City, remained in the intensive-care unit Monday, heavily sedated and breathing with the help of a respirator.

Moffatt said doctors have scheduled a CT scan for Tuesday.

"It's one of those things where we expect the worst and hope for the best," he said. "The brain has to decide how it's going to heal ... it's going to be a long process."

Fight night

Whittom, 38, was fighting Gary Kopas of Saskatoon for the vacant Canadian Professional Boxing Council cruiserweight championship, and lost in the 10th round.

"It was a war," said Brandon Brewer, organizer of the night's big event. "It was a good fight back and forth."

The family is looking for thoughts and prayers for David's hopeful recovery from this.- Eric Moffatt

When Whittom finished the fight, medics checked him out and he proceeded to watch the next fights at ringside with his family.  

"In the ring, the doctor was there," said Whittom's trainer, François Duguay. "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?"

But after seven to eight minutes, Duguay said, Whittom was OK, started to recognize people and knew where he was.

"We went back to the dressing room and he was talking normally," he said. "He went in the shower … he was yelling in the shower that the water was too cold."

Shortly after midnight, Whittom left the Aitken Centre with Moffatt, who dropped him off at his mother's house and left. But Moffatt quickly returned because Whittom wasn't feeling well.

"He was complaining of a headache ... he was starting to feel like he was overheating," he said.

On the verge of throwing up, Whittom was advised by his coaches to go to the hospital. A CT scan at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital revealed the hemorrhage.

"The family is looking for thoughts and prayers for David's hopeful recovery from this," said Moffatt.

Other boxer questioned referee

In the 10th round, Gary Kopas said he questioned the referee about keeping the fight going when he saw that Whittom was in bad shape. But he was told to keep boxing, so he threw a few more punches to Whittom's head until the referee jumped in, he said.

In hindsight, he felt bad the fight didn't stop sooner, he told CBC News on Monday.

"I was mad but at the same time I was obviously pumped," he said. "I wanted to win there, but at the same time, I didn't want to hit him again either."

A love for boxing

Whittom, a native of Saint-Quentin in New Brunswick, started boxing when he was a teenager. (David Whittom/Facebook)

For the past 26 months, Whittom has been training hard and was determined to win the title fight Saturday night.

Duguay said this was his last fight.

"We were winning that fight," said Duguay. "It's not for money, it's passion."

The boxing community in both Quebec and New Brunswick have been supportive.

Whittom, a native of Saint-Quentin in New Brunswick, started boxing when he was a teenager. 

While Whittam started his career with wins in seven of his first nine fights, he became a journeyman opponent for a number of notable fighters, including current world light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson of Montreal and Quebec-based contender Eleider Alvarez.

His overall record was 12-24-1, with eight knockouts, but he had lost 18 of his last 20 bouts.

"David found his passion in boxing," Moffatt said. "He was able to find a positive outlet in boxing, and that's why the boxing community has really reached out."

Everyone is rooting for Whittom's full recovery across Eastern Canada, Brewer said.

"He's a tough cookie." ​