THE last time Marea Hobson saw her son, Lance, alive was on April 29, 1996.
It was her birthday.
Aged 23, Lance Hobson was the Australian featherweight boxing champion.
He was fighting China’s Liu Gang, a Barcelona Olympian, at the Glasshouse in Melbourne.
Marea was at Cardiff’s Iron Horse Hotel watching the fight on television with family and friends because she was rostered to work later that night.
Lance stumbled out of his corner at the beginning of the sixth round, collapsed to the canvas face first, never regained consciousness, and died at the Alfred Hospital the following day.
Exactly two years later, a coroner ruled Lance had died from a haemorrhage caused by a head injury sustained during the fight.
Marea and her husband, Robert, who was alongside trainer Wal Bentley in Lance’s corner that night, fought for an inquest in which witnesses could be called and cross-examined.
‘‘There were so many inconsistencies by the judges, the referee, the doctor, the whole lot, so we used our last bit of money and paid for a barrister who took the case on,’’ Marea said.
‘‘At Lance’s inquest, the coroner found that he died of blunt-head trauma sustained in a boxing match, and he also called for the mandatory wearing of headgear by professional boxers and larger gloves, but nothing was followed through.’’
Marea is certain Lance’s death could have been avoided if the fight had been stopped earlier.
‘‘In the second round, the Chinese boxer head-butted him, and I knew something wasn’t right. By the third round, he kept head-butting Lance and it got to the stage that he couldn’t even see,’’ Marea said.
‘‘The commentators were singing out, ‘He’s surrounded by blood. He can’t see. He can’t see,’ but they never stopped the fight and never called the doctor into the ring until the following round.
‘‘Even then, the doctor didn’t say a word to Lance because if he did, Lance would have said stop the fight. ‘‘All he was worried about was what solution Wal was using, and Wal was using the only solution he was allowed to use ... We knew what killed Lance, and we did not want any other kid to suffer the same death. That’s why we went ahead with the second inquest.’’
Marea said she could not celebrate her birthday any more.
But as a gift to her son, she has written a cautionary tale to other parents warning of the dangers of head injuries sustained in boxing and other sports involving contact with the head.
Marea first thought of writing the book in 2000, having researched deaths in boxing for two years after Lance’s inquest.
Once she committed herself to her labour of love, she would come home from working night shifts as a gaming cashier at Newcastle Panthers, shut herself away in her makeshift office, and painstakingly pen her thoughts until she could not keep her eyes open.
After ‘‘four or five’’ rewrites, and self-editing to cut down on costs, Lance ‘‘Hurricane’’ Hobson – The Boy Who Lived And Died For Boxing: A Mother’s Story was published by Citrus Press and released for online sales as an e-book in October.
‘‘I thought people need to know about this,’’ she said.
‘‘There are blood tests and MRIs and that sort of thing that can determine if a boxer has something wrong with their brain.
‘‘Repeated blows to the head can cause something very similar to Alzheimer’s, which I was never aware of.
‘‘If I’d researched the effects of boxing, Lance would never have boxed, but I didn’t do it ... .
‘‘My motive for writing the book was to alert other people, other parents, about what happens with repeated blows to the head.
‘‘It’s not just in boxing, it’s in rugby league, and it’s in soccer, when they head the ball. It’s unbelievable the amount of damage that can cause.
‘‘I feel like I’ve left a legacy for Lance, that’s the main thing, but I also want people to know about the effect of head injuries in sports like boxing, soccer, rugby league – lots of sports.’’
Lance would have turned 40 next Saturday.
Marea said her book tells the story of his life, not just his death.
‘‘People who have lost a child would be able to relate very well to the book, because the things that we feel are the way that they would feel,’’ she said.
‘‘You never get over it, of course, but it’s not a sad book.
‘‘There are parts that are sad, but I haven’t left out anything.
‘‘Lance was a fair little bugger, and it all went in ... Lance is no angel in that book, I can tell you that now.
‘‘It’s a very honest book ... and I’ve got proof of everything – letters, research, toxicology reports, everything.
‘‘I didn’t want Lance’s death to be in vain.’’
● Lance ‘‘Hurricane’’ Hobson – The Boy Who Lived And Died For Boxing: A Mother’s Story by Marea Hobson is available online through iTunes or amazon.com.