A teenage boxer driven by dreams of being a world champion collapsed in the ring and later died after pushing himself through an ‘excessive’ training regime, an inquest heard.
In the build up to a momentous amateur bout Eddie Bilbey had been taking four hot baths a day, sleeping wrapped in several duvets and missing meals in a desperate bid to make the weight.
The talented 17-year-old, who had an undiagnosed heart problem, suddenly collapsed as he and his opponent waited for the referee’s decision at the end of their contest.
Despite attempts to save the welterweight who ‘lived and breathed boxing’, he never regained consciousness.
Now serious concerns have been raised about the way the young fighter was supervised by both his boxing coaches and those who run the sport.
Talented boxer 17-year-old Eddie Bilbey collapsed in the ring while awaiting the result of a boxing match. He died in hospital that night sparking concerns about the way the young fighter was supervised by both his boxing coaches and those who run the sport, inquest heard
Chesterfield Coroner’s Court was told his death could have been caused by the underlying heart condition, over-training ahead of the fight or a deadly combination of the two.
A post-mortem found the boxer’s heart was enlarged and showed signs of scarring, possibly caused by an inherited condition.
Mother’s tribute to her ‘special angel boy’
After the teenager’s death his mother Michelle paid tribute to ‘her special angel boy’ who she called ‘my champ’.
She said he had ‘given up the usual life of a 17-year-old’ to concentrate on fulfilling his dreams.
‘Come rain, shine or indeed any weather or any time of day you’d find Ed out running, pounding the streets, headphones in with one dream in mind – to be somebody in boxing, the best he could possibly be – a world champion one day, an amateur boxer for England now if he worked hard,’ she said.
‘He lived and breathed boxing; it was his life, his passion.
‘It may be that that’s where his life ended but knowing Eddie as I do, he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.’
Eddie’s mother Michelle Bilbey
But another doctor said some of the changes to his heart, as well as his brain and adrenal glands, could have been the outcome of stresses placed on them by repeated weight loss and dehydration.
The inquest heard Eddie stumbled forward moments after the end of the contest against Tyler River which was held at the end of the fight at The Post Mill Centre in South Normanton, Derbys, on 24 March 2017.
He had shaken the hand of his opponent’s coach and returned to the centre of the ring for the decision before collapsing into the ropes. He began vomiting and fitting.
There was a doctor present who treated him before paramedics arrived, but his heart had stopped beating. The court heard there was a delay dialling 999.
Tragically he was pronounced dead on arrival at Queens Mill Hospital, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts.
To those who knew the ‘fine young man’ he appeared extremely fit and there were no concerns relating to his health before he stepped into the ring on the fateful night.
Home Office pathologist Dr Francis Hollingbury told the court in the run up to the fight Eddie had been training hard.
His own journal showed he put himself through three punishing sessions per day.
He would also wrap himself in several duvets at night so that he sweated and would not take any fluid for lengthy periods in order to get his weight down.
She said: ‘He had disciplined himself and in a bid to make the weight for the fight he was taking four hot baths a day and sleeping wrapped up in blankets.’
The weight limit in the UK for a youth fighting in the welterweight division is 10 stone 4 pounds.
On the morning of the fight he had scrambled eggs then ate and drank nothing all day until after the weigh-in.
Dr Hollingbury said after the bell ended the three, three-minute rounds he was with his opponent when he collapsed.
‘While waiting for the result he was standing in the ring and suddenly doubled forward to the ropes,’ she said. ‘He vomited and then appeared to have some sort of seizure.’
A journal kept by Eddie (pictured) showed he was training at least three times a day, both in college and at the gym in the evenings in a regime the coroner described as ‘excessive’
The teenager’s heart stopped and an ambulance was called at 10.07pm. Paramedics tried five times to restart it, but despite their attempts he was pronounced dead at 11.20pm.
What is myocaridal fibrosis?
Myocardial fibrosis is a common phenomenon that develops in patients with pre-existing heart conditions.
It occurs when scar tissue, caused by heart disease such as cardio myopathy, impacts the heart’s ability to function.
Coronary heart disease, aortic stenosis and hypertension are the most frequent causes of myocardial fibrosis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, myocardial fibrosis is a common phenomenon in the late stages of diverse cardiac diseases and is a predictive factor for sudden cardiac death but has also been diagnosed in athletes who are engaged in ‘intense exercise regimes’.
Dr Hollingbury said she believed Eddie’s heart had undergone chronic changes over a period of time, which may have been caused in some part by his training regime.
She said changes to his brain and adrenal glands were also discovered, but they had not contributed directly to his death.
She explained they may have been the result of excessive weight loss and dehydration.
‘I’m not able to say with absolute certainty, but they could have been caused by the way in which he was training,’ she added.
Dr Hollingbury gave the medical cause of death as myocardial fibrosis – heart disease.
Professor Simon Kim Suvarna, Cardiac Pathologist, said the boxer’s heart was slightly enlarged, and there was ‘an arc of scarring’ around the mid-section which was ‘pretty abnormal in a young person’.
‘I have to say an inherited cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscles) is the most likely cause of this,’ he said. ‘It could be he had a faulty gene or a family history.’
A toxicology report found no trace of performance enhancing drugs such as steroids or stimulants like amphetamines.
And he had worn a head protector during the bout and no concerns were raised about any of the punches he had taken.
Eddie, the eldest of four brothers, was trained at Jason Shinfield’s Elite Boxing Academy in Somercotes, Derbys.
Bilbey was studying for diploma in boxing and was being coached by Jason Shinfield (pictured)
The coach, whose family have a long history in the sport, was the teen’s step-father at the time of the tragedy.
The court was told the boxer’s devastated mother Michelle is now suing her former partner over the death of her eldest son.
Dr Robert Hunter, Senior Coroner for Derbyshire, issued a warrant for his arrest to ensure he attends to give evidence.
Eddie, who lived in Ripley Derbys, was a student on England Boxing’s Diploma in Sporting Excellence (DiSE) programme at University College Birmingham, which helps fighters progress into the elite echelons of the sport.
A journal he kept showed he was training at least three times a day, both in college and at the gym in the evenings.
Dr Mark Faghy, a senior lecturer in exercise physiology at the University of Derby, said there was evidence of ‘chronic over-training’ ahead of the bout.
The coroner said: ‘The excessive training might be in part down to Edward.’
Eddie collapsed after a bout at the Post Mill Centre in South Normanton, Derbys, in March 2017
But he told the court he had a feeling ‘someone should have been casting an eye over’ his programme.
Dr Faghy said the ‘multiple influences’ on his training and lack of co-ordinated supervision were ‘concerning’.
When asked by coroner Dr Robert Hunter whether Eddie’s heart condition and the physiological strain from excessive exercise could act together in a harmful way, Dr Faghy replied ‘Yes’.
Following the death England Boxing, which runs the amateur sport, set up an investigation to establish the facts of what happened.
At the time of the tragedy organisers said the fight met all of the necessary medical benchmarks of a Board of England Boxing-sanctioned event.
The inquest, which is expected to last five days, continues.