Doctor: Boxing may have led to accused murderer's mental illness

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Doctors say a St. Paul man charged with fatally stabbing a co-worker early this year suffers from brain impairments, perhaps brought on by his long career as a boxer.

The Pioneer Press reports a court has deemed Gregorio Maso Ramirez, 57, mentally ill and dangerous and committed him last week to the state hospital in St. Peter.

Ramirez was charged with second-degree murder in the February death of Uriel Navarro Ortiz, 44, who worked with Ramirez at Bailey Nurseries in Newport.

The Pioneer Press says the court's commitment order suggests Ramirez was having paranoid delusions and believed Ortiz was trying to kill him. The newspaper cites the commitment order in relaying these details:

  • Two doctors who examined Ramirez in May and June each concluded that he has a psychotic disorder and brain impairment.
  • Ramirez's mental illness takes the form of paranoid delusions that others are trying to kill him by poisoning his food or administering poison gases.
  • While incarcerated Ramirez refused to eat or drink, causing him to lose 26 pounds within six weeks.
  • He allegedly punched a corrections officer repeatedly, later saying he thought the room they were in was being filled with poisonous gases and he hoped to get ahold of the officer's gun to commit suicide.

The newspaper says the criminal case against Ramirez was suspended indefinitely when he was committed to the state hospital.

Boxing career

According to a Star Tribune story published in February (and republished by the Cuba Independiente blog), Ramirez was a member of Cuba's Olympic boxing teams in 1984 and 1988, was a silver medalist at the world championships of boxing in 1979 and 1982, finished his amateur boxing career with a record of 228--21, and later coached Cuba's national team.

The Pioneer Press says Ramirez began training as a boxer when he was 15 and his career lasted 20 years. The paper says he moved to the U.S. in 2010.

Dementia Pugilistica

One of the doctors who examined Ramirez this summer wrote that his symptoms are very similar to individuals diagnosed with dementia pugilistica, the Pioneer Press says.

The Brain Injury Research Institute says that condition is a type of brain damage that results from repeated concussions and was first discovered among boxers in the 1920s.

A MedLink page on dementia pugilistica describes it as the progressive end-stage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

As CBS reports, CTE is a brain disease caused by concussions that can only be diagnosed posthumously. It has turned up in boxers, football, and hockey players, some of whom killed themselves.

An article written for Esquina Boxeo last year details the struggles of athletes who were later found to have CTE. Those include former football star Dave Duerson, whose suicide note said he chose to shoot himself in the heart rather than the head so that scientists could study his brain intact.

Sports Illustrated published an English translation of the article in October.

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