Over the past few weeks, we have sadly felt the harsh reality of the dangers every boxer faces when they decide to lace their gloves and step into the ring.
On Saturday night, the 18th of October, we witnessed an unconscious Frankie Leal leave the ring on a stretcher, following his brutal knockout loss to Raul Hirales in Mexico. Leal’s outing with Hirales turned into a fight for his life that he tragically lost the following Tuesday.
Fast-forward two weeks and Magomed Abdusalamov is being placed in a medically induced coma and having brain surgery after a decision loss in his epic heavyweight battle with Mike Perez on the Golovkin – Stevens undercard.
I’m not saying these two fights were same, in fact they were completely different yet they both had somewhat of a similar outcome. The fact that we have seen a boxer die and another require brain surgery within two weeks of each other is alarming to say the least. It raises a lot of questions about when a fight needs to be stopped and who is responsible when it all goes wrong.
There seems to be increasing amount of pressure from fans and the media placed on boxers to engage in a slugfest and stay in one, as to avoid being labeled boring or a quitter. This is boxing, the art of hitting without being hit and yet the guys who do this best come under constant criticism for running and are labeled as boring.
Boxing is not a blood sport and is not about taking big shots to get the win. However, it seems this is exactly what you need to do in order to be considered exciting. Now don’t get me wrong here, I love watching the likes of Michael Katsidis and Brandon Rios slug away as much as the next guy but at the same time, for me it just isn’t the same as watching guys like Floyd Mayweather or Guillermo Rigondeaux put their superior technical abilities on display.
Boxers aren’t fictional characters created for our entertainment, they are men who have families and deserve to enjoy life after boxing with their faculties intact. The reality is, as exciting as it is to watch a toe-to-toe battle, taking all that damage is not healthy and it is not sustainable. We have seen it time and time again. Earlier this year, Michael Katsidis was not sanctioned to fight in his comeback attempt because of the brain damage he has sustained with his "exciting" fighting style. This is not an isolated incident and I see Brandon Rios and many others winding up in the same boat.
In Mike Alvarado’s recent TKO loss to Ruslan Provodnikov, he fought hard but was eventually worn down and could not answer the bell for the 11th round. To me it is sad to see a fighter have to call it and say they are defeated. I would much rather see the bout stopped by the referee or the corner, yet it seems to be something nobody wants to do. It is their job to protect the fighter. I know we all get upset when we think a fight has been stopped prematurely, but in light of what has happened in the past few weeks I think we would all much rather see a fight stopped early than see it end in tragedy.
The fact that Mike Alvarado faced such heavy criticism over his decision to not continue fighting absolutely disgusts me, and it further highlights the pressure boxers are put under to take a beating. Mike Alvarado is an absolute warrior and is not a quitter. He had been dismantled, beat up and had nothing left to give. In the eighth round he was knocked down by a devastating body shot. Using every ounce of fortitude and heart within him, he managed to beat the count and fight on. Yet somehow, for some this was all forgotten when Mike could not continue after taking two more rounds of punishment. Why should he have stayed in there? He was well down on the scorecards and he hadn’t been able to hurt Provodnikov when he was fresh. It would have simply been another two rounds of him getting beat up.
I feel that if you can’t appreciate a boxer with a high ring IQ use their defense, movement and speed to neutralize the offense of a bigger and/or more powerful opponent and defeat them, then fundamentally you don’t appreciate boxing and do not understand the sport. I also feel that if you expect a boxer to take unnecessary damage just to entertain you, you’re an idiot and rock ape who has no place in this beautiful sport.