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The Pendulum of Guilt Wobbles and Then Steadies

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  • The Pendulum of Guilt Wobbles and Then Steadies

    Click image for larger version  Name:	collins-resto.jpg Views:	1 Size:	104.0 KB ID:	13971

    By Ted Sares

    Not since that sweltering night at Madison Square Garden on June 16, 1983 when veteran referee Ernesto Magana suffered decision paralysis and allowed an aroused Roberto Duran to slaughter favored Davey Moore has boxing seen such global violence. And the Duran savagery occurred after Luis Resto (pictured on the right) used lethal weapons (doctored gloves) to mug Irish Billy Collins Jr. on the undercard, turning his face into purple pulp and leaving him with permanently blurred vision.

    That night is remembered well because this writer was there and watching the mayhem in disbelief all the while thinking about his guilty pleasure. This wasn’t like sneaking into the refrigerator to glom some cheese at night while maintaining the pretense of a strict diet. No, this was shock and awe when it should have been shock and disgust. This was, plain and simple, guilty pleasure.

    Fortunately, things settled down and I continued to enjoy boxing, but my pendulum of guilt did tilt ever-so-slightly.

    And then came the “Harlem Hammer,” James Butler, who would sucker punch Richard Grant at the conclusion of their 10-round fight at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City in 2001. Watching Grant on the canvas with blood pouring out of his nose and mouth, and listening to the crowd chant “Lock him up, Lock him up,” was shock and total disgust. (It was a precursor to a subsequent and unimaginable tragedy involving Butler that I’d just as soon forget.)

    The pendulum tilted more than slightly this time.

    On April 13, 2009, a special edition of “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” investigated the 2009 deaths of Arturo Gatti, Vernon Forrest, and Alexis Arguello. No amount of investigating could bring them back, so what was the use? A suicide (Arguello), a murder (Forrest) and a suicide that may have actually been a murder (Gatti) made me wonder whether I was cultivating the right passion.

    Adding to the grim picture, highly promising Irish boxer, Darren “Daz” Southerland, hanged himself later that year. He was suffering from depression. James DeGale said, “…my heart went to the floor when I heard. He was a big part of my Olympic medal journey and it is just terrible. I just do not know what to say except that he was a brilliant fighter, in fact an excellent fighter, and he was a gentleman outside the ring as well. He had an Olympic bronze medal and his whole life to look forward to. He had a great future, and my heart goes out to everyone who knew him.”

    And unbeknownst to most, three Mexican fighters -- Benjamin Flores, Marco Antonio Nazareth, and Francisco Rodriquez -- died of brain injuries, two in the US and one in Mexico.

    2009 was not a good year for boxing. Still, I stayed the course.


    The only thing noble about this sport is the fighters and what they do when they get in the ring, inside the chamber of truth….That’s the only thing truthful about this sport. There’s nothing else truthful about it. There’s nothing else noble about it.”-Teddy Atlas


    However, my cynicism deepened after “Plaster Gate” when Antonio Margarito (one of my fallen favorites) was allowed two big paydays to fight Manny Pacquiao in 2010 and a rematch with Miguel Cotto in 2011 after a substance similar to plaster of Paris was found in his hand wraps prior to a previous fight. It was a crass case of revenue vs. morality, and morality never had a chance.

    And speaking of bad, no amount can replace the damage done to Magomed Abdusalamov on November, 2013 in a savage fight with Mike Perez. To make a long and terribly sad story short, Mago is no longer self-reliant—and never will be.

    Also, in 2013, I was repelled by a media that largely ignored the needless deaths of Frankie Leal in Mexico and 17-year-old Tubagus Sakti in Indonesia. Assuming all precautions were in place, I can usually rationalize ring fatalities, but these two, in my view, could not be rationalized under any circumstances; they were both needless.

    Once promising Prichard Colon has been in a vegetative state ever since his battle with Terrel Williams in Fairfax, VA on October 17, 2015. Like Mago, he will never be self-reliant.

    Oscar Diaz passed in 2015 seven years after he suffered a debilitating brain injury in a fight against Delvin Rodriquez. He was all but forgotten.

    In 2017, featherweight boxer Daniel Franco suffered severe head injuries in his knockout loss to Jose Haro at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa. This time the miracle came.

    “I’m lucky to be talking to you right now. I’m lucky to wake up in the morning. I always knew boxing was a dangerous sport. I know that people can die in boxing. I knew that, but I didn’t think it would even be this close to happening to me because I was really good.” Daniel Franco.

    2019 has not been a good year for boxing. Two young warriors, Russian Maxim Dadashev and Argentinian Hugo Alfredo Santillán, died in the same week of injuries suffered in the ring. This shook the boxing world.

    No miracles this time.

    The weekend before last at the O2 Arena in London, Dereck Chisora perpetrated a sickening knockout of Artur Szpilka and David Allen was stretchered out after his bout with David Price.

    No miracles needed—thankfully – but Szpilka needs to retire now.

    “The boxing ring… isn’t always pretty to look at, but we keep coming back for more, eager to participate, if only vicariously, in a ritual as old as the human race and as timeless as a clenched fist. That’s why boxing is still around and still welcome in many quarters, regardless of its frightening toll.”—Nigel Collins (ESPN Boxing, “How do we reconcile ring deaths?”, Jan. 17, 2013).

    I’ll keep coming back.

    Ted Sares is a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Master Class.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    I would have used this tweet quote from GGG had I not submitted my article when I did:
    Gennadiy Golovkin

    I once again express my condolences and support to the families of Maxim Dadashev and Hugo Santillan. Grievous loss for the sport. Boxing is tough. The only person who always takes a risk is the one who steps in the ring. Those on the other side of the ropes should remember this.

    4:44 AM - Jul 28, 2019


    • #3
      No question any death in the ring is a tragedy and anything that can be done to help boxers perform with less risk of injury should be
      investigated and put into practice.

      However....other sports have deaths and brain injuries as well. High School football is one of the worst. 2016 stats showed 119,000 HS players got hurt.
      of student athletes report they have played while
      . 37
      PERCENT of high school
      athletes say they have experienced sprains. 12
      report they have sustained concussions and head
      from their time on the field. 11 HS players died in 2017 alone...and that isn't counting college. The results are that fewer and fewer kids are playing HS football; their parents turn them towards soccer instead. But is isn't being outlawed, as some people have always wanted to do with boxing because "it's the only sport where your goal is to hurt the opponent". I find that to be garbage...anyone who has played US football knows you try to physically defeat the guy across the line from you.

      Bottom line is, as J. Stalin said, one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.


      • Kid Blast
        Kid Blast commented
        Editing a comment
        Sage stuff, lad. I say football can be just as dangerous these days when you consider two 250 pounders meeting at top speed. How do you spell CTE which is football's version of pugilistica dementia.

    • #4
      Bernard chipped in via email as follows: "I think all of us at one time or another have felt pangs of guilt over the moral conundrums that boxing sometimes obliges us to consider. We all straddle the two sides of that ambiguity."


      • #5
        Johnny Tango writes via email: "I wrote boxing back in '06, but I rarely watch, or attend, fights anymore. I could make one hell of a damn good case for banning the "sport."


        • #6
          I don't let all (any of) this bother me anymore.

          Honestly. I don't. I used to get all worked up.

          Life is dangerous. And yes, it goes on...

          I enjoyed this story Ted, stay frosty.


          • #7
            Fighter's accept the risk ...but that risk should not be multiplied by incompetence of cornermen, ring officials, promoters and boxing commissions as well as the uneducated comments by fans that criticize early stoppages that may influence those who should be looking after the fighters well being


            • #8
              And speaking of the GOAT Ted, here's a quote Ted: "I love boxing and it did a lot for me. But sometimes it made me think how savage human beings could be to each other. That wasn't the kind of boxer I wanted to be. My strategy was to be as scientific as I could when I fought. I didn't want to be seriously hurt, and I didn't want to do that to anybody else either."

              ~ Muhammad Ali


              • Kid Blast
                Kid Blast commented
                Editing a comment
                Spot on!.............................

            • #9
              Good read as always Ted.

              Glad to see the mention about Frankie Leal. Solid and way too underappreciated of a fighter. His death was incredibly sad in that it was all too preventable. And definitely went way too under reported by the main stream boxing media.


              • Kid Blast
                Kid Blast commented
                Editing a comment
                Thank you Matt. Yes, Frankie deserved more. Much more.