By Sean Crose
The appeal of boxing is pretty simple: people want to know if one particular person can physically best another. It’s a lot of fun and, when controlled, not a bit immoral. Boxing is a dangerous sport, though, and fans and participants alike have to be mindful. Bad things can happen in the ring. Sometimes those bad things aren’t preventable. Yet sometimes they are.
Which is why, moving into a fresh new year, we should refuse to allow ourselves to forget about Magomed Abdusalamov.
Here’s a refresher course on his sad story. The heavyweight had a perfect record of 18-0 when he stepped into the ring against fellow rising star Mike Perez at Madison Square Garden this past November 2nd. The fight was solid and competitive. Truth be told, the tough Russian had a chance of winning until the final bell. Never once did he stop trying.
Still, something was wrong, extremely wrong, with Abdusalamov from very early on in the bout. I’ll never forget seeing the man sitting in his corner, asking if his nose was broken. I actually made a joke about it at the time. After all, knock out artists aren’t supposed to ask those questions, and Abdusalamov had knocked out all of his opponents. I wish I hadn’t made that joke now, though. In fact, I’m betting those who ignored Abdusalamov’s concern that evening are regretting their behavior, as well.
For Abdusalamov was hurt . Seriously hurt. So hurt that he had to be placed in a medically induced coma hours after the bout. He’s alive now, yes, but according to Thomas Hauser over at Boxing Scene, the man “breathes through a tube that has been inserted in his trachea.” But that’s not all. “His eyes gaze vacantly into space. It’s unclear how much, if anything, he comprehends.”
These words of Hauser’s are unsettling, to say the least. No thirty two year old should find himself in such a condition. Especially when he has a family. Especially when something could have been done to prevent the disaster that put him in such a predicament.
That’s right – something could have been done to avoid what happened that night last November. At the very least, precautionary measures could have been employed. The truth is, Abdusalamov appeared in horrible shape towards the end of the bout. Horrible. His face looked as if it were slowly being beaten into a kind of pulp.
Couple that with the man’s behavior in his corner and it becomes obvious the professionals around him should have noticed something was amiss. Heck, even I knew the guy was in trouble as the fight went on and I had earlier joked about what I thought was the man’s lack of heart.
Could have, should have, would have. None of it matters now, I guess. I’ve little doubt Abdusalamov’s corner, as well as the ringside physicians, would turn back time if they could. They can’t, however, and neither can the sport of boxing. A life is ruined and there’s simply nothing to be done about it.
Still, one can learn from one’s mistakes. If the Abdusalamov situation has done anything, it’s reminded us, yet again, how serious boxing is. When a fighter acts unusually in between rounds, when he suddenly becomes verbally concerned about his visible condition, it’s time for that fighter’s corner to think about more than just winning.
Also, when doctors check out a hurt participant, they need to do a better job investigating his or her emotional state. I felt Abdusalamov wanted his corner to stop the fight that night and I doubt I was alone in thinking it. Sometimes a boxer’s behavior paints a better picture than bumps and bruises can.
Lastly, and this is a tough one, fighters have to know when enough is enough. It’s a boxing ring, not Iwo Jima. Pugilists don’t need to risk their lives to win. Sad as it sounds, a boxer must sometimes find the courage to look cowardly, even if that means standing up to his or her corner by refusing to continue fighting. Easier said than done, I know.
But look what the alternative can be.