By Ivan G. Goldman
Tyson Bruce wrote an article on this site, “Boxing in 2014: A Waste of Time, Talent and Money,” that is, I think, a fair assessment of some of the disappointments we’ve endured thanks to terrible matches that do get made and great matches that don’t get made.
Much of this results from horrible business decisions relating to Al Haymon, a startlingly powerful manager/advisor who refuses to explain or defend any of his actions out in the open. He’s surely and not so slowly cornering much of the boxing world.
But for my part, when I start assessing 2014 I get back to ruminating about a November night the previous year. I can’t get past the horror of watching heavyweight Mago Abdusalamov thrown back into a fight round after round with broken bones in his face, a face that was a heartbreaking mask of agony. He’d go back to the corner and ask about his condition and his cornermen would wipe the blood, treat him with water, adrenaline, and Vaseline and send him back out there.
The cornermen were no different than the referee, inspectors, commission doctors, and other officials who were strangely oblivious to what was taking place as Mike Perez did his job and punched Mago’s skull into raw steak. We know the story. After ten rounds of medieval torture, during which Mago never stopped punching, the fight went to the cards. Perez got his victory. Mago was dizzy.
Finally someone put him in a taxi and sent him to the hospital. The commission wouldn’t even call him an ambulance. What followed was a coma, surgery, a stroke, and awful neurological consequences. He can’t walk, and there are varying accounts about just how impaired he is. We can only hope that the most positive assessments are correct.
Mago was originally from a rough part of Dagestan inside the Russian Republic. He no doubt assumed America would be more civilized than the world he was used to. The fight that destroyed him took place in Madison Square Garden, a venue that was once considered a boxing shrine. The Garden has moved around to assorted locations over the years but maintained its name even as most of the bigger fights gravitated to Las Vegas and elsewhere.
If life were fair the New York commission that presided over the Perez- Abdusalamov affair wouldn’t even exist. Fights in New York should be supervised instead by knowledgeable officials from outside the state.
Most New Yorkers will of course instinctively quarrel with this assessment, but allow me to say that I’m crazy about their city. It’s thick with brilliance and magic. You can get smarter and livelier just by walking down the street. New York is at the center of Western art, culture, and thought. John Lennon said he lived there because America was the new Roman Empire and New York City was the new Rome. That’s where he wanted to be, right at the center.
But over and over, New York can’t get fights right. It’s had other deaths and grievous injuries, and whenever I’m told it’s getting better I wince and wait for the next tragedy. The commission staff appears to be a bubbling stew of ineptitude. Earlier this year the governor appointed lawyer David Berlin as the new executive director of the commission. We were supposed to see some improvements.
But at the end of July, when Gennady Golovkin rolled over Danny Geale inside of three rounds, Geale tripped over a camera strap that had been carelessly left on the ring apron. The place was crawling with officials, none of whom bothered to check the apron. That included the inspector who was directly responsible.
Was the photographer or anyone on the commission staff punished? The commission’s not saying. Incidentally, the strap incident occurred in the first round, which went four minutes instead of three.
The next month Danny Garcia and Ron Salka headed up one of the most insulting cards put on national TV in years – three blatantly designed mismatches for three Haymon fighters, courtesy of Showtime, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the New York commission, which had to approve the matches.
Garcia, one of the best junior welters in the world, fought a feather-fisted lightweight with only three kayos to his credit in 22 outings. Disgraceful. Fans of The Usual Suspects will enjoy what reader Mark Jeffries said about Haymon, who orchestrated the debacle. He is, declared Jeffries, “the Kaiser Sosay of boxing.”
The Number One mission of a boxing commission is to ensure the safety of the fighters. It’s a rough, tough, fast-paced sport, and we can’t wait any longer for New York to grow a real commission. Ask Mago and his family. And guess what? They can’t sue the commission. New York state law forbids it.
In California we have native-American tribes that invite in the state commission to handle their cards. They know it’s a serious task and they’re smart enough to call in experts. That’s what New York needs to do – call in experts.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More Information Here