Safety Must Be Priority One In Boxing


By Sean Crose

Friday night was a good night for boxing. ESPN2 delivered once again with it’s hot Friday Night Fights telecast. As a native of Connecticut, I was particularly excited to see a local son make good. For Luis Rosa from New Haven proved to be an exciting super bantamweight with a bright future ahead of him in the fight game.

Unfortunately, however, the evening had a dark moment, as well. It was the kind of moment which occurs far too often in the sport we love.

For Rosa beat his opponent so badly throughout Friday’s bout that Jorge Diaz; his game, courageous foe, started getting that soft look to his face in the later rounds. You know that look. Magomed Abdusalamov had it last December when he fought Mike Perez. And Duk Koo Kim had it over thirty years ago when he battled Ray Mancini. It’s a look that symbolizes no good, a look that too many in the fight game ignore.

Needless to say, Diaz left the arena in West Orange, New Jersey on a stretcher. He was found to have received serious head trauma and his neurological facilities were not working as they should have been after the bout. Anyone watching the fight could have figured out the guy was in trouble long before the final bell rang.

The fact is this: the bout should have been stopped.

Sadly, it wasn’t. Not by the ref, not by the ringside doctor and not by Diaz’ corner. What was it that so many fans on Twitter saw that those professionals didn’t? People were calling for the fight to be stopped via the internet, but no one involved in the fight itself seemed to the effected by what was transpiring before their very eyes.

What’s particularly upsetting is the fact that Diaz became a father on Friday. He had yet to see his newborn son by fight time. Let’s just hope he gets to see the baby soon and that father, mother, and child are well. Again, let’s just hope. And pray.

A few days ago I penned a rather biting piece in defense of boxing. I just have a problem with people like the writer Steve Almond who think the sport is simply too barbaric for our culture. It’s a contest, a competition. It’s not a gladiatorial arena. Still, it’s clearly up to those involved with boxing to make it as safe as possible.

And safety was certainly overlooked Friday night in New Jersey.

The truth is this: Steve Almond and others like him may be over-zealous when they dis boxing outright, but they mean well. I can lash out at Almond publicly because I strongly disagree with him on the issue of the sweet science. What I can’t do, however, is accuse the guy of neglecting his fellow man. To the contrary. I actually believe Almond – in his own misguided way – is trying to do the right thing.

If only those who could have helped Diaz were clear on what the right thing to do was Friday night. It wasn’t letting Diaz continue for the sake of his pride or for an exceedingly slim shot at victory. It was to protect a professional fighter so that he could live to fight again. Seriously, would stopping the fight have really had any adverse effects on the larger course of events at all?

Here’s the bottom line: boxing is the toughest sport in the Western world, hands down. That doesn’t mean it should be a brutal sport, though. For to be brutal means to go beyond the pale. It means to pass beyond what is necessary. And Diaz went well beyond what was necessary Friday night in New Jersey. He was a beaten man. A thoroughly beaten one. It was time to move on to the next fight. It wasn’t time to let a guy write himself his own ticket to the hospital.

Boxing is a great sport. As far as I’m concerned, it’s unquestionably the greatest sport on earth. That means those involved with boxing have an obligation to keep it honorable. There’s nothing honorable about letting a guy get seriously damaged in the ring when that damage might actually be preventable.

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