By Sean Crose
So the other day I was invited to see a PBC card live from Foxwoods Casino in eastern Connecticut. I wasn’t able to go with my very generous friend, but I was able to catch the events from home on television. Needless to say, I – and others – got a bit of a fright. For Pete Quillin (31-0-1) hit his foe, Australia’s Michael Zerafa (17-1) so hard that the poor man had to be removed from the ring, and the auditorium itself, on a stretcher. Fortunately, word eventually came around that Zerafa was okay, but it was a disturbing sight to see nonetheless.
And while it’s true boxing is a dangerous sport and “these things happen,” it’s also good to keep in mind that these things can often be prevented. Sure, Zerafa was always going to be a minor opponent for Quillan (before the Brooklyn native engaged in a major bout with Daniel Jacobs for the WBA middleweight crown) but Zerafa was no Renaldo Snipes, a rugged dude who managed to drop the great Larry Holmes on live television decades ago before Holmes’ eventual megafight with Gerry Cooney.
Take a look at the two men’s records. Before meeting Holmes, Snipes had faced Gerry Coetzee and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. Both men may not have been at their best when facing Snipes, but they were both notable, experienced pros. In other words, Snipes know how to deal with top level opposition, even if he wasn’t particularly notable himself at the time, when he stepped into the ring that long ago Friday evening with the Easton Assassin.
Zerafa, on the other hand, hadn’t faced one battler of any note before Saturday’s PBC card. He simply went in there against a man with an impressive record and a powerful backing who had reportedly rehydrated significantly since the weigh in. What do you feel the man’s chances were? They weren’t that high of winning, that’s for sure. Apparently, the chances of him getting knocked senseless were far greater.
None of this is to knock Quillin, by the way. The guy was truly upset after the knockout and is undoubtedly quite relieved now that word is out that Zerafa should be fine. Truth be told, the Zerafa fight wasn’t even that BAD of a mismatch. The guy had only lost once previously, after all, and had certainly never been knocked out.
Shortly after the incident occurred, however, the fight was being held up throughout the internet as an example of the dangers of poor matchmaking. Honestly, it’s hard to argue against the critics here. How long, one may ask, until a fighter gets killed in a notable fight – as opposed to one where poor or no regulations of any kind are involved?
What Danny Garcia did to Rod Salka just of a year ago, for instance, bordered on being blatantly immoral. Oh, and how many fighters has Leo Santa Cruz met over the past few years who had absolutely zero business being in the ring with the guy? Know who Tommy Karpency fought before being demolished by Adonis Stevenson last Friday night? At this point, I’m hoping he still does. And what about Deontay Wilder’s next opponent? Don’t know his name? Why aren’t I surprised?
Look, I admit that this criticism may be a bit unfair. All of these mismatches involve professional fighters who know the risks. Some even involve those who have something of a chance. The point, though, is that boxing is a dangerous sport – a very dangerous sport. While it’s not immoral, it requires great care and responsibility in order to keep the participants as safe as possible.
And when you’re throwing dangerous and skilled individuals in the ring with people who simply aren’t equipped to deal with them, you’re not keeping people safe. Tune up fights are fine – so long as the opponents aren’t at a high risk of becoming victims. It’s a fine line, sure, but it’s one that boxing must be aware of and respect at all times.