Blackwell Coma: Part of the sport or on going mistakes?

The easy way out here would be to jump on the referee as we do in most sports. They have been questions raised about referee Victor Loughlin’s reluctance to stop the fight. Blackwell – after all – received a lot of damage against the ropes, but he was defending himself and never looked like taking a knee. The rules here are finely designed to make it at the referee’s discretion whether to allow the fight to proceed – allowing the thousands watching to be happy – or make a slightly controversial decision to stop the fight making him the 1986 Maradona to all Englishman. Most choose option 1, but let’s not forget the referee is not the only man who can stop the fight.

Fighter: What would happen in the middle of a round in a competitive fight if one fighter would turn to the referee and ‘say no more’? Well let me tell you, he will be ridiculed. Literally have a saying named after him. Roberto Duran, known at the time for his durability, was winning fights through his will and toughness; until he turned to a referee and said the words “No mas” and the fight was called off. We will never know if the great man had prevented his own coma or just had enough, but never should his career be defined by it.

Doctor: No man in the arena is better trained than a qualified doctor. Surely, we are passed the days of asking questions such as “do you know where you are?” Deem you well healthy to continue a beating. Broken orbitals are as clear as day – to a man without one – yet a doctor chooses a question as simple as “how many fingers am I holding up?”.The crowd, promoters, channels and boards put obvious pressure on officials to help not the fighters but the stakeholders, yet – myself included – choose not to recognize them.

Corners: Personally, I believe this is the most important segment that has to change. The corner of a fighter is not only to instruct him throughout the bout, but also to have the fighter’s best interest at heart. When the fighter’s judgement is blurry – quite literally, let me add – it takes courage to step in and end the fight on their behalf: we need to see more of it. Late in the rounds, Blackwell’s trainer instructed him: “This is what we planned for, he is tied”. This is not to blame the trainer, but he knows the fighter better than anyone else in that ring. Why do we not see any caution? When the opposite corner are requesting for their fighter to slow down, it is safe to say the fight may be coming to an end.

25th February 1995 Nigel Benn vs Gerald McClellan. Over ten years ago we witnessed all the problems above in one dark and cruel package. In between rounds Gerald, know as G-man, was blinking intensely, to the point where even the commentators had raised concerns; still his corner sent him out for the 10th round. At no point was the action stopped to bring in the Dr, Gerald took a knee twice before being counted out. As soon as it hit the number 10 the commentator screams “HE’S QUIT”. In those 10 seconds his career had been branded by a man none the wiser. G-man, recognized as one of the pound for pound fighters at the time went on to spend 11 days in a coma and have severe brain damage. The ongoing torment from all sides is captured very well by Bobby Razak’s excellent ‘Fallen Soldier

They make the choice to enter the ring; do they have a choice to leave?

Prevention you ask? Encourage and market to the youth that listening to your body is nothing to be ashamed of. Imagine if we praised Roberto Duran for the famous “No mas” rather heralding his opponent for forcing him to quit. After all Cristiano Ronaldo has more followers on Twitter than any other sportsman; he exaggerates injuries on a weekly basis and this funnels down to the youth system. 10 years ago it would be hard to find a grown man diving on a Sunday afternoon. Today not so much. The only problem, for the casual fan, boxing has to be dangerous to be entertaining.

Leave a Reply