Posts Tagged With: Prichard Colon

Are We Not Entertained?


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ESPN’s follow up on Prichard Colon.

The futility of the search for someone to blame here is the real story.  There never was, and never will be anyone to blame because no one knew.

I saw this fight live last October, and even though I’ve had first-hand experience with boxing and brain trauma, nobody in the crowd–and I’d venture to guess no one in the ring either–knew what was happening.  People get the impression that boxing is some kind of primitive ritual to determine who can hurt who the most.  It’s not.  It’s an art and a science, and we’ve focused so much on the artistry that we haven’t worked out the science enough to keep our athletes safe.  All the cliches about not knowing the “meaning of quit” and “the heart of a warrior” are just decoration for people putting their lives on the line for a sport they love.  It’s no different from football, horse racing and many other sports.  We can’t reduce it to a special situation where we ignore the dangers because it’s a “contact sport” or a “combat sport.”  The AIBA is moving in the right direction–they removed the requirement for headgear in the games, rejecting the conventional wisdom that headgear prevents brain injuries–but it’s not enough.  Everyone involved in the sport has to shift their perspective.

The problem in this one incident was that no one did anything to stop the damage and get help, but the larger tragedy is that no one (other than Colon himself) could have done anything.  There’s nothing in the regulations that would have allowed, or even suggested an official way to end the fight based on injury.  Nothing to point to that would show that the doctor should have stopped the fight, that the corner should have taken the complaints more seriously, or that the referee should have noticed indicators that something was wrong.

The most frightening part of this incident is that it has happened before.  There are dozens of similar stories are scattered throughout boxing history, but even now, nothing has changed.  An old-school boxing fan might say that the rules are this way to preserve the dignity of the sport and of the fighters.  It’s true, pride and stoicism are a big part of boxing.  But does anyone really believe that an entire generation of young athletes would reject the sport if they’re told “we might have to stop the fight even if if you feel okay, because sometimes you don’t know until it’s too late”?  They wouldn’t, because it would be a simple reality of the sport, like a rain delay in baseball.  But ask that same old-school fan if Colon should have told his corner, or the referee, that he wanted to quit?  A pretty resounding “no,” would be your answer.  Any boxer or trainer will tell you that the willingness to fight through pain is what makes a fighter a fighter.  It’s ingrained in you as fundamental to the sport from the moment you put on the gloves.  This means that there were no options that would have resulted in the end of this fight at a time early enough to diagnose and treat Colon.  None of the individuals with the authority to stop the fight had any official means to do so available to them.

The only solution is a change in the sport itself.  What might that look like?  There are much smarter people than me to answer that question, but at the lowest levels, maybe that would mean we stop telling these kids to suck it up if they feel shaky after getting hit.  Maybe officials at amateur contests would remind the fighters and the referee that the fight can and should be stopped if someone feels dizzy or off-balance.  Maybe one day we could even hear Michael Buffer, before invoking his signature line, reminding spectators before a big fight that we want both men to come out of the ring safely.  Some might think of it as a concession to modern sensibilities, but, in reality, it would be an evolution.  An advance in the science of sport.  Sure, it’ll change the way we look at wins and losses.  “Somebody’s ‘o’ has got to go” might be a phrase we hear less often and take less seriously.  But there are a lot of people out there who would be grateful for it.  There are a lot of human beings out there wearing boxing gloves right now who would rather someone tell them “it’s okay to lose, I’m calling this one,” than listen to a doctor explain the odds of them ever walking again.  If that sounds too melodramatic, then think about it in practical terms: this fight was stopped on a technicality when the corner of one fighter thought the fight had ended and began removing his gloves.  Would fans really prefer the fight to be stopped for something like that, than for the safety of one of the competitors?

Trainers, fighters–fathers, sons–mothers, daughters–remember Prichard Colon.  Have compassion when you’re getting ready, or helping someone you love get ready for their next fight.  Use your imagination when you’re picturing what boxing should look like when you or someone you love gets under those bright lights and hears the roar of the crowd.  These men and women are not gladiators for our entertainment, they’re our friends, our family.  They’re us.

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Update on Colon


The recent article from ESPN describes Prichard Colon’s further struggle as he prepares to undergo another surgery to repair the damage from the October 17th fight that put him in a coma.  Since the fight every article has addressed the numerous instances in the fight of Colon complaining about shots to the back of the head, and the referee all but ignoring those complaints on most occasions.  While this account is true, it’s also true that the majority of the crowd that night was unable to clearly see the blows to the back of the head, and in fact, it’s still hard to see on the video of the fight.  It’s not unheard of or even looked down on in boxing for a fighter to complain as much as possible about his opponents blows to one area or another, if only to deter the fighter from throwing the same shot again (whether legal or not).  When Colon’s opponent Williams gestured to the crowd incredulously in response to his complaints of blows to the head, most of us were jeering and booing the delay in the action, feeling as if Colon was trying to buy time.

The result is a horrible tragedy that no amount of blame can ever set right, but of course I can understand wanting to hold accountable the person whose job it was to control the action in the ring.   And we always should.  I think this statement from the Virginia Department of Professional & Occupational Regulation, who investigated the fight after the injury, is revealing, and accurate:

 

The DPOR report said, in part, “no regulatory violations appear to warrant disciplinary action against any Virginia licensees, including Williams. Cooper, the contract referee, generally maintained control of the contest — despite noted disagreement over some foul calls and consistency of point deductions — consulted with the ringside physician; and complied with regulatory requirements to attend to Colon’s health. … No one action (or failure to act) can be identified that is so apparent or egregious to justify holding accountable any one person.”

The report concluded, “Although there is no evidence of foreseeable wrongdoing on the part of any particular individual, looking back at the ‘what ifs’ is indeed heartbreaking. DPOR remains committed to fighter safety, doing what we can to protect fighters despite the inherent risks of combative sports like boxing, and praying for Prichard Colon.” (ESPN.com)

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Prichard Colon Surgery


http://espn.go.com/boxing/story/_/id/14833136/comatose-boxer-prichard-colon-undergoes-spinal-surgery-atlanta

 

I saw that fight live and I think most of the people who were in the crowd that night would agree that the author of the article is being too critical of the referee.  Still, it’s good to know that Colon is progressing toward a potential recovery.  We all wish him the best.

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Peterson-Diaz on PBC


This past Saturday I had the privilege of attending Premier Boxing Champions on NBC on the campus of my alma mater at George Mason University.  Aside from returning to a familiar and welcoming environment, I was fortunate enough to see some of the great boxing icons in attendance, and those in the ring, who put on a great show in Fairfax.

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Beginning the evening, hometown favorite Jimmy Lange scored a TKO victory over the inexperienced Mike Sawyer.  It was truly gratifying to once again be ringside to watch a fighter whose successes and failures I’ve followed since the first time I saw a live fight, in 2008.  As aging alters any fighter’s style, so it seems time has affected Lange, who threw almost exclusively power shots on the inside against Sawyer.

PIC_0933Even more thrilling, making his way to his post at the commentators’ table for PBC, I was able to catch a glimpse of the living legend himself, Sugary Ray Leonard.

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The night progressed with more great action and fast-paced fights, each undercard bout ending quickly as the result of a stoppage.

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The first televised fight of the evening featured two solid prospects with great talent, with the proven Terrell Williams taking on Prichard Colon, who was expected to win and move on to bigger things.  His attire was flashy to match the lasting impression he intended to make on his first fight broadcasted on a national network.

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While Williams showed skill and discipline from the beginning, Colon’s speed, accuracy and agility stole the show through the early rounds, even as Williams landed impressive combos in spots.  When Colon did appear hurt and frustrated in the fourth round, he dropped down and threw an uppercut reminiscent of Andrew Golota, blatantly striking Williams in the groin.  The referee at first appeared to disbelieve Williams, but through the fighter’s protestations instructed him to return to a neutral corner to begin his five minute period of recovery.  Abruptly, the referee proceeded to penalize Colon two points for the shot.  While fans ringside and viewers at home suspected the blow was intentional, it was unusual for such a significant penalty to be called without warning, as Riddick Bowe might agree.  Unfortunately for Colon, the blow only served to motivate Williams.

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When the fight resumed, it was Colon on his heels as Williams took control of the pace with fierce combinations and impressive accuracy.  Colon appeared to get his rhythm back but had trouble escaping Williams shots.  At one point turning completely around to avoid a shot, Colon was hit in the back of the head.  He collapsed to the floor and rubbed the back of his head, briefly consulting with the ringside physician briefly.  The body language appeared to viewers as melodramatic and possibly a response to the penalty he was given for the blow to Williams.

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As it appeared that the fight would go to the score cards in round 9, Williams finally connected with enough force put Colon down twice, despite desperate attempts to clinch and stay standing.  When he returned to his corner at the end of the round only seconds after the most recent knockdown, his trainer mistakenly began undoing the lacing on his gloves with the mistaken assumption that the previous round had been the last (there were no round card girls, nor announcements for each round).  The referee informed the corner of the mistake and gave the team several seconds to make an attempt to re-tape the gloves.  When the time for the round to start came, the referee called the fight for Williams by disqualification.  Fans in attendance were happy to see the seemingly cleaner fighter come away with the win, but we were all unaware of just how badly Colon had been hurt.  After all, he managed to stay on his feet fairly well for several seconds after the combinations that led to his knockdowns.  Unfortunately, appearances can be deceiving in a sport as violent and subtle as boxing, as an former amateur fighter like myself should know very well.  Colon was transported to the hospital shortly after the fight where he underwent an operation to relieve pressure on his brain.  He is still in critical condition and did suffer a brain bleed.  As a fan and former fighter, I regret my own obliviousness to the severity of his condition.  I speak for everyone when I say we hope he makes a full recovery and can return to the sport if he wishes, to demonstrate the immense skill he so clearly possesses.

On a brighter note, in one of the most unexpected and fortunate experiences of my life, Anthony Peterson made his way through my section of the crowd greeting fans after his scintillating 30-second knockout of Mike Oliver.  He backed his opponent to the ropes almost immediately with combinations and pressure fighting, landing a devastating body shot to end the fight.  Anthony is a great fighter whose talent is less widely known than his brother’s, but may yet achieve the stardom Lamont has enjoyed.  He also happens to be a very friendly guy, even being willing to pose for a picture with a devoted fan who mistakenly called him by his brothers name…

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In the main event, Lamont Peterson struggled against Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz but was able to come away with a victory, landing more punches over the course of the fight even though all those in attendance saw that Diaz landed the more telling blows.  Congratulations to the victorious Peterson brothers, and thank you for the privilege of seeing your talent on display near my home town once again.

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