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Articles of 2004

Dr. Margaret Goodman Makes a House Call

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Boxing is no game. The stakes are too high, the losses too finite, the terms too extreme to take lightly. I wanted to explore the dangers of boxing with someone in a position to know and contacted Dr. Margaret Goodman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. We discussed the phenomenon of men boxing and what it does to their bodies and brains.

Margaret Goodman was born in Toronto and raised in LA. She went to medical school in Chicago and did her internship and residency in neurology at UCLA. Goodman moved to Vegas in 1988 in a search of adventure and found it in an unlikely place. She has been a member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission since 1994.

“I have a regulatory job with the Athletic Commission. I’ve been appointed by the governor to be the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board of the Commission,” Goodman said. She sets policy on medical testing and medical evaluation of fighters. She has a private neurology practice. She works as a ringside physician.

“I started as a consultant to the NSAC in neurology, so when they had issues about fighters that had been knocked out or whether or not fighters should continue their careers, I would be a consultant they would use,” she said. “For example, I examined George Foreman and Meldrick Taylor years ago, Tommy Hearns years ago.”

After working the amateurs for a year and a half, she became a ringside doc for the pros. Since then she has worked more than 400 fights.

“I think of myself as an advocate for the fighters,” Goodman said. “I think I’m probably the most independent advocate they can have there. In a boxing situation you have all kinds of people that are surrounding the ring that are there for various reasons. You’ve got the fighter’s trainer; the fighter’s cornermen; maybe you’ve got their manager and promoter; you’ve got the TV people; you’ve got the journalists and print people; you’ve got the photographers; you’ve got the commission; and I try to be the independent person there that tries to stay out of the fight as much as possible. I believe that the ring doctor should try to be seldom seen or heard. I’m really there if a situation arises where the referee needs assistance determining whether or not a fight should be stopped or not, or if there’s a medical situation with a fighter, an emergency situation.”

Emergency situations arise during the fights. The most obvious, because they’re the most visible, are cuts and bleeding.

“I think that there are very few instances where a cut, in and of itself, stopped the fight. Nobody’s ever really dies from a cut in the ring,” Goodman said. “It’s the head injuries you have to worry about, the concussions, anything involving the brain. In most instances, I never stop a fight based on just the cut itself. But other things come into play. How is the fighter handling the cut? Is that fighter otherwise losing the fight? Does that fighter have a corner that doesn’t know how to take care of that cut? Is the fighter no longer able to protect himself? If allowing the fight to continue, would that cut lead to a potential permanent disability or a permanent deformity? That’s kind of what you’ve got to take into play. Usually you’ve got leeway with a cut.”

Another injury that plagues fighters is damage to the hands. I asked Goodman if she thought a broken hand is a good enough reason to stop a fight.

“An orthopedic injury from a shoulder, from a hand, from a nose, from a jaw,” she explained, “none of those kinds of orthopedic or bony problems would stop a fight. I’ve seen an instance where a fighter broke his ankle or had such a bad problem with his knee and he couldn’t balance himself and could no longer protect himself that the fight had to be stopped. Hand injuries are impossible for a ring doctor to evaluate during a bout, because fighters have gloves on. There’s no way to assess that. So in most instances an orthopedic injury doesn’t stop a fight. The only time when an orthopedic injury would result in a stoppage would be if a fighter can no longer protect himself or chooses to retire. Then it becomes the fighter deciding to stop the fight and not the referee and ring physician.”

Aside from cuts and broken bones, fighters suffer internal injuries. Blows to the head will do it, as will blows to the body.

“In boxing, internal organ injuries don’t really ever become that much of an entity. I’ve heard of maybe one case where someone actually ruptured a spleen,” Goodman said, “but I think that was a very special circumstance. You do see a lot of fighters peeing blood after a fight. And definitely after a twelve-round tough fight. It’s classic. You might see a fighter and they’ll be peeing in a cup to do their drug test and it’s bright red. It’s usually from the kidney shots.”

I read of a study where autopsies were performed on college boxers, on amateurs, and all of them had brain damage. I guess it goes with the territory.

“Most people like to think that amateur boxing isn’t as tough as professional boxing, but in a lot of ways amateur boxing can be just as bad, if not worse from a neurological standpoint, because there’s that false impression of safety by wearing headgear. Headgear does not protect the brain from damage at all. Studies have shown that. Headgear can actually contribute to brain injuries, because of the weight it adds on the head. It is one of the things that can cause concussions or cause injuries to the brain and can definitely contribute to knockouts. What happens with headgear, especially in training and in the gyms, fighters start to sweat into it, it becomes heavier and actually creates kind of like a fulcrum, where blows become more easily felt.”

These are things most of us don’t think about if we don’t have to, but it’s reassuring that someone is watching the fighters’ backs.

“I know that Harvard and UC San Francisco are going to join forces to do a study on mortality in boxing and look at some of the statistics,” Goodman said. “Unfortunately, boxing is not like the NFL and NHL, where they actually do study the athletes to try to determine when someone should quit the sport or when someone should no longer be participating. But things have changed. Fighters used to fight more often. Fighters would train differently in the gym. They wouldn’t take time off between fights and fights would be endless numbers of rounds. Doctors and referees wouldn’t stop fights as readily. There’s much more acuity as to when a fight needs to stop, because it used to be that the venues didn’t want to see the doctors, they didn’t want to know where the ambulance personnel was, they didn’t want to know anything. They didn’t want anybody to get the impression that boxing was unsafe. And now that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Now everybody wants to know that things are as safe as possible.”

Safety is a good idea in all walks of life, but boxing turns that concept on its head.

“We know that boxing isn’t safe and will never be completely safe, because it’s a combat sport, but I think things are not as bad as they were. But is it good for anyone to get hit in the head?” Goodman asked. “Of course not. So that’s the other side of the coin. Whether they’re wearing headgear or not. There are better ways to prevent damage to the brain and there are a lot of things the fighter can do to prevent that and a lot of that comes from their training regimen, their strength, their nutrition, strong neck muscles, a good mouthpiece, a good chin tuck. There are a lot of things that someone can control that can help prevent head injuries. If you look at fighters, how many minutes is the fighter in his career really spend in a fight? Not that many when compared to the hours and hours, days and months and years of them training in the gym. But getting hit in the head during training doesn’t make it easier for you to get hit in the head during an actual fight.”

Even for a body shot junkie, head shots are the thing. There’s no faster way to put a man down on the canvas and out of this world. The sport of boxing would be nothing, a mere exhibition, without the knockdown, without the knockout.

“There’s a whole bunch of different ways someone can get knocked down,” Goodman said, “but technically what’s happening is there’s a transient or temporary disruption in the circulation to the brain. Your body has a protective mechanism that when something happens that possibly places your brain at risk, your brain wants you on the ground, supine, to let the blood flow go back to the brain. You know when someone faints you want to put their legs up? That’s so the blood will rush back up to the head. So it’s the same kind of thing in reverse that happens in a knockdown. A knockout can be a whole bunch of different things, depending on how the knockout is given to the fighter. It can occur from different ways. Different parts of circulation of the brain can be disrupted. Sometimes there’s an awareness center at the back of the brain that controls alertness and depending if that part of the circulation to the brain is disrupted, you’ll just lose consciousness instantly. Almost always that will return, but that again is a transient phenomenon.”

That is one transient phenomenon the fans adore.

“In the stands when they ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ when they see the head rotate, you’re actually cutting off the circulation to the brain, depending on how that head is rotating and in which direction. What happens is when the brain gets subjected to trauma, it can change not only the blood flow, but also changes how your cells are reacting in your brain, and that can make you a little dingy, you know, not kind of like all with the program.”

It can’t be easy enjoying the fights knowing what’s happening to our favorite fighters.

“As a neurologist I could tell you I have learned more neurology sitting ringside watching what happens to a fighter when they’re getting hit than I could have ever learned in any hospital.”

That seems like one helluva way to get an education, but the School of Hard Knocks has its charms.

“I think boxing is incredibly beautiful. It’s a beautiful sport to watch. It certainly is one of the purest sports,” Goodman said. “The other thing that attracts me to boxing is the drama. I love the drama. There’s nothing more dramatic than two fighters in the ring – and nothing more courageous.”

Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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