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Lowinger: Failed System Put Colon in Coma

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Last weekend, super welterweight prospect Prichard Colon fought Terrel Williams and left the arena unconscious; he was rushed to a hospital and underwent surgery to relieve pressure from a brain bleed.

I didn’t see the fight and the internet’s been scrubbed clean of all but brief glimpses. So based on written reports from multiple outlets , here’s what we know:

(1) Colon began complaining about rabbit-punching in the first round. Colon eventually replied with a illegal punch of his own into Williams’ groin, to which Williams (14-0, 12 KOs) responded with a throat-cutting gesture. Referee Joe Cooper, infamous for his role in Peterson- Khan, deducted two points from Colon.

(2) In the 7th, Williams exacted his revenge with another vicious rabbit punch to the back of Colon’s head, hurting him and receiving a one-point penalty. Colon took the full five minutes to recover. The NBC broadcast team overheard Colon tell the ring doctor he was dizzy.

(3) In the 9th round, Williams sent an exhausted Colon to the canvas twice, the second time on another punch to the back of the head as Colon stumbled into Williams’ grasp, allowing Williams to pivot and send Colon on his way.

(4) It was Colon’s third fight in as many months, and he had fought past 8 rounds only one other time.

(5) Colon’s corner, thinking the fight was over, began removing his gloves, earning Colon a confusing DQ loss.

(6) After returning to dressing room, Colon became dizzy, vomited, then fainted. He has not been conscious since. He underwent emergency brain surgery to relieve pressure associated with a brain bleed.

(7) Al Haymon, who has maintained a vow of silence with the media since he began his career in boxing, has refused to make any kind of comment.

With boxing fandom comes a good deal of hand-wringing over the back-room politics that govern the sport: its matchups, its alphabet sanctioning bodies, its shadowy (shady) promoters, and its broadcast partners. All of this pales in comparison to an injury like Colon’s (and Magomed Abdusalamov before him) when you can unpack the series of events that led to the catastrophic injury and conclude this was probably preventable.

Above the picture of the comatose Colon strapped to a hospital gurney making rounds on social media, the questions that echo the loudest are: Why was Colon fighting for the third time in three months (and against a very strong opponent)? Why would Cooper allow such a dangerous and repeated tactic to occur? And, why in bloody hell would a ring doctor allow a fighter to continue when they say they are dizzy?

Fighters are not mentally built to back down or let fear of injury cross their minds, which is exactly why a boxer making any kind of statement about their condition should be treated with utmost seriousness. Abdusalamov complained early on in his fateful fight that his face didn’t feel right; why a doctor who witnessed the rabbit punch would let the fight continue is disconcerting. Why Colon’s corner, which included Colon’s father, couldn’t see that Colon had waded into deep and unchartered waters out there is even more troubling. Fathers too often make for awful corner men. But that they removed his gloves and forced the DQ, unintentionally or not, most likely saved NBC from airing a boxer’s death live to America.

The inherent risk in the sport of boxing is hard enough to reconcile without multiple failures of organizing bodies and systems that should be there to protect the fighters as priority number one. It’s not good enough that the rabbit-punching eventually led to a point deduction later in the fight, by then, the damage was done and Williams looking for an edge as an underdog to the younger and more dynamic Colon, was undetered.

Look, I understand that boxing is a very dangerous sport and I even accept that it’s part of what makes it compelling. As a metaphor for life and death and as a metaphor for overcoming hardship, it’s an instructive and inspiring human act that is thousands of years old. The fight that brought me to boxing was Ward-Gatti 1, a brutal fight which sent both men to the hospital, and the recent 40th anniversary of the Thrilla in Manila was another time to reflect on a night during which Mohammad Ali, the great heavyweight warrior, had never felt so close to death—and you can see that spectre of death settle in on both fighters in the late rounds. By flirting with that line, boxers can transcend mortal restrictions and become demigods forged in the fire of pain, that most universal sensation.

What no one should accept here is the wanton disregard for this fighter’s health. PBC overlord Al Haymon continues his radio silence on all matters, neglecting to comment even a “no comment” to ESPN’s Dan Rafael over the Colon matter. Truthfully, I never needed to hear from the man until now. That this kind of tragedy being swept under the rug by PBC is almost as loathsome as letting referee Joe Cooper anywhere near a fight again. Haymon apparently visited Colon in the hospital Wednesday, to me a thoroughly meaningless gesture if he doesn’t even have the cojones to talk to reporters.

I observed Prichard Colon last month on the Stevenson-Karpency undercard. A young boxer with a fun, fan-friendly style, he used his insane height for 154 pounds and his reach to eventually set up power shots, dispatching with veteran Vivian Harris in four rounds. But here was the thing with that fight, Vivian Harris stayed in the fight until he got hurt; he knew his role as a B-side, he didn’t come to win. Soon as he got hurt, he got smart, and stayed on his knee. Nearly 15 years removed from his title-contending years, the 37-year old knew when to cut his losses, and Harris was probably the biggest name Colon had fought up to that point.

On Saturday, for his third fight in three months his handlers gave Colon the undefeated power-puncher in Williams, easily the most formidable challenge in Colon’s young career. And then they let the less-talented man foul his way to even playing field. And now one man hovers on the brink of death and even if he recovers, let’s face it: Colon will never fight again.

Boxing promoter Lou DiBella, who promoted part of the PBC undercard on Saturday, hasn’t pulled punches, acknowledging Colon sustained a “profound injury” where all you can do now is “pray, hope, and wait.” And not a word from Haymon.

The fight and its highlights and been nearly scrubbed from the PBC and NBC websites, a bootleg YouTube video of the fight that existed earlier in the week has already been taken down.

Now, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Colon’s family is requesting a copy of the fight, and that Virginia Boxing Commissioner David Holland spoke with Colon at one point during that fight, giving one of Colon’s seconds the distinct impression that Holland felt the boxer was hamming it up. Holland deferred comment to a spokesperson who stated the commission has launched an internal investigation into the circumstances of the event.

If you wanted a reminder that none of the money people in boxing give a flying F about fighter’s safety, just check in on recent articles about PED use in boxing. In no other sport can PED use become fatal, and in no other sport are there as many blindspots and loopholes as there in the crooked science. Antonio Tarver tested positive for PEDs after his summer fight with Steve Cunningham, begging the question, WHY WASN’T HE TESTED BEFORE THE FIGHT AND DISQUALIFIED?

Oh, Haymon had nothing to say about Tarver, either.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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