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A New Book Publishing House Devoted to Boxing Clocks in with a Classic

Arne K. Lang

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A New Book Publishing House Devoted to Boxing Clocks in with a Classic

It goes without saying that these are perilous times for the print media industry. It wasn’t long ago that one could walk through an airport and find most folks sitting in the waiting rooms devouring a magazine, a book or a newspaper. Nowadays they are glued to their electronic device.

Many of America’s grand old book publishing houses have disappeared. They either closed down or, more likely, were swallowed up by one of the Big 5 (HarperCollins, Macmillan, Hatchette, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster). But the publishing industry is far from dead. Vanity presses never went away and there has actually been a sharp surge in the number of niche publishers, a development fueled in large part by lower production costs.

Among the newbies is Hamilcar Publications, a small press in Boston that specializes in boxing. Their initial offering, released in October of last year, was a reissue of “Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story” by Candace Toft. Then came the big enchilada, the first U.S. edition of Donald McRae’s “Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing.” Now up to 552 pages with the addition of a new chapter, McRae’s opus, originally published in 1997, has been hailed as one of the best boxing books of all time. There are 12 more titles in various stages of development, three of which will be released this year.

Hamilcar Publications www.hamilcarpubs.com was co-founded by Kyle Sarofeen and Andy Komack, former classmates — they have known each other since eighth grade – in the little seaport town of Rockport, Massachusetts. They have complementary skill sets. Sarofeen spent 15 years in the book publishing business, working in various capacities for several of the largest firms in the Boston area. He’s familiar with what he calls the carpentry of book manufacturing, the process by which a manuscript is turned into a book. Andy Komack’s background is in marketing and advertising. He was formerly affiliated with DraftKings.

Since their early teens, Kyle and Andy have followed boxing religiously. Both were big fans of Marvin Hagler.

Sarofeen subsequently became a fan of James Toney. That eventually led to his hookup with Donald McRae, a prolific writer with varied interests who has authored several more boxing books plus books about pioneering heart surgeon Christiaan Bernard and the famous trial lawyer Clarence Darrow, among others.

“Dark Trade” focuses on the boxing scene in the U.S. and the U.K. in the 1990s. McRae was granted unprecedented access to some of the leading fight personalities of the era and from these fraternizations he crafted deep and revealing profiles of such men as Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr, Chris Eubank, Michael Watson, Naseem Hamed, Oscar De La Hoya, Evander Holyfield, Bob Arum and Don King. But he became particularly close to James Toney and Toney’s resourceful mother Sherry who started a successful pie-making business in Ann Arbor, Michigan. If this book were a movie, it would be an ensemble piece in which James “Lights Out” Toney emerges as the lead character.

Kyle Sarofeen sent an e-mail to Donald McRae and received a warm reply. “We hit it off right away,” says Kyle, a rapport spurred by their mutual admiration for James Toney. Sarofeen would learn that “Dark Trade,” originally published by Mainstream and then acquired by Simon and Schuster, had never been released in the United States which was odd as many of the scenes take place in the U.S., mostly against the backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip, an adult arcade that McRae writes about with delicious perceptions.

Sarofeen and McRae were in concordance that the book needed a new chapter. What McRae delivered was a 49-page tailpiece that includes profiles of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Tyson Fury, and Carl Frampton plus return visits with such notables as Mike Tyson, the inspirational Michael Watson and, inevitably, his great friend James Toney. The reunion was awkward. In his early interviews with the boxer, Toney, says McRae, spoke “with a drawling, almost mumbling swagger,” but yet with clarity and wit. Now the words that came out of his mouth “sounded muffled and slurred. It became impossible to ignore the damage done to him by twenty-five years in the professional ring.”

The first edition of “Dark Trade” had Evander Holyfield on the cover. The Hamilcar edition, it was agreed, needed Toney on the cover and an artist, Amanda Kelley, was commissioned to paint his portrait. It depicts Toney with a slick, dark green hoodie, a portion of which slinks down over his left eye. Underneath his stoicism is an undercurrent of menace.

For all his fistic achievements, James Toney, a surefire Hall of Famer, remains a cult figure. Folks with no interest in boxing can identify Evander Holyfield. It’s doubtful that James Toney’s name would ring a bell. “And that’s the difference between us and a big publishing house,” Sarofeen told me. “The big houses are generalists. They would never put a James Toney on the cover.”

“Dark Trade,” noted an astute reviewer, is best read in pieces. Unfortunately, there is no index, not that one would have expected one from a non-fiction book that reads like a series of novellas.

In the Pipeline

The next book off the Hamilcar conveyor belt is a re-issue of British boxing writer Kevin Mitchell’s 2009 “Jacobs Beach: The Mob, the Garden, and the Golden Age of Boxing.” From that point on, the slate consists of previously unpublished works, starting with Don Stradley’s “Berserk,” a bio of Edwin Valero that Sarofeen calls a little masterpiece.

This will be a paperback that will be translated into Spanish for the Hispanic, Latino, and Argentine markets and will be the first salvo of a “Hamilcar Noir” series, a series of little books that cover the seamy side of boxing. Another book in the series, Patrick Connor’s “Shot at a Brothel,” is about the life of Oscar Bonavena. It has a tentative June 2020 release date. Also in the queue are works by Carlos Acevedo, Paul Zanon, Jimmy Tobin, Tris Dixon, Charles Farrell, Todd Snyder, and Christian Giudice among others.

A South Jersey native, fluent in Spanish, Giudice is best known for his biography of Roberto Duran, the template for the film “Hands of Stone.” The book, notes Kyle Sarofeen, sold considerably more in Great Britain than in the U.S. “That told us that something was going on (over there),” says Kyle, “in terms of the UK being a big market for us — which was something we expected but hadn’t recognized fully before then.”

Sarofeen is particularly enthused about Todd Snyder’s forthcoming book, a biography of Drew “Bundini” Brown, the street-wise Harlem curbstone philosopher who spent seven years with Sugar Ray Robinson before becoming Muhammad Ali’s loyal companion and hype man. Bundini is credited with giving Ali the line, “Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee.” Some recognize Ali as America’s first rapper.

Sarofeen, who had written about Bundini and knew that there were many layers to the man, chose Todd Snyder to write the book.  Snyder is familiar with boxing – his father, a West Virginia coal miner, ran a boxing gym – and familiar with the world of hip-hop. At Siena College where he is an assistant professor of English, Snyder teaches a class where hip-hop lyrics are analyzed as if they were poetry.

Sarofeen thinks that the Bundini book, slated for release in the late summer or early fall of 2020, will have crossover appeal. How does a librarian classify it? Should it be shelved with the boxing books, or in the American Studies section, or perhaps with the books on African-American history?

Starting a book publishing company in this day and age where many of the established firms are scrambling to stay relevant in the face of massive technological shifts, will strike many as quixotic. However, Kyle Sarofeen and Andy Komack started this venture with their eyes wide open and no illusions about getting rich quick. For them, Hamilcar is a labor of love, a way of enriching the impressive body of literature that girds their favorite sport.

We wish them well.

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Joey Giardello vs. Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Fight That Never Was

Arne K. Lang

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Today (Wednesday, Oct. 23) marks the 55th anniversary of the aborted fight at the Las Vegas Convention Center between Joey Giardello and challenger Rubin “Hurricane” Carter for the middleweight championship of the world.

How’s that again?

Most folks with an interest in boxing history are aware that Joey Giardello once fought ‘Hurricane’ Carter. Many know that the fight was held in Philadelphia. And the most fervent boxing aficionados can probably pinpoint the month and year, December of 1964, Dec. 14 to be exact. But few people know that this fight had been orphaned, leaving the principals stranded in Las Vegas, as it were, scrambling for a new date and venue.

It’s odd that there’s been virtually no mention of this fact in stories about the Giardello-Carter fight because had the fight had gone off as scheduled, the post-fight life of Hurricane Carter may have taken a different path. Considering what lay ahead for him, it’s hard to think of another aborted fight that commands such a compelling “what if?”.

The Las Vegas fight was promoted by an organization called the Silver State Boxing Club. The face of the club was matchmaker Mel “Red” Greb. A Caesars Palace craps dealer, Greb had learned the business of boxing in his native Newark beginning as a teenage “go-fer” for Willie Gilzenburg who had the boxing and wrestling concession at Newark’s premier indoor sports venue, Laurel Gardens.

For a world title fight, the Silver State Club needed a partner to share the expenses and risk. They partnered with Telescript, a fledgling company that had acquired the rights to exhibit the fight at closed-circuit outlets. But Telescript, to Greb’s great dismay, was all smoke and mirrors. The company was contractually obligated to kick in a portion of the required $55,000 bond, but the helmsmen kept stalling and eventually Greb had no recourse but to bail out. On Monday, Oct. 19, four days before the big event, a crestfallen Greb told the media that the show was canceled. The gate receipts alone wouldn’t be sufficient to cover his nut.

In those days in Las Vegas, it was normative for the principals in a nationally important fight to show up three weeks before the event. The showroom or ballroom at the casino where they stayed was converted into a gym for afternoon workouts. The workouts were open to the public and the fighters were expected to fraternize with high rollers.

Joey Giardello, being the A-side guy (and the white guy) got to stay on the Strip. He and his entourage stayed at the Thunderbird. They sent Hurricane Carter downtown to the far less toney El Cortez.

According to stories in both local papers, Carter looked sensational in his workouts. He ran off several sparring partners.

One could attribute this to pre-fight hype, but hype that is especially thick is invariably layered on an underdog and Hurricane Carter was the favorite. The local bookies had it 7/5 that The Hurricane would snatch away Giardello’s title and the price was expected to drift higher.

A Snapshot of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

In 1964, Hurricane Carter was 27 years old. To say that he had a troubled past would be an understatement. He had been convicted three times for muggings and had already spent 10 years of his life behind prison walls.

Carter was good copy for sportswriters because he was extremely well-spoken. “I regret that I was a contumacious child,” he told New York Post reporter Milton Gross. He had charisma that accrued from his menacing appearance. He was one of the first prominent athletes to shave his head bald, cultivated a Fu Manchu moustache and a thick beard, and perfected Sonny Liston’s malevolent glare.

Carter turned heads with first-round knockouts of Cuban contender Florentino Fernandez and world welterweight champion Emile Griffith in a non-title fight. Aside from those spectacular triumphs, his best win was a split decision over George Benton, a tough fighter from Philadelphia who would go on to become a prominent trainer. Benton owned a win over Giardello.

But Carter’s 20-4 pro record was unexceptional for a man accorded a title shot and three of those losses had come against marginally skilled opponents. Giardello’s boosters disparaged Carter as a frontrunner, a boxer who loses his courage when he fails to take his man out quick.

A Snapshot of Joey Giardello

Giardello was born in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and raised in South Philly. His birth name was Carmine Orlando Tilelli. The name “Giardello” came from a phony ID, an ID loaned to him by an older boy, the cousin of a friend. It was Joey’s passport out of his hoodlum-infested neighborhood, allowing him to join the Army at age 15. The pseudonym stuck.

Prior to joining the Army, Giardello had served four-and-a-half months in a juvenile reformatory. He was the alleged ringleader of a gang of teenagers that busted up a gas station.

Giardello’s 10-round fight with Detroit’s Henry Hank in 1962 was named The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year. But his performance in this fight was out of character as Giardello wasn’t a hell-for-leather fighter. To the contrary, he was something of a cutie; a crafty technician.

His career was a lesson in perseverance. He had 105 fights under his belt when he got his first title shot. It came against Gene Fullmer in Bozeman, Montana, a regional site advantage for Fullmer who lived on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. In a lusty match, Fullmer retained his title with a 15-round draw.

Three years later, after upsetting a faded Sugar Ray Robinson, Giardello was granted another title shot, this coming against Dick Tiger in Atlantic City. They had split two previous meetings, but Tiger, born in Nigeria, was installed a 7/2 favorite.

Counter-punching effectively, Giardello won the title, prevailing by an 8-5-2 margin on the scorecard of referee Paul Cavalier, the sole arbiter. There were only two internationally relevant world sanctioning organizations, the WBA and WBC, and both now recognized Joey Giardello as their champion.

When the Giardello-Carter fight finally came to fruition at the Philadelphia Convention Center, the deck was stacked against The Hurricane. The Pennsylvania Commission, yielding to a protest from Giardello’s camp, forced Carter to shave off his beard so that he could not use it as an abrasive in the clinches. And although Carter hailed from Paterson, New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia, he would be in hostile territory. The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Giardello.

In the 1999 movie “The Hurricane,” filmed in black-and-white to capture the flavor of the era, Carter pounds Giardello from pillar to post only to be robbed of the decision by racially biased judges who deliberate 35 minutes before reaching their decision.

Carter is portrayed by Denzel Washington. He’s brilliant, but the movie is garbage. Fourteen of 17 ringside reporters scored the fight for Giardello who did especially well in the late rounds. (Giardello sued director Norman Jewison for libel and received an undisclosed sum in a case settled out of court.)

Hurricane Carter had 15 more fights, winning eight, before he was locked away in Rahway State Prison for his involvement – perhaps we should say alleged involvement — in a particularly heinous crime, a triple homicide at a Paterson bar and grill. He spent 19 years at Rahway, all the while maintaining his innocence, and became a cause-celebre, inspiring three books (the movie was based on his autobiography “The 16th Round”) and a Bob Dylan song. He died in 2014 in Toronto where he was being treated for prostate cancer.

Joey Giardello lost his title in his next title defense, losing a 15-round decision to four-time rival Dick Tiger, and retired in 1967 with a record of 98-26-8. In retirement, he held several private- and public-sector jobs and became known for his charity work, particularly for children with learning disabilities. (Joey’s son Carman, the youngest of his four children, was born with Down Syndrome.) He died in 2008, three years before a statue of him by the noted sculptor Carl LeVotch was unveiled in his old Philadelphia neighborhood.

Nobody seems to be on the fence when it comes to Hurricane Carter’s guilt or innocence. He was twice found guilty in jury trials, but both verdicts were overturned on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. “Twice Wrongly Convicted of Murder” appeared in the headline of his obituary in the New York Times, but there are some folks who will always believe that justice would have been better served if his captors had thrown away the key. Regardless, the “what if?” question will never disappear.

What if Carter’s fight with Giardello had been staged in Las Vegas as originally planned? Keep in mind that Carter would have been favored. How would his life have changed going forward if the fight hadn’t imploded, the casualty of a bad marriage between a local promoter and a feckless TV partner?

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 70: Golden Boy vs Top Rank, US vs UK and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 70: Golden Boy vs Top Rank, US vs UK and More

Several riveting battles take place this weekend, two in the American southwest and another in the United Kingdom. Each card presents world title fights that titillate the fancy of pure boxing fans.

Deep in the Coachella desert another world title takes place as WBO light flyweight titlist Elwin “La Pulga” Soto (15-1, 11 KOs) defends against Filipino challenger Edward Heno (14-0-5, 5 KOs) at Fantasy Springs Casino on Thursday Oct. 24. The Golden Boy Promotions card will be streamed by RingTV.com.

The last time Mexico’s “The Flea” Soto entered the ring he upset Puerto Rican slugger Angel Acosta with a knockout in the last round. As we have mentioned many times before, Mexico versus Puerto Rico is a matchup that never fails to provide action and drama.

This time it’s Mexico versus Philippines and though it’s not as prolific, these two countries still get their antlers up when they face each other. Manny Pacquiao really started the ball rolling when he went through a murderer’s row of Mexican fighters in the early 2000s, or did we forget?

Pacman beat Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, at least twice each and established himself as a legendary fighter. And he’s still fighting.

Heno, 27, fights out of Manila and is making his American debut. It’s also his first confrontation with a Mexican fighter so it should be interesting especially with a world title as the prize.

A couple of other solid fighters highlight the card including Jonathan Navarro a super lightweight from East L.A. who had back to back impressive wins over Damon Allen and Manuel Mendez. Navarro works out of Riverside with Robert Garcia and is moving up the ranks. He fights Levis Morales (17-5-1) in an eight round contest at Fantasy Springs.

Also on the Golden Boy card are Ireland’s undefeated welterweight Aaron McKenna and Mexico’s undefeated super welterweight Raul Curiel.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. PT and the fights begin at 5 p.m. PT.

Top Rank vs Golden Boy

On Saturday Oct. 26, in Reno, Nevada, the Silver state, former amateur rivals Shakur Stevenson (12-0, 7 KOs) and Joet Gonzalez (23-0, 14 KOs) face off for the vacant WBO featherweight world title. ESPN will televise.

Three years ago Stevenson emerged from the Rio Olympics in 2016 as one of the more electrifying performers on Team USA, but he didn’t win the gold. Gonzalez was one of the American boxers that did not make the team. Both have been very familiar with each other for years.

Gonzalez also has a sister, Jajaira Gonzalez, who competed for the American team going to the Rio Olympics who is good friends with Stevenson. There will be no surprises in this fight. They know each other well.

Stevenson, 22, arrived from the Olympics with blistering speed and height to go with his boxing skills. When he first entered the pro ranks he was all speed and no punch. But that has changed. A lot of amateur coaches like to preach that speed is power. No, it is not. That’s why certain speedy boxers from the amateurs don’t quite make it in the pros.

Lately, the power has arrived and Stevenson has stopped five of his last seven opponents. He can punch.

Gonzalez, 26, always had a pro style and it’s a primary reason he did not make the Olympic team. But in the prize ring he’s evolved into a force, especially after escaping with a win over Mexican tough guy Rafael Rivera a year ago in Los Angeles. It was a pivotal win that made Gonzalez an even better fighter, a fighter with purpose and a tint more meanness in the ring. He’s stopped three fighters in a row including the talented Manuel “Tito” Avila.

This fight is also worth noting for another reason: it’s Top Rank versus Golden Boy and when they put their fighters against each other they usually result in explosive results. How can anyone forget Jose Carlos Ramirez versus Antonio Orozco? Expect the same in this fight.

London Calling

Scottish fighter Josh Taylor (15-0, 12 KOs) meets American slugger Regis Prograis (24-0, 20 KOs) in a battle of the southpaws at O2 Arena in London, England on Saturday Oct. 26. DAZN will stream the title clash early 11 a.m. Saturday morning if you live in the Pacific Coast.

Anytime you put lefties versus lefties expect the fight to end with a knockout. Both Prograis and Taylor are hard hitting southpaws with run-them-over tendencies. Neither is a fancy Dan.

Taylor, 28, looks and fights like he does collections at night for local Glasgow mobsters. He’s not shy about taking blows to give blows. He also can be elusive if he desires, but usually prefers a dog fight. Ask Ivan Baranchyk a Russian fighter who ran into him in Glasgow. The Scottish pugilist out-muscled the muscle.

Prograis, 30, prefers to slug it out rather than box it out. If this were a movie, he would be Doc Holliday in the film Tombstone who says, “I’m your huckleberry.”

The Louisiana prizefighter has ties to Hollywood and is co-managed by director Peter Berg and his frequent collaborator, actor Mark Wahlberg. Maybe after this fight Berg can remake the Tombstone movie so that Prograis can play Doc Holliday.

This fight has taken several turns before it finally was nailed down.

Surprisingly it has not been received with the excitement it deserves. This ranks up there with Kostya Tszyu versus Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya versus Shane Mosley, or Miguel Angel Gonzalez versus Julio Cesar Chavez. All were super lightweight or welterweight fights that electrified the fans when they took place.

It’s guaranteed to provide excitement.

Another added factor will be the lefty component. When lefties fight lefties it creates a puzzle that neither are accustomed to facing. Whoever figures out the conundrum –which usually means whoever lands a right hook first– will win the fight.

Both Taylor and Prograis are tough guys. They each have speed, strength and power to end each other’s night with a single pile driving blow.

Don’t miss it.

Hollywood Swinging

The return of Serhii “El Flaco”Bohachuk (15-0, 15 KOs) finds the Ukrainian slugger facing a tough test in veteran Tyrone Brunson (28-7-2, 25 KOs), a Philadelphia super welterweight who has fought elite fighters in the past. They meet on Sunday Oct. 27, at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, Calif. on the 360 Promotions fight card. It will be streamed on the promotion’s web site and on the Facebook page.

Bohachuk, 24, trains with Abel Sanchez in Big Bear and has quickly proven to be a very solid boxer who can deal with technical fighters, or handle bombers in crazy exchanges.

Brunson, 34, competed in the recent television boxing show The Contender and lost to eventual champion Brandon Adams by knockout last year in Los Angeles. But he has a win over Kermit Cintron so he knows what he’s doing in the prize ring. He also went the distance with Caleb Plant four years ago.

Doors open at 3 p.m. First bout begins at 4 p.m.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. UFC Fight Pass 4 p.m. Tiara Brown (8-0) vs Vanessa Bradford (5-1-2); Mykquan Williams (15-0) vs Tre’Sean Wiggins (11-4-2).

Thurs. RingTV.com 5 p.m. Elwin Soto (15-1) vs Edward Heno (14-0-5).

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Kendo Castaneda (16-0) vs Stan Martyniouk (20-2).

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Regis Prograis (24-0) vs Josh Taylor (15-0).

Sat. Showtime 6 p.m. Erickson Lubin (21-1) vs Nathaniel Gallimore (21-3-1); Robert Easter (21-1-1) vs Adrian Granados (20-7-2).

Sat. ESPN 7 p.m. Shakur Stevenson (12-0) vs Joet Gonzalez (23-0); Mikaela Mayer (11-0) vs Alejandra Zamora (7-3).

Sunday www.360Promotions.us  5 p.m. Serhii Bohachuk (15-0) vs Tyrone Brunson (28-7-2).

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Making Boxing Safer, A Call to Action: Part Two

Ted Sares

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The tragic passing of Patrick Day emphasized once again that measures must be taken to make boxing a safer sport. I reached out to a mix of trainers, ex-boxers and writers for their suggestions.

Weigh-in reform (covered in Part One) was a common refrain. Others emphasized the need for more consistency in the standards of regulatory bodies. Brain scans and more responsible work by cornermen also received multiple mentions.

Dr. Margaret Goodman has been a long-time advocate for a federal boxing commission. In the meantime, says Dr. Goodman, “we need uniformity, uniformity, uniformity,” and “all commissions must recognize that one of their most important roles is to deny a fighter a license when they are no longer safe to compete –AND ALL COMMISSIONS EITHER HONOR THAT DENIAL OR PERFORM DUE DILIGENCE BEFORE LICENSING THAT ATHLETE (if they disagree).”

“The ‘medical’ side of boxing is over-complicated by the variety of rules and regulations that exist across the multiple boxing organizations and is complicated further still by yet more differences across ‘national’ bodies (Nevada, NY, BBBofC etc.),” says Harry Otty, who notes that it will take a while to get everyone on the same page. “A short-term solution,” says Otty, would be to insist on more thorough medicals prior to the fights. Said medicals should include scans for pre-existing brain bleeds (the technology for this now exists in the form of a hand-held scanner)….“An annual brain scan (for those organizations who insist on it) is only good for the day it was done, so a monitoring system needs to be introduced. The more cost (and time)-effective the better.”

Boxing historian Henry Hascup is also bullish on brain scans. “Start when they first begin boxing as a pro and then have them annually,” says Hascup. “They should also have them after a tough fight just to see where they stand! In the gyms, some of these fighters have wars against each other. I know it’s entertaining, but it’s not good for the fighters in the long term. There should be a medical person of some kind to oversee this!”

In this same vein, Dr. Goodman says all fighters should be required to undergo an MRI at least yearly and adds that all commissions should institute adequate PED testing using only accredited labs.

Cornermen and Ring Officials

 Henry Hascup believes that more education is needed for trainers. “Right now all you need is a few dollars and you can work the corner,” says Hascup. “In the amateurs they have to go through a clinic every couple of years, why not in the pro’s where it is so much more dangerous!? They should be educated on what to look for before working a corner!”

Boxing manager, advisor, and noted attorney Anthony Cardinale makes this observation: The corner is in the best position to see that the boxer is not performing and reacting properly- gets slower, doesn’t execute combinations correctly, isn’t avoiding punches he would normally avoid- and should be in the best position to realize that there is no way to win the fight but by some prayer of KO punch, and when that happens the corner must stop the fight.”

Cardinale acknowledges that many trainers do stop the fight when this occurs, but says it doesn’t happen often enough. “The cornerman/trainer has developed that drive and tends to believe that their boxer can come back, recover, and win in a fight even when it may not be reasonable to do so,” says Cardinale. “So my humble suggestion is to have a neutral observer monitoring the fighter/corner who is able to call a halt to the fight or to at least have a doctor examine the fighter and consult in deciding if the fighter should not continue. Usually there is a commission representative in each corner – but they only enforce commission rules regarding the conduct of the bout. Why not engage someone that has the skill, background, training, and integrity to do both jobs?”

St. Olaf University philosophy professor, trainer, and writer Gordon Marino also emphasizes the importance of a responsible corner: “I think many if not most of the deaths of late could have been avoided if rather than risk the death of a fighter refs and corners would risk the wrath of the crowd and stop hopelessly one-sided fights, a la Eddie Futch in Ali-Frazier III.”

Author John Raspanti, the lead writer/editor for MaxBoxing, recommends expanding the role of ringside physicians: “Most of boxing’s serious injuries are caused by an accumulation of blows over the course of a fight. If a bout is a tough one, the ringside physician should start monitoring and physically checking the fighters as early as round three. Personally, I think ringside physicians should be able to call a fight in ALL states, not just some. Perhaps bring back the standing eight count, though some very zealous referees might interrupt the flow of fights.”

A somewhat related recommendation comes from TSS writer Matt Andrzejewski: “…We strongly need to consider implementing a modified open scoring system where if a fighter is down by a certain number of rounds certain people are notified. This includes the referee, doctor, member of the commission and the fighter’s corner. This may be cause for a fighter to not take further unnecessary punishment.”

Other suggestions that have been tossed out over the years include mandatory headgear, reducing the length of championship fights from 12 to 10 rounds, and shortening rounds from three to two minutes. None of the respondents found merit in these proposals.

Reducing the number of rounds or the duration of rounds “fundamentally changes the sport in a way that could negatively affect the bottom line financially and aesthetically,” says Lee Groves.

As for headgear, TSS mainstay and 2019 IBHOF nominee Bernard Fernandez and the noted trainer and former world title challenger John “Iceman” Scully both thought it would seriously erode fan interest, unquestionably killing the sport in the words of Scully. And Lee Groves questions whether headgear actually would make the sport safer. “….it may absorb the initial shock of the fist but the additional weight on one’s head could cause an even more damaging swivel of the neck that would further jar the brain.”

“One suggestion that would have potentially helped situations like Patrick Day’s would have been a thicker and more forgiving canvas,” continues Groves, “but making a canvas absorbent enough to minimize the shock of his head striking the floor would, in turn, make it disadvantageous to boxers who rely on movement and advantageous to the big punchers because they’d be able to better dig in their toes and generate maximum power. And if big punchers are better able to enhance their power, then they would, in turn, inflict more of the kind of life-threatening trauma we’re trying to avoid.”

While the aforementioned Scully is strongly opposed to headgear, he thinks improvements can be made with respect to gloves. “I do believe it would be safer if they would stop making gloves that are designed to transmit force,” he says. “Everybody in the game knows that there are certain gloves that really hurt and do more damage than others. Cleto-Reyes, for example. Horsehair gloves should definitely not be in the mix. I believe that if you had professionals wear 12 oz or even 14 oz gloves with foam padding, you’d see a lot less injuries. And the fact is you would see better fights because guys wouldn’t be so leery of the big punchers with the 10-ounce horsehair gloves on.”

Author and boxing historian Mike Silver, covering familiar territory, points the finger at “clueless” boxing officials. “The level of incompetence of so-called ringside physicians, trainers, chief seconds, commission officials and of course horribly incompetent referees is breathtaking. Unless things are changed more fighters will die. In fact more are dying proportionally (number of active boxers) than ever before because boxing safety is all cosmetic and stupid and controlled by clueless officials. Everything needs to be reviewed and revised from length of bouts, structure of boxing gloves, too much tape on hands, drug use, especially the lack of defensive skills among today’s fighters…..”

Bernard Fernandez, who has studied this issue extensively, would remind us that there are pros and cons to many well-intentioned reforms: “More extensive pre-fight physical examinations? Some tests are cost-prohibitive, especially for small promoters….Referees instructed to more quickly stop bouts once a fighter gets in any kind of trouble? We would never have thrilled to the late-bout heroics of back-from-the-brink action heroes like Matthew Saad Muhammad and Arturo Gatti.”

“Unless or until we are ready to throw out the baby with the bath water,” says Fernandez, “we aficionados might just have to cope with occasional pangs of guilt that linger just a bit longer with each event that goes horribly wrong. The same might be said of ardent fans who follow the NFL (CTE is real), mixed martial arts, bull-riding in rodeos, race-car drivers, etc. All these sports have the fan bases they do because there is an element of risk involved for participants. Does that make those of us who watch or report enablers? Does it make highly paid athletes solely or mostly culpable for whatever injuries they incur?

“So many questions, so many opinions, but so few answers. I wish I had some that would have a positive effect, or any effect. Unless, of course, the heartfelt offering of prayers for the health and well-being of those who are bold enough to step inside the ropes actually do have an effect.”

My own feelings regarding a call for action start with effective weight control and secondarily periodic brain scans. It’s pretty plain that when the goal of weight-cutting is to have an ultimate size advantage over your opponent, something bad can occur. Reform in these two areas can be implemented without endangering fan interest in the sport.

It’s something to ponder.

A hearty thank you to everyone who took the time to contribute to this story,

Postscript: Heaven just gained a new angel. Fly high Patrick Day; fly strong.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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