A Perfect Stoppage
“The referee thought what we thought—no chance for Popoca to win, why allow him to continue…especially in the form he was in, looking at his face.”—Teddy Atlas
Ivan Popoca (15-2-1) fought bravely against Jose Louis “El Tembile” Castillo (64-11-1) in Friday night’s co-feature in Chicago, but he bled like a sieve from both eyes and his left one had developed serious swelling. While he conceivably could have continued beyond the eighth round, the bleeding would have only gotten worse because the cutman seemed overly challenged by it.
Referee Pete Podgorski cut Ivan a lot of slack in this one and when the ringside doctor quipped (what surely will become a classic) that “he’s a bloody mess, but he can continue,” Pete let them do just that. As the fight continued in the phone booth, it reminded me of the first Pawel Wolak-Delvin Rodriguez slugfest where referee. Steve Smoger said “it’s ugly, but I don’t mind” about Wolak’s horrible looking mouse. Unfortunately for Antonio Margarito, Smoger looked at the Tornado’s eye differently during his fight with Cotto which Smoger stopped after lengthy consultation with the somewhat confused and very tentative ringside doctors.
Certainly, a fighter can come back from certain defeat and snatch an unexpected victory (Corrales-Castillo), but that doesn’t happen very often and the risk/reward equation for the fighter getting hammered is not a good one. Moreover, it did not seem clear that Ivan was aware of Jose’s injured left hand, because he did not switch to an orthodox posture which would have given him a bit more of a shot at the aging Mexican warrior.
As Podgorski said when he stopped the fight, “”You gotta have a chance to win.” Pete knew Popoca had probably lost the last seven or possibly eight rounds, taking a beating in the process, and he showed no indication that he could turn the tide. Pete also took into consideration the 38-year-old Castillo’s ring smarts (he was the man who came closest to beating the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. back in 2002 at lightweight); the fact Castillo was in shape; Ivan’s lack of ring smarts and his long layoff; Ivan’s increasingly ugly cuts and swelling; and especially the cutman’s inability to stem the bleeding. Podgorski also knows boxing through and through and knows how to save a fighter for another day.
All in all, I’d call it a compassionate stoppage; a perfect stoppage if you will.