Circle the Wagons

By Robert Ecksel on November 11, 2013
Circle the Wagons
It was when Magomed collapsed at St. Luke's that the ER physicians got their act together.

Boxing has very little presence in the mainstream media. The occasional film about boxing makes news on celebrity websites and the annual announcement of Floyd Mayweather’s net worth is trumpeted on Forbes, but the sum total of the corporate media’s interest in boxing is so slight as to be almost negligible.

When boxing wasn’t derided as an outlaw sport, what happened in the square circle was covered far and wide. But now even local papers have deemed boxing unfit for their sports pages, let alone for the front page, and the “poor boy’s sport” is even poorer as a result.

There are exceptions, of course, and the exceptions reinforce the public’s negative stereotypes of the “noble art.” One of those exceptions, and the one most often paraded before the man on the street, is when something terrible happens, like when a fighter is killed or disabled, as recently happened to former heavyweight contender Magomed Abdusalamov.

There’s no need to revisit the gory details for the umpteenth time of Abdusalamov’s fight with Mike Perez. We saw what happened. We know what happened. We were there when it happened. Our audience is smart and can make up its own mind. It doesn’t need us to make up their minds for them. But all audiences are not created equal. All audiences are not alike.

One doesn’t normally think of New York magazine as the place to turn for boxing news. Its focus, such as that focus is, is on all things New York. Inasmuch as Abdusalamov’s last fight was at New York’s Madison Square Garden Theater, inasmuch as he is on life support at St. Luke’s Hospital, it’s a story that has New York written all over it. Hence New York magazine’s interest in this gruesome turn of events, that just so happens to show boxing in the worst possible light.

Written by Geoffrey Gray, the article is one of many articles that points fingers at the ostensible culprit, in this case the New York State Athletic Commission.

Abdusalamov’s manager, Boris Grinberg, told Gray, “It is horrible. I am not afraid to say it. New York State Athletic Commission is horrible. It is dangerous for these people to be so careless and not do anything.”

According to Grinberg, two doctors looked at Abdusalamov after the fight. One took a post-fight urine sample. The other doctor, there to presumably examine the fighter, “He says, ‘Count one, two, three, four, five …,’ and then he tells him to make sure he goes to hospital tomorrow because his nose might be broken.

“They give him no attention! No ambulance!”

There must have been an ambulance at the fight. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the law. But because the doctor was the wrong kind of doctor to be supervising a boxing match, a doctor who couldn’t distinguish a subdural hematoma from an epidural hematoma if his, or in this case Abdusalamov’s, life depended on it, Grinberg and his son were forced to hail a cab to take the injured fighter to a hospital.

Gray writes that “The closest emergency room was St. Luke’s, nearly 30 blocks north,” which may not be correct. In any event, precious time was lost as they tried to wend their way through the maddening New York traffic.

Anyone who has ever been in a big city emergency room on a Saturday night knows what a zoo it is. Gunshot victims, stabbing victims, and drug overdoses fill the waiting rooms to overflowing. Apparently Abdusalamov, a big strapping fellow with no visible bullet wounds, failed to get attention he needed.

“I scream and I say, ‘He is fighter from Madison Square Garden.’ He is former champion of Russia.” It was when Abdusalamov collapsed that the ER physicians got their act together.

It was, as it turns out, too little too late.

A spokesperson for the NYSAC said they are reviewing the medical treatment Abdusalamov did or did not receive, which is small comfort to his immediate family, small comfort to those of us who love the fights.

There is plenty of blame to go around, and pointing fingers at the New York State Athletic Commission, while perhaps justified, draws attention away from others who might be equally responsible. Abdusalamov’s corner could have stopped the fight at any time. The referee Benjy Esteves could have stopped the fight. Even Abdusalamov, had he insisted, might have been able to stop the fight, assuming anyone would have listened.

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  1. Ted 04:45pm, 11/13/2013

    Most of how I feel is reflected by my posts on this article, but I will add that I’d rather focus on the Frankie Leal tragedy because that one has blame in plain sight attached to it.

  2. Ted 04:42pm, 11/13/2013

    Hey Bobby, great to see you on here, Brother

  3. Bobby Franklin 03:15pm, 11/13/2013

    The obvious injuries he had were enough to require to require he be taken by ambulance to the hospital. A broken nose, jaw, cheekbone and hand as well as a severe cut over his eye. Yes, I hold the NY State Athletic Commission liable as well as HBO for having a responsibility to do right by Mago. I also am angry at his corner for not protecting their fighter. The guy was a mess and was complaining about having pain in his head. That alone was was reason to stop the fight. And finally, the referee who never took a time out to examine the fighter. It was a disgraceful night.

  4. Old Yank 09:35am, 11/13/2013

    The safety, health and life is a fighter lies in the balance here. But is always does.

    Ring deaths and serious head injury in the ring are highly correlated to repeated concussive blows much more so than correlated to the quick KO.

    I have been an advocate for abandoning 8 and 10 ounce gloves (brought into play in the name of “safety”), and returning to 6 and 8 ounce gloves—the lighter gloves correlated to more quick KO’s than the heavier ones.

    I would love to see some serious research done on the changes brought to boxing in the name of “safety” and see of they really have produced the desired results or if they have been counterproductive.

  5. Ted 06:05am, 11/13/2013

    For me, the issue is when did he suffer nausea? At that point, the red light goes on and everything else stops. Nausea and concussive sports represents a very serious symptom.

  6. Ted 06:02am, 11/13/2013

    “Quid leges sine moribus vanae proficiunt”
    “Of what avail empty laws without [good] morals?”
    – Horace

  7. Artichoke 11:15am, 11/12/2013

    I saw the fight on TV
    it should have been stopped given the damage to Abdusalamov which may have been more apparent on the TV than live
    of course post hoc such judgements have less value, but clearly Abdusalamov suffered grave injury to facial bones in this fight
    his course was tragically textbook for an epidural hematoma, which is a well known complication of blunt head trauma, often missed, as likely was the case here

  8. Mike Casey 09:45am, 11/12/2013

    Houston, I think we might have a problem. I’ve just tried to circle the wagons and there aren’t any wagons.

  9. Ted 08:28pm, 11/11/2013

    I’m not going to get into the blame game on this one. On Frankie Leal, hell yes I will, but not here. At least not just yet.

  10. Robert Ecksel 02:20pm, 11/11/2013

    If Abdusalamov “never complained of anything” and “all of the procedures were followed correctly,” can we assume the brain bleed was just one of those things? I’ve never known a doctor to admit to even the remotest possibility that he or she might have been wrong. In this case, with jobs on the line and lawsuits in the offing, naturally they’re going to cover their tracks. Doctors, unlike the rest of us, get to bury their mistakes. Hopefully that won’t happen here. But I suggest taking what the doctors say about their impeccable treatment of Abdusalamov with a grain of salt.

  11. Ted 01:35pm, 11/11/2013

    “He had four different doctors look at him,” maintained a source close to the NYSAC who followed the actions of the physicians attending to Abdusalamov and requested anonymity because the NYSAC is currently investigating the matter. “He had four different examinations and never complained of anything. He never said anything was wrong. After the fight he went back to the audience and was watching the main event. The doctors can’t think of anything they would have necessarily done differently because all of the procedures were followed correctly.”

    Read more:”

  12. Clarence George 11:54am, 11/11/2013

    I read in a recent “New York Post” article about the “10-round bloodbath at MSG that horrified spectators.”  I was there, and it wasn’t a bloodbath and no one was horrified, but those words are now part of boxing lore.

  13. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:25am, 11/11/2013

    Another laser sighted on point article…which reminds me…...fighters like Mago need to be protected from themselves….he wasn’t verbalizing it (although he appeared to ask his corner if his nose was broken more than once) but his body language spoke volumes and was a cry for help from those that were supposed to have his back. Mago’s offense was always his best defense….with a facial injury from the first round on and a damaged hand from the fourth round on or even earlier he was basically at the mercy of his opponent who was only “doing his job” and his corner who weren’t doing their’s.

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