Remembering Bobby

boxingBy Ted Sares, photo courtesy of CyberBoxingZone - What makes it more shocking is the fact that Bobby prepared very hard for this fight and the other guy came in here on one day's notice…It's just a freak accident, a one in a million thing that. --Gabe Mari, trainer at the Somerville Boxing Club

I remember him saying before the fight that he'd rather die than lose this fight. -- Bob Benson Sr.

He was in the fight of his life and then he fought for his life…It's an awful, awful tragedy to all involved. His father was in the corner with me. His trainer, Bobby Covino, is beside himself. You start wondering, should I have done this, should I have done that? It's too late. It's too late. The fight went on and I thought he was winning the fight. Even in the 10th round... --Norman Stone, Bobby’s manager..

You don’t want anyone to die in the ring…I can’t tell you how sad I am. --Steve Dotse

Born in the tough and gritty blue collar town of Somerville, MA (and a resident of Saugus), Bobby Tomasello was pretty tough himself. His real name was Robert Benson, but he fought under the name his father had fought under. I saw him stop one Jose Carlos Beato in four rounds at the Roxy in Boston on April 1, 2000 and was impressed by his determination and heart. Hey, he was a good professional fighter. The win brought his record to 11-0. He would win his next three fights before taking on tough Steve Dotse (18-3 coming in) from Atlanta by way of Ghana. The bout, also at the Roxy, would be televised on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights

Dotse’s level of opposition was higher than Bobby’s. He had a win over rugged Mexican bantamweight Ricardo “Chapo” Vargas and had gone the 12-round limit on two occasions. This was Tomasello’s first 10-round bout, and while his opponents had mostly losing records, undefeated is still undefeated and 14 in a row is 14 in a row.

The fight turned out to be a fiercely fought one with give and take, but I had Bobby falling behind going into the later rounds. Then, he began to get rocked and was finally decked in the tenth. Indeed, he took a bad beating during that last round, but he kept swinging back thus preventing a stoppage. His fighting heart would not allow him to quit and that may well have been his downfall.

After some confusion with the scorecards, it was announced that the two had fought to a 10-round draw--a grueling, tough one. Bobby then walked back to his dressing room with a smile on his face proud that he had kept his unbeaten record intact against his toughest opponent to date. Hell, he had fought his heart out. However, after experiencing moments of nausea and reportedly complaining of a headache to his manager Norman Stone, he collapsed.

Fortunately, an ambulance was there and he was taken to New England Medical Center in a matter of minutes where he eventually underwent surgery to remove a blood clot, relieve swelling and stop bleeding in his brain. “He has been in a coma since Friday,” said Tony Cardinale, Benson's savvy promoter and mentor. "We're just hoping for a miracle now," he said. "He is in very grave condition." Sadly, the fighter was pronounced dead at 11:45 AM on October 25, after five days on a respirator. He was 24 years-old.

Norman Stone later told John Vena that Bobby “… was just an unbelievable kid. Always polite, never swore and very religious. This is a tragedy for us. God will never give me something I can't handle but at this point I feel like he is." (“Bobby Tomasello: March 23, 1975 - October 25, 2000” by JD VenaThe Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire)

Steve Dotse would never be the same. He lost his next fight to Tim Austin in a bid for IBF bantamweight title, and went on to finish with a 22 (KO 18) - 6 (KO 2) - 2 record.

As I pondered things, I recalled something Jim Lampley once said after Levander Johnson was fatally injured, and it occurred to me that the entire affair was part of what boxing is all about. In this case, everything that could be done to protect the fighters was done. The officials were competent, all ringside precautions were in place, an ambulance was at the ready, the corners acted responsibly, but still, the tragedy occurred. No one was culpable and no one was to blame. It came right out of the culture of the sport we love so much; it simply was a tragedy.

Look, I’m a Boston guy and I love the Boston fighters who have earned local glory and are now working there way to the periphery of boxing’s next level. Bobby Tomasello was one of those guys. I shall never forget him.

Article posted on 22.03.2009

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