The Darker Side of Boxing: Third in a Series

By Ted Sares

When people say there is too much violence in my books, what they are saying is there is too much reality in life.

Joyce Carol Oates

“Kid” Akeem Anifowoshe (23-1, 18 KOs) and Robert “Pikin” Quiroga (20-2, 11 KOs), two fighters gave their all on June 15, 1991. This blood and guts war was astounding as they battled for twelve ferocious rounds for the IBF Super Flyweight Title in an ebb and flow savagery that not only was named Ring magazine Fight of the Year for 1991 but was one of the best fights ever.

The twelve brutal rounds landed both fighters in the hospital and as close to the edge as two fighters can get. The hard blows were traded on an even basis and snapped heads back in a way that in today’s fights would force the referee to halt the action. First one would take control; then the other. This was extraordinary back and forth action and the crowd rose after each round and roared its approval. They sensed they were witnessing something special.

The two noble warriors fought to a bloody standstill, with Quiroga getting what some ringside observers called a hometown decision. Indeed, some say he really did not beat Anifowoshe, a much taller and more skilled fighter, but Quiroga imposed his will on the Kid using a straight-ahead style and vicious left hooks to counter the Kid’s slick boxing skills, superior height and lethal leads. Both had great chins, and both took an enormous amount of punishment. While extremely close, I thought the undefeated Kid had won by a hair, but a draw would have been more than fair. I also thought the Kid he had paid too much of a price. Unfortunately, I would later be proven correct.

This was far more than simply a great fight. The Kid collapsed in the ring shortly after the end of the fight with a severe blood clot that developed in his brain during the fight. As they carried him out of the arena on a stretcher, his wife Sharon following, a number of fans chanted: “DOA, DOA,” Dead on Arrival. I was reminded of the 1981 Johnny Owen-Lupe Pinter fight at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles when Welshman Owen was carried out after being knocked out by Lupe, and his corner men were shoved and drenched with beer by the “fans.” Johnny died two months later. There can be a very dark side to boxing, and it exposed its ugly essence in these two fights.

The opposing fans almost got their wish, but the Kid survived and was even visited in the hospital by Pikin, who brought a vase of flowers. The Kid checked out of Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio and returned to his home in Las Vegas, but he reportedly left against the advice of his doctor. He appeared drained and had to be helped from his hospital bed to a wheelchair. His surgeon was upset over his premature departure and wanted him to stay at least until they found a doctor in Las Vegas. There were issues concerning brain swelling and the need for more tests that needed to be resolved. Whether Kid Akeem ever permitted these issues to be addressed remains uncorroborated.

Unfortunately, this epic battle did end Akeem’s title dreams and his promising career, one that recalled memories of Nigerian warriors Hogan Bassey and Dick Tiger. One can only speculate as to how great Kid Akeem Anifowoshe would have turned out. He never fought again, was later deported to Nigeria, and died just three and a half years later in his home country after collapsing in a shower. There are conflicting reports as to the exact cause of his death, though complications from injuries suffered in the Quiroga fight seem likely to have contributed to it. There are other, darker rumors surrounding his death, but since I could not corroborate them, I would just as soon not mention them. The memory I want is the one of this proud black warrior from the Lagos ghetto of Mushin, Nigeria, presenting an almost majestic, royal presence in the ring. I was indeed fortunate enough to see him fight on more than one occasion in Las Vegas.

From that day forward, however, the pendulum of my guilty pleasure started swinging in earnest.

Article posted on 14.04.2011

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