No shame in knowing when the fight’s over

07.06.05 - By James Allan: No one knows better than a fighter when he has nothing left to give. Boxers know their own bodies better than any body else and they will be well aware when they cannot fight on anymore and that to do so will only result in them receiving a severe beating. There is no shame in a fighter deciding in these instances that he has had enough and staying down when he could probably get up. As long as a fighter has given his best, then no one has the right to criticise them for making a perfectly sensible decision to get out of the fight while they are still in relatively good condition.. The two match-ups this weekend between Scott Harisson v Michael Brodie and Ricky Hatton v Kostya Tszyu, were memorable for me in that both beaten fighters could probably have gone on, but both chose not to. They chose not to because in both instances they were well aware that they were beaten fighters and in continuing, they would only have exposed themselves to unnecessary punishment.

The stomach punch that put Michael Brodie on the canvas took out every ounce of fight that was in him. The expression on Brodie’s face as he looked over at his corner as the referee counted him out told any body watching that he had no intention of getting up. Brodie has had too many wars and to get up and fight on against Scott Harisson wouldn’t have been brave, it would have been stupid. Brodie knew this, and as he is still a young man with a family and a long life still to lead, he did the most sensible thing, he stayed down. He had shown real courage in coming out for the second round after receiving what can only be described as a ‘hammering’ in the first. He then won that round and the next as well. Once the punch that finished the fight landed, no one knew better than Brodie that it had taken everything he had left to give. Brodie has been a tremendous ambassador for boxing. His heart and courage can never be called into question.

To watch him receiving unnecessary punishment would not have done anyone any good, least of all him. Harisson is too big and too strong for any featherweight to keep off when he has his man hurt, Brodie wasn’t going to keep him off after that punch, and I for one am glad that he thought with his brains and not his balls in his last fight. More disturbing however, where the comments made in the wake of Ricky Hatton’s victory over Kostya Tszyu, about Kostya quitting and how he has tarnished his legacy.

It is easy to condemn a fighter when they stay on their stool instead of coming out for the next round. It is not as though they are lying flat on their back in the middle of the ring. But this kind of talk misses the point. Tszyu had absolutely nothing left to give. He had spent the last 33 minutes trying to push of a fighter who had put him under non-stop pressure. He had been beaten up on in the second half of the fight, and in truth he was probably fortunate to have still been on his feet at the end of the eleventh round. To talk about fighters sucking it up and digging deep misses the point.

Tszyu had dug as deep as he could go. He had nothing left to give. If he had come out for the last round against Hatton, he would have been going out to face a fighter who was well aware that the fight was in his grasp and with it the mantle of undisputed champion. If Tszyu hadn’t been able to keep him off for the last four or five rounds, what where the chances of him keeping him off in the last one, especially when he was completely exhausted and his opponent was pumped up for the biggest three minutes of his life to date. And make no bones about it, if Tszyu had gone out for that last round he would have taken a thrashing.

When people say that the fight was close and a good last round by Tszyu could have made the difference, they are deluding themselves. One judge had it 105 – 104 for Hatton, another had it 106 – 103 for Hatton and the last judge had it 107 – 102 again for Hatton. Even if Tszyu had won the last round, the best he would have got would have been a draw on one judge’s scorecard. He needed a knockout to win that fight, and given that he hadn’t been able to take Hatton out when he was fresh, he wasn’t going to do it in the last round when he was utterly spent.

Tszyu had been beaten fair and square, and as a mark of credit to the dignity he has shown throughout his career, he had the decency at the end of the fight to admit it. When people comment on Tszyu having to live with quitting on his stool, they do the man and themselves a disservice. They are not the ones in the ring with a finely tuned athlete, who is trained to give and receive physical punishment. Ricky Hatton may not have the concussive one punch power of Tszyu, but he can still hit hard enough to have knocked out 29 of his 39 opponents. He had hit Tszyu often enough and hard enough throughout that match, to have taken all the fight out of him.

There have been a few too many people who would have seemed to have preferred it if Tszyu had gone out for the last round like a lamb to the slaughter. Boxing is on the verge of returning to mainstream credibility again, films like Million dollar baby and The Cinderella Man, and the TV series The Contender have thrust it back into the public’s eye. Add to this the fact that a lot of fights that the fans wanted to see being made are now taking place and boxing’s star is in the ascendancy once again.

Due to the increased safety precautions that are now standard at boxing matches the chances of serious injuries or fatalities are greatly reduced, and consequently more people are becoming interested in the sport. But what should never be forgotten with boxing is that no matter how many safety precautions are put in place, there is always the chance of something going horribly wrong. Men are punching each other as hard as they can, when that is going on anything could happen.

And as we all know, when a serious injury or fatality takes place in a boxing ring, it gets a far higher degree of exposure than injuries in other sports do. Injuries are more likely to take place when one or other of the fighters ignores the messages that his body is sending to his brain and decides to carry on fighting, even when they have nothing left to give. As I have said before, sometimes too much heart and courage can be a boxer’s worst enemy. This weekend we had the privilege of watching two good fights and nobody came out of them too badly damaged. Surely that should be enough for any fan.

Article posted on 07.06.2005

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