Horrors From The Fight-Game

22.09.06 - By James Slater: I love the sport of boxing, and have done so now for going on twenty years. I admire the sport’s practitioners, men who show bravery that is nothing short of astonishing. As such I would defend the existence of the craft they participate in in search of glory, financial reward and respect with any of the “let’s ban boxing” brigade. Yet while I would very definitely do so with conviction, I do recognise the dark side of the sport - the frightening side, the brutal side. Boxing is extremely dangerous, no doubt, and at times - infrequent ones, thank goodness - there have been occurrences in the fight game that have shaken even its most ardent followers to the very core.

Two such unpleasant memories from the noble art are, with more than a touch of trepidation, recounted in this article. Perhaps such moments should be left alone and not dredged back up now. Or maybe they should forever remain in the mind’s of we boxing enthusiasts, serving the purpose of being a stark reminder of how the sport we love will continue to have its chilling side.

To the extraordinarily courageous men who were the victims of the awful events that I recall in the coming paragraphs, this piece is dedicated. And as much as many of us will want to forget their tragic fates, to do so would be to ignore or insult such courage.

For me, there are two moments from the fight game that have disturbed me to the point of questioning my very enjoyment of the sport. Both incidents occurred in the mid 1990’s and have continued to haunt me ever since. The fight between light middleweights, Simon Brown and Vincent Pettway gave me the most disturbing image I have ever been subject to witnessing when watching two men inside a boxing ring. It’s not so much the fight actually, as it is its horrifying ending. One should always keep in mind the brutality of a knockout in a boxing match. The idea behind one, after all, is to so incapacitate your opponent that his brain is no longer capable of functioning to the extent of holding him upright. But the terrifying spectacle thrust upon fans when observing the shocking KO Pettway inflicted on Brown is different.

The moment came in the sixth round. Simon was caught by a sharp blow to the head and he crashed to the mat. Then, while laying prostate on the canvas, completely out, Brown began throwing slow motion punches. Thrown at a target seen only inside a mind that had been brutally robbed of its consciousness, the fighter’s instinct in Brown continued to be served by the grotesquely thrown punches. Disbelieving gasps were omitted from many open mouths in attendance, and rightfully so. This KO has to rank as one of the most disturbing and awful ever seen. It is to me, anyway, and the memory of it continues to trouble me today.

Shortly behind this fight’s unsettling ending when it comes to most horrifying moment from boxing, is the Benn vs. McClellan fight, also from 1995. We all remember the brutality of the fight, along with its heartbreakingly tragic ending. What continues to cause me discomfort though, is the memory of the twisted look on Gerald’s face as he began to blink and twitch in very weird fashion. His brain clearly already damaged as early as the middle rounds of the punishing slugfest and screaming orders to “The G-Man’s” lungs to suck in as much oxygen as they could, Gerald was in an alarmingly bad way, as we discovered at the fight’s termination. What adds to the troublesome recollections I have from this February evening, however, are the disgusting claims many of us - myself, ashamedly, included - hurled at Gerald with regards to him having quit in the tenth round.

How wrong we were to have levelled such shoddy accusations at the brave man from The United States. Shame, also then, surfaces in my mind whenever this fight torments me by popping up in my head. The knees that Gerald took in that fateful tenth round probably saved his life. As it is, his life today is one of darkness and almost complete silence. Gerald McClellan paid an incalculable price while chasing his ambitions in the boxing ring. The memory of the result of his efforts against Britain’s Nigel Benn will probably never be removed from my memory banks.

For the old-timers, the never-forgotten image of Benny “Kid” Paret being mercilessly punished by Emile Griffith while pinned helplessly on the ropes may be the one that serves to haunt them the most. For others it may be the unshakable memory of Davey Moore’s untimely death. Whatever, every generation of fight fan has its horrible dates to mourn.

It just so happens that for me, my conscience is troubled the most by two grim moments - from an otherwise great sport - that we were subject to in that same year in the mid nineties.

Article posted on 23.09.2006

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