Boxing: Magomed Abdusalamov

Thoughts on the Abdusalamov tragedy

November, 22, 2013
Mike Perez, Magomed AbdusalamovAl Bello/Getty ImagesMagomed Abdusalamov is lying in an induced coma from injuries suffered in his bout with Mike Perez.
If it bleeds, it leads.

That old adage holds true in the news biz today, just as it always has. Blood, carnage, horror -- these are ingredients for news, and stories featuring those elements are reliable eyeball magnets. Always have been, always will be. It is the way we are built.

We are fascinated, horrified and compelled to pay attention when the news is bad.

The reasons are both simple and complex. Bad news typically equals drama, as the principals involved usually have to answer difficult questions or tests bestowed upon them by fate. Because of that, our innate curiosity kicks in. How will they react, we wonder? And how would we react in the same situation? Soaking in bad or distressing news can also serve to buffer our ego -- better them than me, we may subconsciously mutter. My life isn’t so bad in comparison, we might infer.

The sport of boxing frequently finds itself inserted into the "if it bleeds, it leads" axiom. Over the past three weeks, the sport has experienced an uptick in prominent coverage from news outlets, and not because warm and fuzzy Hallmark moments came to the attention of news gatherers. No. One New York tabloid featured boxers on the cover of its Nov. 10 edition, because one of those featured in the front-page photo was lying in a coma in an NYC hospital after sustaining injuries during a Nov. 2 contest at MSG Theater.

The fallen fighter is Magomed Abdusalamov. The 32-year-old Russian-born boxer is in a bed at NYC's Roosevelt Hospital and on Thursday began breathing on his own, was taken off breathing support, was brought out of his induced coma, but not long after, was placed back into a coma by docs.

During such times, reporters cover the event and the aftermath and then opine. People involved in the event seek to comprehend the sad reality, process it and make some amends with it. That can be hard, depending on what sort of conscience you have.

To be involved in this sport -- and I don’t call it a game, I can’t, not when the ultimate price to be paid for participation can easily be death or severe disability -- one most engage in at least a certain amount of rationalization. The fighters know what they are getting into, we tell ourselves. Crossing the street can be a fatal act, we note. Life is short, and some choose risky endeavors because they want to maximize their existences during their span on this plane, we declare.

All these rationalizations pass the sniff test for authenticity, I believe, but that doesn’t mean we, the people who make a living off the sport, this oft savage science, shouldn’t continue to examine events like the Mago incident, labor mightily to process them and move on with increased knowledge and the expectation of preventing such a tragedy from occurring again.

Days and weeks following such an event, time and effort is spent by some involved to minimize their culpability, legally, morally, and this case is no different. But all in all, I feel like maybe the most fair reading of those campaigns is this: Magomed Abdusalamov was fighting Mike Perez at Madison Square Garden for every minute of all 10 rounds of his fight and in fact winged a hard left hand that just missed with three seconds remaining in the fight, and none of those involved had the benefit of a peek into the future. Knowing what we know now, different decisions would have been made. But that isn’t the way this deal works. People mostly do the best they can with the instruments and understanding they possess at that moment. By and large, I believe that all involved in the Mago situation did the best they could with the instruments and understanding they possessed at that time.

Abdusalamov's plight a stark reminder

November, 4, 2013
Two days after taking heavy punishment over 10 rounds against Mike Perez at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov was in stable condition and intensive care at Roosevelt Hospital in New York on Monday, according to Nathan Lewkowicz, vice president of Sampson Boxing, the promotional company that promotes Abdusalamov.

Abdusalamov, 32, who entered the fight with Perez unbeaten at 18-0 (18 KOs), underwent brain surgery on Sunday after complaining of a headache. Physicians at Roosevelt Hospital decided to place him in a coma to attempt to minimize swelling in his brain and reduce the possibility of more brain damage.

The New York State Athletic Commission offered this statement about the Abdusalamov situation to NYFightblog on Monday:

"NYSAC's primary concern is the health and safety of its licensed athletes. As we do in all such cases, NYSAC is reviewing the circumstances surrounding Mr. Abdusalamov's injuries. We are hopeful he makes a complete and speedy recovery."

The Russian's plight, on the heels of Frankie Leal's death from injuries sustained in his Oct. 19 bout against Raul Hirales, are two stark reminders that boxing isn't merely a sport, but in fact a potentially life-and-death endeavor. Former 154-pound champion Sergio Mora, who fights for New York promoter Lou DiBella, told me he found himself caught up, like so many, in the violent ebb and flow between Perez and Abdusalamov.

"As I was watching this weekend's semi-main event on HBO, I was thinking, 'Wow, this fight is getting good between Mago and Perez,'" Mora said. "I was guilty just like everyone else in wanting to see two big, strong fighters put on a show of beautiful brutality. ... Mago's corner did what they were supposed to do for their fighter, and that is to remain calm, give proper instructions and relieve their boxer of worry and concern. Mago, being a tough fighter, did his job and continued fighting, trying to win. It was clear who was the polished boxer here and who was the fighter."

Mora is scheduled to step into the ring Nov. 16 against Milton Nunez.

"There is no one in particular at fault for the violent display of courage this [past] weekend. ... The problem is the aftermath that no one sees," he said. "The bruises and injuries that well up all over the boxer's head and body after the adrenaline wears down. But we signed up for this. ... We all wait for Mago's medical clearance and pray for his health and family. At the same time, this brutal and fickle sport will patiently await his return to the ring as well."