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Friday, November 22, 2013
Thoughts on the Abdusalamov tragedy

By Michael Woods

Mike Perez, Magomed Abdusalamov
Magomed 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.