Boxing's jaw-dropping fights

Victor Ortiz isn't the first fighter to have his chin dramatically checked

Updated: June 27, 2012, 10:56 PM ET
By Carlos Irusta | ESPNdeportes.com

Victor Ortiz -- his mouth hanging open, slack and dripping blood -- was the quintessential image of defeat after calling it a night against Josesito Lopez last Saturday. A back-and-forth fight that Ortiz happened to be winning on all three scorecards was ended after Round 9 when Ortiz, his jaw broken, declared he was unable to continue fighting.

After several moments of confusion -- during which many chose to hastily brand Ortiz a quitter or a coward -- the details of the former welterweight champ's injury came into focus. Later, in the aftermath, more data arrived: two hours of surgery for Ortiz, two fractures on the right side of his jaw, three screws and a titanium plate required to repair the damage. Outcome: six weeks of recovery, minimum.

It was a wild night -- not the first in Ortiz's fighting career -- filled with drama and action that called to mind some other jaw-dropping bouts throughout boxing's history.

[+] EnlargeMuhammad Ali, Ken Norton
AP Photo/stfThere is some dispute about when Muhammad Ali had his jaw broken during his first fight with Ken Norton, but there's little doubt he endured agonizing punishment.

Ken Norton SD12 Muhammad Ali
March 31, 1973, San Diego

Ali, without a doubt, is the fighter most identified with battling through a broken jaw -- and with good reason. Facing Norton at the San Diego Sports Arena in the first edition of what would evolve into a famed trilogy, Ali fought nearly the entire 12-round bout with that cracked mandible. He came to the ring wearing a white robe with the words "People's champ" imprinted on the back (a gift from Elvis Presley), which he never wore again. Before 11,884 spectators, Ali left the ring under a hail of boos and with a split-decision defeat on his record. But then the truth emerged: He had fought on despite a broken jaw, and made it to the end on his feet.

"Norton asked me to have a picture taken with him on the next day, when he came to visit me in the hospital, and I accepted," Ali said. "When I saw the photo on every newspaper, as if it was a trophy, I never forgave him." Some doubt about the timing of his injury remains: Ali indicated that his jaw had been broken in the earlier rounds, but another version of the story suggests it happened toward the end of the fight. In any case, it's impossible not to admire the will and heart of the heavyweight great.

Arthur Abraham UD12 Edison Miranda
Sept. 23, 2006, Wetzlar, Hessen, Germany

Abraham, a modern-day fighter who endured the jaw stress test, actually prevailed against Miranda, defending his middleweight title at Germany's Rittal Arena. The Armenian-born champ suffered two cracks in his jaw during the bout, the first occuring in the fourth round. With his face stained and mouth filled with blood (one claim had Abraham losing a pint of blood during the fight), he withstood and won on points. Abraham needed 22 screws drilled into his jaw, but he fought again eight months later and defended his belt four more times before granting his Colombian nemesis a rematch in June 2008. This time, Abraham brought down Miranda on a fourth-round TKO -- and walked away with his jaw intact.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Golota
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty ImagesAndrew Golota, rocked by Mike Tyson in the first round of their fight in 2000, couldn't (or wouldn't) answer the bell for Round 3.

Mike Tyson ND Andrew Golota
Oct. 20, 2000, Auburn Hills, Mich.

In the original "Malice at The Palace," Golota took on Tyson in the shadow of Detroit. After two rounds, the Polish heavyweight, appearing bothered and confused, wouldn't sit on his stool and ultimately refused to come out for the third, thus awarding the fight to Tyson. Golota was roundly booed by spectators, who made him a target for any projectiles they were able to find, and plenty of them were all too happy to call him a quitter.

But when Golota returned to his home in Chicago a day later, suffering extreme pain, he began to vomit. He finally visited Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago, where he was diagnosed with a cheekbone fracture, a spinal disc herniation and a mild concussion. And the drama didn't end there: Because Tyson would test positive for marijuana use, the result of the fight was changed to a no-decision. Golota remained inactive for almost three years.

Marvin Johnson KO11 Victor Emilio Galindez
Nov. 30, 1979, New Orleans

Galindez was scheduled to defend his light heavyweight crown against Johnson at the Superdome, but he would have to do so without manager Tito Lectoure in his corner after the two parted ways. Hall of Fame trainer Amilcar Brusa remained, but Galindez was a tough fighter to manage. During the week before the Superdome bout, the Argentine fighter refused to visit a dentist to nurse a toothache. He paid dearly for it. Galindez crumpled to the canvas against Johnson in the 10th, and at the beginning of the next round, the fight was stopped by his brothers, who were in his corner. Galindez had a broken jaw. Back in Buenos Aires, the fighter re-established his relationship with Lectoure, but he would fight just once more, in June 1980, dropping a decision to Jesse Burnett.

[+] EnlargeJack Dempsey and Jess Willard
Topical Press Agency/Getty ImagesJack Dempsey was the heel in his 1919 bout with heavyweight champ Jess Willard, but Willard's popularity didn't save him from injury or defeat.

Jack Dempsey TKO3 Jess Willard
July 4, 1919, Toledo, Ohio

Willard, a 37-year-old giant, was America's favorite fighter after having taken the heavyweight crown from Jack Johnson. With a reputation as a draft dodger, Dempsey, 24, filled the role of villain. But in the end, it was Dempsey who laid a tremendous beating on Willard before a crowd of 40,000. The fight itself could fill a book, including the story of a $10,000 bet that Dempsey's manager, Doc Kearns, made on his fighter to win in the first round -- news that Kearns didn't mention to his fighter until the sounding of the opening bell.

The fight seemed to feature a bit of everything during its relatively short duration, but it ended in the fourth: Willard was a bloody mess, having suffered two cracked ribs, a broken cheekbone, a broken nose, a jaw broken in 13 parts and the loss of eight teeth. It later became known that Dempsey had loaded his gloves -- he was also rumored to have soaked his hand wraps to make them heavier -- to produce a damage that wouldn't have otherwise been possible.

Alfredo Prada TKO6 Jose Maria Gatica
April 12, 1947, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Gatica had four tremendous battles with Prada in one of the most intense rivalries in Argentine boxing. In this, their second meeting, Gatica visited the canvas at the local Estadio Luna Park, then collapsed onto his stool at the end of the round. "It hurts, it hurts," Gatica said. His manager, Nicolas Preziosa, opened his fighter's mouth. "I felt a cracking ... and I realized that he was unable to continue," Preziosa said. "He had a broken jaw."

Prada won, and Gatica left the ring amid boos and accusations of cowardice, until the truth was revealed about a fight that became known as "the night of the broken jaw." Prada, however, said many years later that "they forget the fact that I had a fracture in my jaw, too, but since I was familiar with yoga techniques, I was able to withstand the pain and ended the fight on my feet. Gatica took a few of my teeth, but on that night, I won on points."

Tim Austin TKO8 Mbulelo Motile
July 19, 1997, Nashville, Tenn.

Austin, dubbed "The Cincinnati Kid" (probably a nod to the eponymous movie starring Steve McQueen), was a brilliant amateur who won 122 fights and a flyweight bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics before turning professional. In his 17th pro fight, Austin captured a bantamweight title after knocking out Motile in eight rounds in one of the most dramatic fights in the division's history. With a single left hook, Motile broke the jaw of the challenger, who continued to fight his opponent and the injury. For those who watched it, Austin's performance bordered on miraculous, especially after the circumstances came to light: He wound up enduring a very long surgery to recondition the broken jaw.

Austin defended his crown in nine fights until, in 2003, he was knocked out by Rafael Marquez. A short time later, he ran into trouble with the law for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old family friend (for which he was later acquitted). After a long layoff, Austin attempted a comeback, but he was no longer his old self.

[+] EnlargePernell Whitaker and Felix Trinidad
Al Bello/Allsport/Getty ImagesPernell Whitaker, one of boxing's most elusive fighters ever, couldn't escape the fury of Felix Trinidad in the 1999 bout that essentially finished "Sweet Pea."

Felix Trinidad UD12 Pernell Whitaker
Feb. 29, 1999, New York City

Whitaker, who boasted mobility and seemingly radar-guided defensive instincts, was one of the most elusive fighters of all time. Virtually impossible to hit, he won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and went on to become a lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight champion in the professional ranks. His hit list included many distinguished names, outdone perhaps only by the greats who left controversial blemishes on his record. And at Madison Square Garden in February 1999, in what would prove to be Whitaker's penultimate fight, another indignity was added to the latter list.

In the fifth or sixth round, an elbow from Trinidad, the welterweight champ, broke the challenger's jaw. Whitaker, who had visited the canvas in the second and had been rocked in the sixth, fell to his knees in the eighth, too, but he ended the fight on his feet, with a cut on his right eye and desperately holding Trinidad. Whitaker went straight to Saint Vincent's Hospital after the fight, checking in at midnight and undergoing surgery that lasted until 5 in the morning. But "Sweet Pea" was typically smooth. Upon arriving at the hospital, completely disfigured, he was offered a bag of ice for his swelling by a nurse. "No, thanks," he replied. "I'd rather have a brush to fix my hair."