4th and Long
04-10-2005, 04:31 PM
A is for Alejandro Lavorante. The Argentinian heavyweight owned victories over the likes of Zora Folley, Willie Besmanoff, and Alonzo Johnson, but in 1962 Archie Moore and an up and coming prospect named Cassius Clay knocked him out. The fight with the future Muhammad Ali was on July 20th, and two months later, on September 21, Lavorante was knocked out in six rounds by John Riggins. He slipped into a coma and remained there until his death in 1964. He was 27.
B is for Francisco “Kiko” Bejines. On September 4, 1983, Bejines died from injuries suffered in his bout three days earlier with tough, but light punching Alberto Davila. Winning the bout, Bejines, who thrilled LA boxing fans along with his brother Oscar, was dropped in the 12th round, tried to rise, but couldn’t. He was 20.
C is for Cleveland Denny. Former Canadian champion Cleveland Denny died on July 1, 1980, at the age of 24. He was knocked out in ten rounds by Gaetan Hart on the Duran-Leonard I undercard in Montreal on June 20, 1980.
D is for Jimmy Doyle – The night before Doyle (James Delaney) battled welterweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson in Cleveland in June of 1947, the champ had a dream that he killed his opponent in the ring. He frantically tried to have the promoter call off the fight, but he was persuaded to go on with the bout. Doyle was knocked out in eight rounds, and died the next day. Some say Robinson was never the same as a fighter after that night.
E is for Ernie Schaaf. Schaaf compiled a record of 49-15-1 that included wins over Tommy Loughran, Max Baer, Jim Braddock and Tony Galento. In August of 1932, Schaaf was decisioned by Baer in a rematch, but was actually saved by the bell when Baer knocked him out with seconds remaining in the fight. Almost six months later, Primo Carnera, outweighing Schaaf by 43 pounds, knocked him out in 13 rounds. Schaaf died four days later at the age of 24. Many believe the injuries suffered in the bout with Baer contributed to his death.
F is for Frankie Campbell. Campbell, the brother of major league standout Dolph Camilli, took on up and coming prospect Max Baer on August 25, 1930. Campbell took a brutal pounding from Baer and fell in five rounds. He later died from a severe concussion of the brain. Baer was charged with manslaughter, but later cleared, though he was suspended from fighting in California for one year.
G is for Jimmy Garcia. On May 6, 1995, Colombia’s Garcia challenged for Gabriel Ruelas’ WBC super featherweight title. Garcia took blow after blow, round after round, but refused to go down. Finally, the bout was halted in the 11th round. Garcia died 13 days later. He was 23. Profoundly affected by Garcia’s death, Ruelas was stopped in his next fight with Azumah Nelson, and never again achieved his championship form. He is currently in the midst of a comeback.
H is for Heroes. Each fighter who steps in the ring, from the four round prelim kids, to the journeymen, to the world champions, all put their lives on the line for our entertainment. It may be crazy, but if that’s not heroic in some way, I don’t know what is. This isn’t baseball or basketball. This is life and death. Think about that the next time you question a fighter’s heart.
"I" is where fighters wrongly put the blame after an opponent dies. Ray Mancini said in an HBO interview about his fight with Duk-Koo Kim, “I looked at my hands and couldn't believe they did that." Some fighters are never the same after an opponent dies. Some retire, some lose the ability to finish fights, and some just lose the desire to hit another man. But these men are not to blame; this is the life they and their opponents have chosen. The deceased’s families and friends understand, and together they all must heal and move on, because on any given day, it can happen to anyone who steps between the ropes.
J is for Stephan Johnson. 15 days after being stopped by former world champion Paul Vaden on November 20, 1999, Johnson succumbed to injuries suffered in the bout and died. Already on medical suspension in Canada, the Brooklyn-born Johnson was nonetheless licensed in South Carolina, and tragically, New Jersey. After his death, his mother Ira told the Associated Press, ''Stephan had a passion for boxing. He really loved boxing from the time he was a little kid, 5 years old -- loved it with all his heart. Whenever I talked to him about stopping, he said, 'Stop asking me to quit. I've never been in jail. I've never done drugs. Let me pursue my passion.''' Vaden only fought once more before retiring.
K is for Duk-Koo Kim – Korean lightweight Duk-Koo Kim entered his WBA championship bout with Ray Mancini with one intention, one that he scribbled in his hotel room before the fight – ‘Kill or be killed’. After 13+ rounds of brutal give and take in an outdoor ring at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Mancini finally stopped Kim in the 14th round. Kim never regained consciousness and died five days later at the age of 23. His devastated mother later committed suicide, and Kim subsequently became a cult hero in Korea, where a movie, “Champion” was released about his life.
L is for Lucien “Sonny” Banks. Detroit’s Banks is best remembered for being the first person to put Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) on the canvas. Banks was stopped by Clay in four rounds in 1962, and fought 12 more times, most notably getting KO’ed by Cleveland Williams in July of 1964. 10 months later, on May 10, 1965, Banks was knocked out by Leotis Martin in Philadelphia. He died from injuries sustained in the bout. He was 24.
M is for Davey Moore. Davey Moore was featherweight champion of the world when he took on undefeated contender Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos in Dodger Stadium on March 21, 1963. Ramos knocked Moore down in the 10th round, and Moore’s head crashed against the bottom rope. Moore rose, but the fight was halted after the round had ended. Moore seemed unaffected by the stoppage in the dressing room, but soon after, he complained of a headache and fell unconscious. He died four days later at the age of 29. Bob Dylan later wrote a song for Moore, which contained the refrain, “Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?”
N is for Nineteen Thirteen, the year heavyweight ‘white hope’ Luther McCarty was killed in the ring by an apparent light punch to the chest from Arthur Pelkey. The death was later believed to have stemmed from an injury before the fight, when McCarty was thrown from a horse. He was just 21.
O is for Johnny Owen. Nicknamed, “The Matchstick Man”, Owen was a frail looking bantamweight, but a relentless competitor with the heart of a heavyweight. The Welsh, British, Commonwealth & European Bantamweight Champion, Owen traveled to Los Angeles to battle WBC bantamweight champ Lupe Pintor on September 19, 1980. Owen held his own for much of the fight, but after the ninth, Pintor took control, eventually stopping the Welshman in round 12. Owen was taken from the ring on a stretcher, where ignorant fans pelted him and his cornermen with bottles and debris. Owen fell into a coma and less than two months later, he died at the age of 24. Still a hero in his native land, Owen recently had a statue erected in his honor. Among the guests at the unveiling was Lupe Pintor.
P is for Benny “The Kid” Paret. Paret was 25 and the welterweight champion of the world when he battled Emile Griffith for the third time on March 24, 1962. The two had split their previous two meetings, and there was bad blood brewing as fight night at Madison Square Garden approached. Before not only a live crowd, but a national television audience, Griffith cornered Paret in the 12th round and fired away. Unable to fall, as he was tangled in the ropes, and with no assistance from referee Ruby Goldstein, Paret was pummeled into unconsciousness. He fell into a coma and died ten days later. Griffith, one of the sport’s gentlemen, was never the same fighter, though he fought on for another 15 years.
Q is for the questions that surround ring deaths. Can they be prevented, and if so, how? Are ring deaths just one of those unfortunate side effects of a contact sport? What safety measures can be taken to protect fighters? How will a deceased fighter’s family be taken care of in the case of ring death? Who or what is to blame for ring deaths, or is there no blame to go around?
R is for Randie Carver. Kansas City super middleweight Randie Carver was unbeaten in 22 fights and defending his NABF title when he took on Kabary Salem on September 12, 1999. In a brutal, foul-filled bout punctuated by a number of headbutts by Salem, Carver collapsed in the tenth round. He died two days later from blunt head trauma at the age of 24.
S is for Beethavean Scottland. Scottland, a husband and father of three, never stopped fighting in his light heavyweight bout with George Khalid Jones in June of 2001. He took a ton of punishment from Jones in the ESPN-televised fight on the USS Intrepid in New York City, but just when you thought the fight was over, “Bee” would fight back furiously. In the tenth round, Scottland could finally take no more and was stopped. He fell into a coma and died six days later. He was 26.
T is for Bobby Tomasello. 25-year-old Bobby Tomasello (originally Robert Benson), may have never gotten to a world title in his career, but if titles were given on guts, the Massachusetts native would have had a trophy case full of them. In his October 20, 2000 bout with Ghana’s Steve Dotse, Tomasello fought his heart out, earning a ten round draw. He kept his unbeaten record intact, but he would soon fall into a coma, dying five days later. His trainer, Norman Stone told John Vena of the Cyber Boxing Zone, "He was just an unbelievable kid. Always polite, never swore and very religious. This is a tragedy for us. God will never give me something I can't handle but at this point I feel like he is."
U is for the United Kingdom, which has suffered more than its fair share of high-profile ring tragedies over the years. In addition to Johnny Owen, Bradley Stone (who died from injuries sustained in a 1994 loss to Richie Wenton), James Murray (who died after being stopped in a 1995 bout with Drew Docherty), and Steve Watt (who died after a 1996 bout with Rocky Kelly) all died in UK rings. And serious injuries have befallen Michael Watson, Paul Ingle, and Gerald McClellan following bouts in the UK.
V is for vice. We continue to watch boxing and love the sport, though with any given fight, a tragedy may occur. Boxing is a vice, not only to the fans, but to the competitors, who keep striving for the one on one conflict, the titles, the recognition, and the big paydays.
W is for Willie Classen. A 29-year-old New Yorker, Classen was a middleweight journeyman who had been in the ring (albeit in losing efforts) with the likes of Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Vito Antuofermo, John LoCicero and Tony Sibson. Just a month after being knocked out by Sibson in London, Classen took on unbeaten prospect Wilford Scypion on November 23, 1979 at the Felt Forum in New York City. Scypion battered Classen, and after the ninth round he needed the assistance of the ropes to get back to his corner. The fight is not stopped though, and a round later, Classen is knocked out. He dies five days later.
X is for the X-Factor. In June of 2002, Panama’s Pedro Alcazar is stopped in the sixth round of his WBO junior bantamweight title fight against Fernando Montiel in Las Vegas. Alcazar went sightseeing the next day, and with the exception of a headache that went away with the help of a Tylenol tablet, he was in fine physical shape. The next morning, two days after the fight, he collapsed, and died that afternoon from significant swelling of the brain. He was 26. In a fight where there were no signs of distress after the fight, where the referee, ringside physicians, or cornermen were not at fault for not stopping the fight earlier, Alcazar’s death was a mystery, and sometimes, there are just no explanations.
Y is for Young Ali. Up and coming Irish featherweight prospect Barry McGuigan knocked out Nigeria’s Ali in six rounds in June of 1982. Ali fell into a coma after the bout, where he stayed for five months before passing away. McGuigan resumed his career, and after defeating Eusebio Pedroza for the world title in 1985, McGuigan said, "I want to dedicate this win to the young man who died after he fought me in 1982. It was not just any fighter who beat him but the world champion."
Though Z is the final letter of the alphabet, there is no last place for all the fighters who gave up their lives in a boxing ring. According to the December 2001 issue of the Journal of Combative Sport, as of November 2001, 1,101 fighters have died in a boxing ring. This final note is for all of them, along with a wish that this number (which has increased in the last year) will increase no further.
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